Drug overdoses kill more people under the age of 50 in the United States than anything else — more than vehicle crashes, homicide, gun-related incidents — anything.
Unsurprisingly, more of those overdoses pertained to opioids — legal, prescription medications, or illicit heroin, too frequently of dubious quality, sought by those for whom State-sanctioned painkillers no longer killed the pain — than to any other substance.
“To put the death toll into perspective,” Democracy Now! reports, “opioid deaths have now surpassed the peak in death by car crash in 1972, AIDS deaths in 1995 and gun deaths in 1993. After 20 years of heavy combat in South Vietnam, U.S. military casualties represented only one-third of the death toll from 10 years of opioid overdoses. Meanwhile, counties and states around the country have filed lawsuits to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for the public health crisis.”
Were it considered a contagious disease, the wildfire plague of opioid abuse and addiction would be pandemic.
“The United States is in the midst of the worst drug addiction epidemic in its history,” Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of opioid policy research at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, told journalist Amy Goodman in an interview. “And when I say that, I’m referring to the number of people who are addicted and the number of people dying from overdose deaths. The epidemic isn’t new. It began 20 years ago and has gotten worse every year steadily.”
Over half the 52,000 people who succumbed to substance overdoses in 2015, according to the Department of Justice, did so using opioid medications, heroin, synthetic fentanyl, or other opioids.
As if the crisis weren’t a horrendous in its own right, experts warned an astronomical uptick in overdose fatalities within just the past few years portends the epidemic is now mushrooming out of control.
Prior to the invasion of Afghanistan by the United States in 2001, the Taliban had veritably eradicated the nation’s opium poppy supply — the Afghan yield had plummeted to just 185 tons that year.
Before dust from American boots had time to settle, production was booming — indicators of the coming stateside crisis cropped up with increasing urgency in successive years.
“Within six months of the U.S. invasion,” wrote Matthieu Aikins for the December 4, 2014, Rolling Stone, “the warlords we backed were running the opium trade, and the spring of 2002 saw a bumper harvest of 3,400 tons.”
By around 2011 — with Afghanistan still shredded by U.S. interventionism, but now rich in proceeds from the opium poppy — the opioid epidemic plaguing American lives could no longer be dismissed as aberrant. Dr. Kolodny continues,
“We have two groups of Americans who have become opioid-addicted over the past 20 years: an older group and a younger group. The older group are people in their forties up through their eighties. Their addiction has developed really almost entirely from medical use of opioids. And the older group has been overdosing on prescription opioids. The younger group, people mostly in their twenties and thirties, are developing their opioid addiction also from prescription opioids, that were used either medically or recreationally or sometimes a combination of both. The younger folks, when they become addicted, they have a hard time maintaining their supply of opioids visiting doctors. And it isn’t that doctors or dentists don’t like to give young people opioids. Unfortunately, we’re pretty comfortable, too comfortable, doing that.
“But doctors don’t like to give healthy-looking 25-year-olds a large quantity on a monthly basis. So, this younger group, when they become addicted, to maintain their supply, they wind up on the black market. The prescription opioids are very expensive on the black market, so they’ve been switching to heroin. And this switching began, you know, 20 years ago.”
Of course, what isn’t often mentioned in mainstream media when the pernicious crisis does make headlines are several viable ways to rein it in — likely due to stigma and arbitrary laws.
Kratom, a plant whose effects can mimic heroin and other opiates without its inherent dangers, shows promise in treating addiction through replacement therapy — granting the user a means to gradually wean themselves and reduce intake.
Cannabis provides perhaps the greatest hope for addicts and abusers by supplanting opioids and treating pain — without any of the addictive qualities fueling the crisis to begin with.
But because cannabis remains a Schedule I prohibited substance, still tainted with politicized stigmatization from fabricated propaganda of the war on drugs, those who could benefit heartily from the miracle weed aren’t able to do so unless they reside in one of the states with laxer laws.
As long as the drug war unironically remains the U.S. government’s premier concern, the opioid epidemic cannot be contained.
When an administration ultimately decides to put the public health instead of arbitrary legality as its number one priority — which would include an unhindered discussion about viable solutions — then, and only then, will the pharmaceutical industry finally be condemned for the deception and profiteering at the heart of the crisis.
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Contributed by Claire Bernish of The Daily Sheeple.