Drugs Are Not an Epidemic

When it comes to heroin, opioids or other drugs, it is not an epidemic.

I know some people are going to jump to emotional conclusions and accuse me of being insensitive or out of touch. But please take a moment to read my explanations, it might not be what you think.

For the past 25 years I have worked with alcoholics and drug addicts who were struggling with the disease attempting to help them achieve sobriety. Before that time, when I was a police officer, just like many officers across the country, I spent a great deal of time working with alcoholics and addicts. As a police officer, we had to work as make shift social workers, counselors and also as law enforcement officers when dealing with these troubled people.

Hopefully that will convince you that I’m neither insensitive or out of touch in regards to drug addiction or alcoholism.

This is why it is not an epidemic.

First, let’s look at some common definitions;


  1. a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time. Example “a flu epidemic.”


  1. (of a disease or disease-causing organism) likely to be transmitted to people, organisms, etc., through the environment.

According to an article in Time Magazine, the American Medical Association declared alcoholism a disease in 1956. More than half a century later, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has proclaimed addiction, including alcoholism and process addictions like gambling, to be the same. Alcoholism and addiction are a disease, but they are not infectious as described in the definitions of epidemic or infectious.

Drug Addiction Is Not Contagious

In plain language, one cannot become infected with addiction, or alcoholism by breathing the same air, touching, or even exchanging body fluids with an alcoholic or addict. Therefore it is not contagious, which is a necessary element for epidemics. Are alcoholics and addicts prone to other diseases, which can be infectious? That answer is yes.

So if it is not contagious, it can’t be an epidemic. But what about the drastically high number of deaths and illnesses caused by heroin, opioids or other drug addiction problems?

First, let me state that it is not my intention to offend anyone, but the heroin problem in the United States is not new, nor is it a recent problem. Opium addiction was so prevalent in Civil War veterans that it became known as the “Soldiers Disease.”

Heroin has been a problem in the poor neighborhoods of inner cities in America for many decades. Prior to the crack cocaine introduction in major American cities, heroin was king of all drugs. During my time in police work we were inundated and surrounded by people that had been addicted to heroin and many overdose deaths. The simple truth is that most Americans were not concerned about heroin addiction as long as it was confined to poor neighborhoods of color. It wasn’t until the heroin abuse started to arrive in middle class neighborhoods and overdose deaths began that it became a crisis.

But what about all the overdose deaths?

One of the basic tenets of the largest 12 Step Recovery Programs for alcoholics and addicts is that the eventual outcome, if they don’t get clean and sober includes jail, institutions, and deaths. These deaths can come in the form of overdose, homicide, suicide, accidents, and other related health complications.

Our inner cities have been overwhelmed by murders, while most politicians want to classify them as gun violence, the truth is that the majority are drug related. Is an overdose death any more tragic than a shooting death of a dealer selling drugs to support the habit? The sense of loss for each family is the same. For too long we in America have overlooked all the homicide, suicide, and accidental deaths caused by heroin and other drugs, but now claim panic because overdose deaths are increasing among the middle class.

What’s the solution?

I’ll leave the arguments about legislation, mandated recovery programs, etc. to others to sort out.

I don’t know what the solution is. But that won’t stop me from continuing to spending countless hours trying to help addicts and alcoholics get clean and sober.

– Retired Law Enforcement Professional