The opioid crisis is clearly an issue that needs to be resolved sooner rather than later. I think a lot more can be done but is our fear of overstepping boundaries, as a society and government, and fear of causing more issues hindering us from doing so? In short yes, quite like gun control, the government is going to be hesitant to intervene and the opioid crisis is on the fringe of being out of control and it is time the government steps in. On October 26th, President Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. A public health emergency quite simply means the government is willing to dump the necessary resources into resolving an issue that needs immediate attention and government assistance. Normally these public health emergencies are a result of natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, and flooding. As of today, no more news has come from the White House as to when or how much money we will see given to the issue but the president said in the meantime plans are being drawn up for “really tough, really big, really great advertising”(NYT). If I had to guess what this is gonna be like, just take a look at the Reagan administration’s “Just say no” campaign. To combat an epidemic killing roughly 90 Americans a day, it’s important to first look at what an opioid is and the two sides to the argument of what exactly the people want the government to do about it.
According to drugabuse.gov, Opioids are a class of drug which includes heroin, fentanyl, and pain relievers. These drugs react with the opioid receptors in your body freeing you of pain and releasing euphoria. There is no nicotine in opioids, the addiction is the “high feeling” given off by these drugs. This leads to misuse due to dependence, many addicts will tell you they feel seriously depressed without it. The pharmaceutical companies will continue to tell you all of their drugs are federally approved which is true, so they’ll feel no need to stop advertising.
Most people will agree that drugs are bad and this crisis needs to be put down before it boils into anything more. The only people you may see not on your side is the pharmaceutical companies. The pharmaceutical companies are the companies producing, marketing, and selling these narcotics. Heroin and fentanyl are not the result of a pharmaceutical company let me make that clear. Those are synthetic or “street” drugs. These types of drugs can be made by anyone with the right ingredients. According to Michael La Page of New Scientist, “Humble fungi and a home-brewing kit could soon do what the combined might of the West failed to – halt the thriving poppy industry in Afghanistan, the source of 80 percent of the world’s opium. Genetically engineered yeasts could make it easy to produce opiates such as morphine anywhere, cutting out the international drug smugglers and making such drugs cheap and more readily available.” Afghanistan isn’t the only country with a legal poppy industry, Australia also allows the legal growth of it. Eventually it’ll make its way across the ocean to North America and once you have one plant, you can continue to multiply your crop. Living in a capitalist society, you have to make money to get anywhere and it’s thus becomes the roots of a lot of evil. The pharmaceutical industry has spent “close to $2.5bn into lobbying and funding members of Congress over the past decade.” according to Chris McGreal of the guardian. He goes on to say “Nine out of 10 members of the House of Representatives and all but three of the US’s 100 senators have taken campaign contributions from pharmaceutical companies seeking to affect legislation on everything from the cost of drugs to how new medicines are approved.” Many political campaigns and agendas rely on the money coming from the drug industry. This variable will certainly prevent many politicians from agreeing with a bill to use more money to attempt to quiet these companies down. Another argument these pharmaceutical companies and anyone on their side is going to use is you couldn’t just shut down the production and sale of opioids either. Painkillers are a vital part of modern medicine and allow people living with chronological issues such as cancer or nerve damage to live comfortably. It extends the quality of life and even the life expectancy as it’ll allow these people to exercise and do other things to prolong their lives. According to Chris McGreal, “Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House of Representatives, was the single largest beneficiary, with donations from the industry totaling $228,670.” When you go almost to the top trying to influence decisions to benefit these drugs companies, it makes it very hard to counterattack these issues.
It’s important to know that the majority of the population make a much more compelling case as to why the opioid crisis needs to be take care of immediately. Christian McNamara wants to remind us “that we cannot medicate and counsel our way out of the opioid epidemic based on the experience of the last ten years would be akin to concluding that we could not treat our way out of the AIDS epidemic based on the failure of AL-721.” Many people are going to try and come up with ideas and many have already failed. This doesn’t mean the crisis is never going to end. People have suggested that we simply stop prescribing opioids to people which is a bad idea. “Opioids are a vital component of modern medicine that have measurably improved the quality of life for millions of people, particularly cancer patients and those with acute pain.”(NYT). Where we should be reconsidering is being prescribed for chronic pain. Chronic pain is pain someone is going to carry with them for the rest of their lives. This can start at birth of develop later on. In the situations where it develops at birth, someone could be prescribed opioids for their lifetime. This gives a significant amount of time and high possibility of addiction. Instead of stopping the prescription of opioids altogether, we shouldn’t be prescribing kids chronic pain killers. We also need to stress the importance of locking up prescription drugs so help prevent the use of them by people who don’t need them. According to Pain Physician, “Recent data show that the United States, with only 4.6% of the global population, used approximately 69% of the world’s supply of opioids in 2014 (43,44) including 99.7% of the hydrocodone.” The easy accessibility to drugs makes us use them and push them more and not often enough weigh other options.
According to drugwarfacts.org, in the last fiscal year, we spent $23.8 billion on drug control. 73% of this money was spent on treatment and domestic law enforcement alone. The remaining 27% was spent on prevention, interdiction, and international. It doesn’t specify what the international category covers but my guess would be border patrol and assistance of drug raids in foreign countries. It’s absurd we have to spend $1.52 billion on international control of drugs. The problem with the United States is that we want to have a hand in everything happening around the globe and in doing that, we are blinded to our crumbling country. That $1.52 billion should be spent domestically on advertising and publications warning people of the dangers of opioids as well as research to find other methods of pain relieving. It’s simple to just continue doing things the way things have been done for years when it comes to the production of opioids and the pharmaceutical business. In the American capitalist society, why would we shutdwn these companies when it has created hundreds of jobs as well as creates a revenue in the billions. The formula is down locked, there is no continued research, you press a button and pain killers come out. There is no more testing, it’s like the recipe to Hershey’s chocolate, those candy bars will be made the same way until revenue stops being greater than production cost. What we should be doing is taking that money and developing a permanent or alternative psychological cure such as therapy. It’s important not to stop the production of opioids, but invest time into other solutions.
If I had to game theorize what this crisis will lead to, it’s most simply summarized as disastrous. If we continue to neglect the drug problem, the amount of users will continue to be high. Multiple offenders caught with illegal opioids will be put into a broken prison system that is als heavily overpopulated. This will result in more money being spent to extend the prison system coming from the taxpayers pocket. If they aren’t in prison, there is a direct correlation between drug abuse and unemployment. The unemployment rate will raise 1% for every 17% increase in opioid abuse according to 12keysrehab.com. If people are unemployed they won’t contribute to either the consumer or producer in the capitalist society and the economy will drop off. This creates a cycle of stress, abuse, unemployment, and death.
If the government is going to be lackadaisical when it comes to providing new resources and public funding to help fight the opioid crisis, we must look out for each other and create independent resources and offer help to people seeking it. We must keep a close tab on our opioids and follow the rules along with it. We must combat opioids before they combat us.
Davis, Julie Hirschfeld. “Trump Declares Opioid Crisis a ‘Health Emergency’ but Requests No Funds” The New York Times. 26 Oct. 2017. Web.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Opioids: Brief Description” drugabuse.gov. Web.
La Page, Michael. “Home-brew heroin: soon anyone will be able to make illegal drugs” New Scientist. 18 May. 2015. Web.
McGreal, Chris. “How big pharma’s money – and its politicians – feed the US opioid crisis” The Guardian. 19 Oct. 2017. Web.
McNamara, Christian M. “Opioids.” First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life, no. 274, 2017, p. 3+. Academic OneFile. Web.
Katz, Josh. “Short Answers to Hard Questions About the Opioid Crisis” The New York Times. 10 Aug. 2017. Web.
Manchikanti, Laxmaiah. “Responsible, Safe, and Effective Prescription of Opioids for Chronic Non-Cancer Pain: American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP)
Guidelines.” Science, vol. 296, no. 5566, Dec. 2002, pp. 253d–253d., doi:10.1126/science.296.5566.253d.
“Economics.” Drug War Facts, Drug War Facts, 2017, drugwarfacts.org/chapter/economics#spending.
“The Relationship Between Drugs & Unemployment .” 12 Keys Rehab, 26 Sept. 2016, http://www.12keysrehab.com/blog/drug-abuse-and-unemployment.