What Jackson Odell’s Death Tells Us About Opiate Addiction in the US

Actor Jackson Odell from “The Goldbergs” Found Dead in a Sober Living House

Actor and musician Jackson Odell passed away on June 8 due to a heroin and cocaine overdose. Best known for his role as Ari Caldwell “The Goldbergs,” Odell was pronounced dead at the scene. He didn’t have any paraphernalia on him, or in the facility where he was staying at the time.

At just 20 years old, Odell had a bright and promising future ahead of him, and already had quite a few noteworthy accomplishments under his belt. The young actor had also worked on “Modern Family”, “iCarly,” “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer” and written several songs for the soundtrack to 2018’s “Forever Your Girl.”

Odell’s parents expressed their unimaginable grief in a statement on Twitter: “He had so much more to share. Our family will always carry that truth forward. Our wish is that the rest of the world who knew and loved him does as well.” For some time leading up to his death, he had been battling heroin addiction.

The Opioid Epidemic Affects Us All

This news goes to show that even the most privileged among us are never too far from addiction’s reach – like Hollywood sophisticate and budding actress Lyric McHenry, who was found unconscious on an overpass in the Bronx, having overdosed on heroin just hours after her glitzy 26th birthday party at the Dream Hotel in Manhattan. Hospital staff were unable to revive her with Narcan.

And of course, this isn’t the only news of its kind in our collective recent memory. Rapper Lil Peep died of an overdose of fentanyl and barbiturates in December of last year, and also tested positive for the opioids Tramadol, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone and oxymorphone. Tom Petty died earlier in 2017 of an overdose that cause cardiac arrest and organ failure, due to multiple drugs including fentanyl and oxycodone.

What is Being Done to Prevent More Opioid Fatalities?

The overwhelming outbreak of fatal opioid overdoses has caused many to call for more action to be taken by policymakers. The House voted overwhelmingly in support of the Patients and Communities Act this June – a package of dozens of bills to address the epidemic. But Michael King, Director of Outreach & Engagement for Facing Addiction with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, expresses his frustration with the Senate’s slow pace of progress on the opioid issue amidst growing urgency: “Despite the overwhelming 396-14 vote in the House 10 weeks ago and the death toll rising in our communities, the Senate is still mulling details and trying to reach an agreement.”

King, who worked in politics for 10 years, thinks the main issue is that the opioid epidemic isn’t a partisan problem that will polarize constituents, fire up each party’s base and drive voters to the polls. He describes the impasse as a classic political ruse: “Stick to the issues that drive a wedge between us all, don’t get anything done, then run home to your districts and blame the other side.” He also notes that “too many in our communities continue to believe that addiction is solely a law enforcement problem that requires solutions within the criminal justice system instead of health care.”

Jackson Odell from

Barriers to Solving America’s Opioid Crisis

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 48,000 opioid-related deaths in the US between January 2017 and January 2018, the majority of which is due to heroin and illicit fentanyl – no small challenge, to be sure. To a large extent, the medical community is on the front lines of this crisis. Former chief health officer of West Virginia, Dr. Rahul Gupta, dealt with the issue head-on in a state that’s one of the hardest hit – the opioid epidemic is felt most deeply in rural communities. “Not a day goes by that I’m not constantly thinking about it,” he says. “We’re losing three, three-and-a-half West Virginians per day. So, the clock’s always ticking in my head.”

Gupta cites a few barriers to preventing opioid addiction and overdose rate from continuing to rise: the lack of rehabilitation resources in these communities, and the stigma surrounding opioid addiction. Echoing King, Gupta points out that too many people still believe addiction is a lifestyle issue, and that’s contributing to the problem. “Half of the country literally feels that it’s a disease of choice,” says Gupta. “Whereas, if you think about the science and the changes that happen to change the chemistry in the brain, you’re not the same person anymore.”

Proposed Solutions for a Monstrous Problem

After a record number of deaths in 2017, opioid overdoses are predicted to rise again this year, though the rate at which they’re increasing is falling slightly. And though the forecast is bleak, several bodies have put forth recommendations for putting a stop to that trend. The American Medical Association’s Opioid Task Force, for example, advocates for the following:

  • Registering more physicians and health care professionals in prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs)
  • Educating doctors on opioid addiction and treatment
  • Increasing access to rehab through insurance coverage
  • Raising awareness and removing the stigma around seeking help for opioid addiction
  • Encouraging those in the medical community to support more Nalaxone use
  • Providing clearer, more specific instructions to pain patients about the correct use, storage and disposal of opioids

Says Patrice Harris, chair of the task force, “We must all confront the intangible and often devastating effects of stigma. The key to recovery is support and compassion. Patients in pain and patients with a substance use disorder need comprehensive treatment, not judgment.”

Is Someone You Know Struggling With Opioid Addiction? Get Them the Help They Need Today

If your loved one is struggling with opioid addiction, it’s critical that they get into treatment as soon as possible. Broadway Treatment Center provides a safe, nonjudgmental space for people to effectively recover from opioid addiction with consistent, daily support and comprehensive treatment options. Take the first step towards a better life – contact us now to learn how we can help.

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