America is facing a serious health crisis, one that has ended and complicated far too many lives.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of drug overdose deaths in America is at an all-time high. In 2017, 68 percent of overdose deaths involved opioids. Many of these drugs have names you are familiar with – oxycodone, hydrocondone, morphine and methadone – but they also have a side effect you might not be familiar with: addiction.

Even if you are prescribed painkillers by a doctor, and start out taking them as directed, you are still at risk of developing an addiction.

The government has been taking a more aggressive path to find a solution to this crisis. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources wants to improve access to addiction recovery; promote overdose-reversing drugs; support in-depth new research on addiction; and find better medical practices to fight pain, rather than continuing to prescribe opioid painkillers.

Our government needs to control the distribution of prescription opioids so that doctors and hospitals will not constantly prescribe painkillers. And we need to request that Congress provide our nation’s addiction resources with more funding. Most importantly, to keep our loved ones safe we need to make sure that our voices are heard. I encourage you to ask Congress to work towards new forms of legislation and funding. You can search online for local government offices as well as any petitions in your area, you can also urge your friends and family members to write letters and petitions of their own.

This crisis has caused a lot of heartbreak. If you or someone you know is living with addiction, Middlesex County has resources that can help. Visit www.middlesexcountynj.gov and search Division of Addictions and Mental Health Planning.

I hope that you all have a happy and healthy 2019, and that we can work together to protect others from this health crisis.

Ronald G. Rios is the director of the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders. He occasionally writes a column for Newspaper Media Group.

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