The lead story in the last few months is the White House saying the opioid crisis is going to cost the nation $500 billion a year.  Think about that; $500 billion a year.

In 2016, 64,000 Americans were killed by opioids, that’s heroin and all the pain killers.  And many believe that’s underreported; that there are many more people who die, because if you take these hard drugs, they have a deleterious effect on all other parts of your body.  It’s like alcohol.

An estimated 2.0 million people in the USA are addicted to heroin and other opioids.  And the White House says it’s a public health emergency.  But the White House and Congress have no blankin’ clue what to do about it.

Drug addiction has been with us forever.  There was a war fought over opium, the Boxer Rebellion.  Actually, Steve McQueen made a movie about it.  In China, a quarter of the population was addicted to opium when Mao Zedong took over in 1949 and the nation became communist.  A quarter of the Chinese population was addicted to opium.

What did Mao do?  He shot them.  If you were involved with opium, you were lined up and shot.  All of a sudden, the epidemic stopped.

Now, in the United States in the early part of the 20th century, cocaine was legal, you could use it, there was no problem using it.  Then, as the 1920s rolled in, drugs became more prevalent and they started to outlaw heroin, opium, cocaine and they formed the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.  That was the first federal agency to try to keep this under control.

In the 19th century, nobody did anything.  You could do what you wanted.  Then the Depression hit and in the Depression nobody had any money, so the drug industry in the United States collapsed.  Then World War II happened.  And again, most of the young mail pool were gone and there wasn’t a big demand.

Then after World War II, drug addiction started to rise but wasn’t at the crisis level until the 60s.  Sex, drugs and rock n’ roll came in, Vietnam War came in.  Lots of GIs in Vietnam sampled the very cheap heroin over there and brought their habits home.  Social acceptability of drugs, even though hard drugs were not as acceptable as marijuana.   The drug culture rose.  And from I would say 1969 onward, drugs have been a major problem in the United States.

It got worse with the advent of the Internet, because you can buy any drug you want through the Internet.  If you go to Tijuana, Mexico, there are more pharmacies in Tijuana than in all the rest of Mexico combined I think, if you take out Mexico City.

What are they doing?  They’re mailing opiates to anybody who wants them.  Anybody with a credit card right through the mail.  So you don’t have to get down to your local pusher, you can get it right through the mail.  Now in the 90s, there was a crack epidemic that hit the ghetto, the bad neighborhoods in the inner cities were hit very hard.  And it made it almost impossible for people to live there with so much violence on the streets.

In New York City, there were close to 4,000 murders a year.  Now there’s 300.  So the Feds came in and they gave the crack dealers mandatory harsh sentences, which have now become a source of controversy.  But they did that so poor people in the ghettos can have some protection.  And the crack epidemic, after those mandatory sentences came in, waned.  It’s still there, but it’s not nearly what it was in the 90s.

But heroin because of Mexico, it’s cheap, has risen.  And prescription drugs, as you know, has also risen.  And the two are almost the same.  So that’s what’s fueling our drug epidemic now.

The final thing is Barack Obama made a terrible mistake by putting forth that selling heroin and other hard narcotics, including crack, is not a violent crime.  That you know…Obama didn’t say it was okay.  He just said, “Well it’s not that bad and we shouldn’t be putting people away who are selling poison.”  Not using, selling.  Ehh…you know, let them go to rehab.  Bad, because, again, the social acceptability of it.

When I was a kid growing up in the suburbs of NYC, if you were on heroin you were a pariah.  Not only using, but selling.  I mean, the dope dealers were the worst, the lowest, the lowest.  Now in some places they’re celebrated.  They’re celebrated.  Superfly!

So we are in a society now that doesn’t know how to handle this opioid crisis, doesn’t know what to do.  Some places like Singapore have said if you use hard drugs and we catch you, you go to mandatory drug rehab.  In Singapore, it was 22 months you’re gone.  So they took the market away, there’s no drug problem in Singapore.  Red China, I already explained how Mao dealt with it.

Here, it’s all “Well, we need money for rehab.”  Oh, all right.  But a lot of people who use narcotics don’t want to be rehabilitated.  They like the world for whatever reason.  And that world is growing and more and more people are dying.  So that’s the thing.

Five hundred billion a year medical costs, people on the job can’t work.  Of course, they apply for government assistance.   Child abuse, 70 percent of all child abuse and neglect is by parents who are addicted to narcotics.  Horrible!  But we don’t have a strategy yet—just the recognition that we have a crisis.

According to Dr. Thomas Strousp, medical director of the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Hospital, said, “A recent study found that opioid deaths went down by about 25 percent over time in states after marijuana legalization passed.  We can’t say for sure, but it could be that people were substituting marijuana for the purpose of getting pain relief or taking lower doses of opioids, or perhaps using recreational marijuana instead of recreational opioids—likely a much safer activity.

What we do know is that an opioid overdose can cause people to stop breathing and die; it’s often said that nobody ever died of a cannabis overdose, and that’s probably a true statement in the sense that cannabis does not depress respiration the way opioid can.


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2 responses to “OPIOIDS…A NEW CRISIS

  1. Mike Bacon

    Dear Art,

    You also must look at people who are suffering from chronic pain and require these strong medications to just get through the day. Much of the Opioid crisis comes from illegal and pharmacy shopping, and street purchases. Those with chronic pain just need to know they don’t have to jump through additional hoops just to get the medication they need to live.

    Thank you for all your thought provoking blogs.

    Mike Bacon

  2. Stephen Abt

    Very informative ! I think you should be syndicated.

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