'Essentially We Have a Vietnam War Taking Place in Our Country Every Year': Cleveland Clinic CEO on Heroin Crisis

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Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove, lately a fixture on network news shows, has been trying to explain how widespread the country's heroin overdose crisis has become — and how the U.S. health care system is not necessarily built to tackle this type of problem.

Cosgrove spoke on CBS This Morning about those issues and offered a glaringly clear correlation: "During the entire Vietnam War, 53,000 people died. Last year, from overdoses on opiates, 53,000 people died. Essentially we have a Vietnam Way taking place in our country every year." (The National Archives places the Vietnam War number at 58,220, but you get the idea.)

Watch the segment here.

He expounds on the trend of cutting heroin doses with fentanyl and carfentanil, something that's become very pronounced here in Northeast Ohio.

But before buying heroin on the streets, Cosgrove says, 80 percent of opiate addicts get their start via prescription painkillers. In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich announced new rules this week that cap those prescriptions at seven-day supplies for adults (with built-in allowances for physician discretion, mind you).

The numbers point to the simple fact that this public health crisis will get worse before it gets better, and so we await the consequences of Kasich's new rules. (A bill in the Statehouse suggests even tighter prescription regulations.) Until then, it would seem that mainstream network media outlets have begun thrusting the heroin narrative into the spotlight, which can only raise more awareness.

"Society does not recognize the magnitude of the problem," Cosgrove says.

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