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Obituaries are Being Stripped of Taboos in Light of Opioid Overdose Epidemic

As more and more people succumb to the opiate overdose epidemic that has skyrocketed in recent years in this country, the desire to keep the details mum on these kinds of deaths is rapidly diminishing. People are recognizing how important it is to fight back against the stigma that tends to surround deaths related to overdoses, and they also want to help people realize the horrors of such a death in an attempt to perhaps prevent them from experiencing their own before it's too late.

Lately, families are taking to the creative method of inserting warnings about opiates and their effects into the obituaries of their loved ones. The goal is to perhaps educate others on the dangers associated with abusing such drugs as painkillers and heroin, as well as synthetic drugs like fentanyl.

Additionally, families are using these obituaries as a way to beg lawmakers and those in similar situations to support better and increased options for treatment. They are also trying to spread the word that addiction is a disease and should be treated as such. When you have a disease, you seek treatment for it; you don't hide in shame, staying silent until it's too late. That's exactly how those suffering from an addiction to opiates should be treated, as opposed to being shunned with a stigma.

STAT News found 52 obituaries that were posted to and other sources where the families publicly displayed the details of their loved ones' struggles with an addiction to opioids. Right now, it is estimated that nearly 640 people die every week from an opioid-related overdose.

Some of the obituaries spared no detail, including such points as the deceased being in and out of jail as a result of their addiction, sometimes even resorting to stealing in order to support their habit. Others tore their families apart for their dependence on the drug. Still others gave their families false hope after being sober for a period of time after receiving treatment, only to ultimately relapse.

One family lost two brothers on the same day in June to an overdose. Another mother lost her third son to an opioid-related overdose.

Also not spared were the locations in which the bodies of these families' loved ones were found. It is certainly effective to learn that people's sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, parents, and friends were found in such places as low-budget hotel rooms, dorm rooms, at their homes, or even in the woods.

And those who died were not the "bums" that many who propagate the stigma believe them to be: they were college students, high school students, bank employees, athletes, and chefs, among other respectable professions.

And they didn't all live in "slums" either; the victims lived in every part of the U.S., from Arizona through Maine.

And they weren't all minorities either. Most of the victims were in their 20s and 30s and were Caucasian. STAT noted that minorities were noticeably absent from the obituaries, but that, they discern, is due to the fact that 80 percent of those who are fatally overdosing on opioids are non-Hispanic whites, per the relevant government data.