Some of you may be familiar with the writings of David Kupelian, Editor of Whistleblower. In a recent article, he explains how “a perfect storm” of events and conditions worked to create the evil of the Opioid Crisis today. My involvement with counter-drug efforts south of the border made a great impression on me
but I cannot explain the drug war any better than Mr. Kupelian. As an example, he starts out by telling about the Titanic, a disaster everyone knows about but after reading you will find out you really didn’t know the truth. Quoting from the June 2018 edition of Whistle-blower:
“The “unsinkable” Titanic, which cost 1,500 souls their lives in the North Atlantic in 1912, didn’t simply crash into an iceberg due to rotten luck. ‘The ship was ensnared by a perfect storm of circumstances that conspired her to her doom,’ as British scientist Richard Corfield wrote. The ship was traveling too fast. The steersman made a wrong turn. An uncontained coal-bunker fire raged below deck. The hull’s iron rivets were too weak. The weather was conducive to drawing icebergs into the ship’s path. Though specific iceberg warnings were received over the wireless, the Titanic’s captain wasn’t told because the message didn’t carry the required prefix. And binoculars that would have enabled lookouts to see the iceberg for themselves were locked up on-board ship –
the key held by an officer cut from the crew just before departure. A perfect storm.
Today, like the Titanic disaster, America’s ever-growing opioid epidemic is the result of another perfect storm of cascading events and conditions. But instead
of 1,500 dead, the opioid crisis has taken the lives of more than 500,000 Americans since 2000 – and some experts believe another 500,000 may die in the next decade if current trends persist. In 2016 and 2017, more Americans lost their lives each year to drug overdoses than died during the entire Vietnam War, driving Americans’ life expectancy as a whole downward.
The CDC states overdose and death are higher than those revealed by statistics, since many victims never see the inside of an emergency room. Driven by ultra-potent substances like fentanyl, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under the age of 50. Even worse, many “accidental” overdose deaths may be intentional. Maria A. Oquendo, M.D., Ph.D., immediate past president of the American Psychiatric Association, recently said, “it looks like 25 to 45 percent of overdose deaths may be actual suicides. What sort of “perfect storm” or “event cascade” could possibly be causing such
a catastrophic meltdown of American civilization?
During the 19th century, opium, morphine and their derivatives were widely used with apparently few alarm bells ringing. “Doctors administered morphine liberally to their patients,” reports the New York Times, “while families used laudanum, an opium tincture, as a cure-all, including for pacifying colicky children.” Noting that doctors of that era “did not fully appreciate the risk these drugs posed,” the Times says many physicians “viewed morphine as a wonder drug for pain, diarrhea, nerves and alcoholism.” Meanwhile, as millions in China were hooked on smoking opium, the Times reminds us of another shocking bit of history: “in the mid-1800s, the British went into battle twice – bombing forts and killing thousands of civilians and soldiers alike – to keep the Chinese market open to drug imports in what would become known as the Opium Wars.” That’s right: The British were, at that time selling thousands of tons of opium to China every year. All the while the Americans, from the Civil War veterans to housewives, were becoming addicted – including many doctors themselves.
Finally, in 1914, Congress passed the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act, prohibiting doctors from prescribing opiates for America’s many addicts. “Americans had had
it with heroin,” summarizes journalist Christopher Caldwell. “It took almost a century before drug companies could talk them back into using drugs like it.”
In his article “American Carnage: The new landscape of opioid addiction,” Caldwell notes that throughout most of the 20th century, powerful opiates and opioids (an opioid is a synthetic drug that mimics opium) were largely taboo – confined to patients with serious cancers, and often to end-of-life care.” But then – as always seems to happen – history more or less repeated itself. Caldwell sets the stage: (Two) decades ago, a combination of libertarian attitudes about drugs and a massive corporate marketing effort combined to instruct millions of vulnerable people about the blessed relief opioids could bring, if only mulish oldsters
in the medical profession could get over their hang-ups and be convinced to subscribe them. One of the rhetorical tactics is now familiar from debates about
Islam and terrorism: Industry advocates accused doctors reluctant to prescribe addictive medicines of suffering from ‘opiophobia.’
Thus it was, throughout the 1990s, that a new medical culture came into being, one strongly advocating that doctors come as close as possible to completely eliminating pain. Organizations of all sorts, medical journals and government converged on the idea that relieving pain was not being given sufficient emphasis in treatment. That’s when all the smiley-faced 0- to-10 pain scales started appearing in doctors’ offices everywhere. James Campbell, a neurosurgeon at
Johns Hopkins University, spoke at the American Pain Society’s 1996 annual conference in Los Angeles. Campbell was the society’s president and argued for
a major change in pain management. Doctors took vital signs seriously. They measured pulse, blood pressure, temperature and breathing rate at each visit
and got worried if the numbers were off. Why not have a “fifth vital sign” – pain?
What most people did not know was that the American Pain Society was funded largely by Purdue Pharmaceutical, manufacturer of OxyContin, an extended release version of oxycodone. OxyContin was introduced to America with huge marketplace success. Purdue did not reckon with the ingenuity of addicts who by smashing or chewing or dissolving the pills could the release the whole narcotic load at once. In 2007, three of Purdue’s executives pleaded guilty and paid over $600 million in fines for misleading the public about OxyContin’s risk of addiction. The company paid $19.5 million to 26 states and Washington DC to settle complaints it had encouraged physicians to overprescribe OxyContin. In 2010, Purdue introduced a reformulated OxyContin that was harder to tamper with. In 2015, the family that owns the company was number 16 on Forbes magazine’s list of America’s richest families.
The numbers of pain pills produced and poured into this country are mind-boggling. As stated by one writer, “Follow the pills and you’ll find overdose deaths.”
Two drugs in particular dominate the problem: heroin and fentanyl. Heroin is a highly addictive, euphoria-inducing illegal narcotic derived from morphine. Most heroin entering the US is crossing our southern border, with 50 percent coming from Mexico and another 43-45 percent from Colombia via drug cartels. Heroin has been largely overtaken by fentanyl in terms of numbers of overdose deaths. Legally manufactured fentanyl, about 50 times as strong as heroin, was used more widely in medicine than any other synthetic opioid in 2017. The same fentanyl patches so abused by addicts are listed on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines.
When we say heroin, the experts increasingly mean fentanyl, especially the illegally manufactured kind. And China manufactures a lot of the fentanyl that
comes to the US, one of those unanticipated consequences of globalization. The dealers responsible for cutting it by a factor of fifty are unlikely to be trained pharmacists. The cutting lab may consist of one teenager flown up from the Dominican Republic alone in a room with a Cuisinart and a box of starch or paracetamol. It takes skill to distribute the chemicals evenly. Since a shot of heroin involves only the tiniest little pinch of the substance, you might tap into a part of the baggie that is all cutting agent, no drug – in which case you won’t get high. On the other hand, you could get a fentanyl-intensive pinch – in which case you will be found dead soon afterward with the needle sticking out of your arm. This explains why fentanyl-linked deaths are multiplying year after year.”
Whether we blame the pharmaceutical companies, the prescribing doctors or the people who swallow the drugs, we have been fighting drug abuse for almost a century. The official “War on Drugs” began in 1971 under President Richard Nixon. Since 2008, American taxpayers have fronted nearly $213.5 billion on National Drug Control Strategy efforts, according to Rehabs.com. That figure includes funds going toward law enforcement, prevention and treatment, and resources dedicated to fighting trafficking.
(The following is from Collett, Merril. The Cocaine Connection: Drug Trafficking, and Inter-American Relations. New York, NY: Foreign Policy Association Series)
“According to DEA estimates we capture less than 10 percent of all illicit drugs. In this regard, (1) How much do you think it will cost to stop the other ninety percent? (2) Does $50 billion a year for a 90% failure rate seem like a good investment to you? I am sure the answer is no. Has the cost of the War on Drugs in terms of billions of dollars, blighted lives, jammed prisons, needless deaths, loss of freedom etc., produced any significant change in drug availability or perceived patterns of drug use? Unfortunately not. Without a solution to the current situation, the U.S. will remain in a vicious circle with no hope of coming out of it.”
We are losing the war. . . . .
Photographer, Author, Journalist.
Television and Movie Producer
I suggest you seek the truth and not accept anything and everything you hear – dig deeper its origin. Where did it begin? Who is telling you this? Before you can do the right thing, you must know the truth. This is true for any of today’s issues, even the ongoing Opioid Crisis.