Why Do We Have a Opioid Epidemic? Follow the Money ($ $ BILLIONS)
After living overseas for many years of my life I can tell you the obscure picture that many foreigners have of America. They think it’s the Wild West over here. I have been in conversations with many people who have asked me, seriously mind you, if I have ever been a first-hand witness to violent crime. Once, working on a residential construction site in Australia a co-worker from New Zealand made the comment. “So, ‘ey, being from America, you probably saw dead bodies on your way to school an’ that?”
I remember studying his face looking for the tell-tale of a joke.
He was dead serious.
Laughingly I explained to him that while crime and gun violence are definitely growing problems in the U.S., it wasn’t quite as lawless as that.
But really, who can blame him for thinking that? Every other day it seemed America was in the news with another mass shooting, wrongful death at the hands of a cop, or just some other random tale of senseless violence.
When you examine the facts, it’s even easier to understand why someone who has never been to the U.S. might think that the prevalence of so much violence might see a person tiptoeing over corpses en-route to their daily education.
So What are the facts?
-In 2017 there were 61,452 firearms related incidents across America.
-15,587 of those incidents resulted in death.
-The number of children killed or injured between the ages of 0-11 totaled 732.
-The number of teens between the ages of 12-17 killed or injured totaled 3,234
-346 of these incidents were the results of mass shootings.
There’s no doubt that numbers like these are staggering. In a country that pridefully dubs itself a superpower, we are slowly killing each other and it’s no wonder that firearms control is a hot topic with sitters on either side of the debate, from politicians and law-makers, to concerned parents, to neutral observers who just want to feel safe at the end of the day.
But there’s a new killer running rampant across the streets of America.
Last year alone over 42,000 people lost their lives to opioid related overdoses.
Let that number sink in for a second.
The epidemic in the US has reached such staggering heights that in what is considered to be America’s most violent city, Detroit, Michigan, opioid overdoses surpassed the cities homicide rate for 2017.
These numbers are not indicative of the “type” of user either. Many of these deaths are affecting all types of households across the country, stemming from an injury or surgery which requires them to take prescription painkillers like morphine, oxycodone, or fentanyl; all prescribed by doctors for acute or chronic pain.
It is estimated that approximately 142 Americans die every day as a result of these medications- whether the overdose be accidental or a result of direct abuse. Essentially, America is enduring a death toll equal to Sept. 11 every three weeks.
Some stats suggest that over the course of the next decade, over half-a-million Americans could lose their life if the current trends continue to rise they way they have been.
What is the government doing to address the opioid epidemic?
The problem with the opioid epidemic is that the government is doing little to combat the problem other than using superfluous words and promises with little action behind it. The United States Government actually seems more concerned with going after the Cannabis Industry which, let’s just say has far fewer overdoses. (42, 249 less to be exact.)
In August 2017, after declaring this problem. “the worst drug crisis in world history,” Trump promised that he would declare the United States Opioid Epidemic a national emergency. A declaration carrying the official title of a national emergency could potentially unlock some support to address the crisis, including a stream of funding and special regulatory waivers that could bolster prevention programs as well as access to addiction treatment and the opioid overdose antidote Naloxone, also known as Narcan.
However, in October 2017, in a speech given from the White House, rather than living up to his promise of declaring said national emergency, what he chose to do instead was direct the US Department of Health to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency. This directive on its own does not release any funds whatsoever to go towards combating this huge problem, nor did the President request for any funding to be released.
What Trump did promise was that to combat the epidemic the government would produce “really tough, really big, and really great advertising,” which would be aimed at dissuading the general public from ever abusing opiates in the first place.
“This was an idea that I had, where if we can teach young people not to take drugs, then it’s really really easy not to take them,” Trump explained. He furthered this sentiment by delving into his own past, commenting on how remarkably easy it was for him to just say no after taking advice from a relative who struggled with alcohol abuse.
An interesting approach from the man whose own opioid commission issued this statement about the prevalence of opiates in the country- “We have an enormous problem that is often not beginning on street corners; it is starting in doctor’s offices and hospitals in every state in our nation,” it said. “The amount of opioids prescribed in the US was enough for every American to be medicated 24/7 for three weeks.”
But therein lies the answer I suppose. This epidemic is specifically, an American crisis. Our nation has less than 5% of the world’s population yet it consumes more than 80% of the worldwide opioid pill production.
Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia puts it best in this quote from a Guardian interview. “It’s an epidemic because we have a business model for it. Follow the money. Look at the amount of pills they shipped in to certain parts of our state. It’s a business model.”
So in the midst of a crisis fueled by greed; a crisis dwarfing the gun violence that America is notorious for; morgues are being filled and children are being orphaned while the spearheads of our country, many of whom hold valuable stock in pharmaceutical companies, continue to villainize a herb with real healing, life-saving potential that comes with zero fatal risk.
Does that seem legit to you?