Recently, I spent a good amount of time thinking about drugs in this country.
When you read that sentence, I bet in your mind you imagine street drugs. Substances that are illegal. And that’s part of what I’m talking about.
Here’s the deal. I fully believe that the D.A.R.E. program knowingly lied to me. I also believe that it unknowingly put me at an enormous disadvantage by overly simplifying all street drugs into that one term: “drugs”. I’ll tell you two reasons why I feel that contributed to some self destructive choices I made in my early twenties:
- The first time I smoked some pot, was from peer pressure. When I realized that it was less of an effect than all of the alcohol that I’d been drinking around the same time, and I managed to not die, lose all my friends, or get anyone pregnant from it made me wonder what else D.A.R.E. had told me that was wrong. Weed was only a gateway drug because D.A.R.E. had made it one for me.
- D.A.R.E. told me to “just say no” to drugs, and by “drugs” meant the illegal kind. Those are the dangerous kinds. The kind you can get from your doctor aren’t the one’s we’re talking about kids, those are okay. Then when I had my wisdom teeth out, even though the doctor handed me a dangerous amount of hydrocodone, I knew I didn’t have to worry about anything, because this man went to school and is a professional and only bad drugs are illegal.
I’ll tell you a couple other things. My home state of Ohio is one of the worst in the country when it comes to opioids. I think that a fear mongering, fact-less childhood education on drugs didn’t help this. And I think that doctors who over prescribe dangerous, addictive pain killers did either. Some would argue that they are the primary and direct cause of rampant opioid abuse. Vox has a article titled: [Why it’s so much easier to get an opioid prescription in the US than in Europe or Japan]. It’s worth a read.
I have two doses of [Narcan]. I don’t use opioids recreationally. Or otherwise, for that matter. I had an outpatient surgery this past year and was sent home with another bottle of addictive painkiller pills, and didn’t take one of them. I found other ways to manage my pain. No one in my household or any of my neighbors, that I’m aware of, use opioids of any sort. The Narcan is for the occasion that I happen upon someone who is overdosing on heroin or fentanyl. Virginia is doing better than Ohio, but it’s still around. And there are others like me who are willing to expend their own money to acquire a life saving drug to use on a stranger. Even in the face of [police who claim that simply coming into skin contact with raw h will doom you to a medical emergency].
I’ve also started conversations with my own religious group for finding ways to assist a fledgling [home for recovering addicts].
And so, I must support [President Trump with announcing a the opioid crisis a national emergency], right?
And my answer to that is - I’m not sure I care. In fact, I might be running out of steam on this one. And I’ll tell you why.
I’ve talked, for years, about how this country’s prohibition on cannabis is hypocritical while alcohol is legal. And now, I run into something similar.
The CDC’s Opioid Overdose page (collected August 11, 2017) says that:
Opioids (including prescription opioids and heroin) killed more than 33,000 people in 2015, more than any year on record. Nearly half of all opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid.
Thirty three thousand people in a country of [323,995,528]? Some quick math shows that’s a tiny fraction of the country’s population. Meanwhile, the Surgeon General’s [50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2014] reports that between 2010 and 2014 2,401,600 people died from tobacco related disease (info pulled from table 12.15 on page 667 of the aforementioned report). That’s almost half a million people annually. All the while, we’re up in arms about opioids, despite there being about 1400% more people who die from tobacco use, which is legal, every year.
I’m confused as to why anyone is up in arms about people dying from heroin. And I’m not being facetious about that either. I’m genuinely at a loss. Is it because instead of your uncle dying from COPD by himself surrounded by beeping hospital monitors while that medical facility gets paid for that service, he dies fast and publicly on a park bench? Is it because tobacco is legal and heroin isn’t? Or is it just that the war against tobacco was lost to the companies that would profit from it and the government legislators that they purchased?
Look - I’m not saying that we just let the chips fall where they may. I believe that our country should expend its public resources on helping those who want help to overcome addiction and towards fact based education to the public on drugs of all sorts. And, furthermore, I am fully libertarian when it comes to drug policy. I think that however a person wants to treat the sovereign soil of their own body is their own business. The point of all of this is that I think that America has a knee jerk reaction to a problem that is dwarfed by others. Her priorities are not in order.