Is The Current Opioid Crisis A Class Issue?

By LaEglantine 02/14/18
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Recently there have been a lot of discussion about how terrible the opioid crisis is. Parents all over the country are concerned about the numbers of young people who overdose and/or die. Heart wrenching stories of families stunned by the fact that their children taking drugs to that extent. Big pharma as drug manufacturers are called, that make and sell opioid painkillers as well as other countries which ship in fentanyl are being confronted as families demand something be done. People are caught completely by surprise because they obtained their initial drugs as prescriptions and addiction was not something that happens here.

Although heroin abuse has existed well before the current opioid epidemic, prescription opioids have created a new market. When drug abusers run out of their prescriptions or cannot afford to buy painkillers off the black market, they turn to heroin and fentanyl. Users quickly build a tolerance to opioids, leading them to seek increasingly large amounts to produce the same high. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that in 2016 drug overdoses claimed the lives of as many as 65,000 Americans.

Morphine, the active ingredient in opium, was synthesized in the early 1800s and in its purest form, is ten times stronger than opium. The drug was widely used as a painkiller during the U.S. Civil War. During the Civil War. Many of the veterans who had horrendous injuries used. As a result, an estimated 400,000 soldiers became addicted.

By the second half of the nineteenth century, scientists had begun to look for a less addictive form of morphine, and in 1874, an English chemist named Alder Wright refined heroin from a morphine base. It was intended to be a safer replacement for morphine and supplanted the more addictive pure opium.

The first anti-opium laws in the 1870s were directed at limiting the number of Chinese immigrants in the belief they brought opium to the United States. The first anti-cocaine laws in the early 1900s were directed at black men in the South. The first anti-marijuana laws, in the Midwest and the Southwest in the 1910s and 20s, were directed at Mexican migrants and Mexican Americans for pretty much the same reasons. These populations were viewed as part of or responsible for the drug problems of their time.

In the 1903 the Harrison Act regulated what could and could not be distributed as drugs. Dr. Hamilton Wright was appointed Opium Commissioner of the United States. and was quoted as saying, “Of all the nations of the world, the United States consumes most habit-forming drugs per capita. Opium, the most pernicious drug known to humanity, is surrounded, in this country, with far fewer safeguards than any other nation in Europe."

In June 1971, President Nixon declared a “war on drugs.” He dramatically increased the size and presence of federal drug control agencies and pushed through measures such as mandatory sentencing and no-knock warrants. President Richard M. Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) into law in 1970. This statute calls for the regulation of certain drugs and substances. Nixon went on to create the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 1973. This agency is responsible for tackling drug use and smuggling in the United States.

In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan reinforced and expanded many of Nixon’s War on Drugs policies. In 1984, his wife Nancy Reagan launched the “Just Say No” campaign, which was an effort to educate children on the dangers of drug use. President Reagan’s refocus on drugs led to a significant increase in incarcerations for nonviolent drug crimes.

In 1986, Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which established mandatory minimum prison sentences for certain drug offenses. Although the National Drug Intelligence Center suggests that drug abuses involving cocaine aren’t tied to any age group or demographic, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act was later heavily criticized as having racist ramifications because it allocated longer prison sentences for offenses involving the same amount of crack cocaine (used more often by black Americans) as powder cocaine (used more often by white Americans), leading to disproportionate incarceration rates among communities of color.

The abuse of and addiction to opioids is not confined to the united states. prescription pain relievers is a serious global problem. It is estimated that between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide, with an estimated 2.1 million people in the United States

In just one year—from 2014 to 2015—the death rate from synthetic opioids increased by 72 percent, and heroin death rates increased by almost 21 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nonmedical use of opioid pain relievers costs insurance companies up to $72.5 billion annually in health-care costs.

Why am I talking about this? Because the opioid crisis is not new. When a societal threat becomes a moral issue attributed to a lack of mental strength (remember President Trump echoing Nancy Reagan’s “just say no”) As funds to Medicaid and Medicare are cut. Many of those who most need treatment will find it out of their reach. treatment itself then becomes a class issue. rehabs that are not government-funded are horrendously expensive and out of the reach of poor people. The old assumption that there is a correlation between poverty and people of color and drug abuse leaves many of the white rural families of potential addicts woefully ignorant of the signs of abuse and treatment.

In 2016, drug overdoses killed 63,600 Americans. That was 21 percent more drug deaths than America had seen in 2015, which had been the worst year for such fatalities in our nation’s history. It was also more unnatural deaths than gun violence, HIV/AIDS, or car accidents had ever caused in the United States in a single year. The scale of devastation wrought by the opioid epidemic was so vast, life expectancy in the United States fell for the second consecutive year — the first time that had happened since the early 1960s. According to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If the use of synthetic opioids like fentanyl continues to grow at its current rate, Stat News forecasts that more than 650,000 Americans will die from drug overdoses over the next decade.

There is a long list of evidence-based reforms that could save thousands of Americans such as medication-assisted treatment. Under MAT, addicts are provided with methadone and buprenorphine — less powerful opioids that satiate most addicts’ cravings, and arrest their withdrawal symptoms, without inducing heroin’s debilitating, euphoric high.

Despite the fact that the opioid crisis cost the American economy $504 billion, in 2015 alone, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisers. the present administration has prioritized passing trillion-dollar cuts to Medicaid, one of the top sources of funding for addiction treatment in the United States and called for reducing spending on preventative anti-drug measures and proposing slashing the budget for the Office of National Drug Control Policy by 95 percent. Treatment will only be available to those most able to pay.

References
National Institute on Drug Abuse » Legislative Activities America’s Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse
Nora D. Volkow, Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control May 14, 2014
About Addiction » Drugs of Abuse » Cocaine » Crack Cocaine Statistics http://www.about-addiction.com/
E. Levitz (2018) New York Magazine, Trump Has Given Victims of the Opioid Crisis Nothing but Contempt
K. Leonard, Staff Writer (2016) These Are the Drugs Killing the Most People in the US. |Dec. 20, 2016,
History.com Staff (2017), Heroin, Morphine and Opiates History.com, http://www.history.com/topics/history-of-heroin-morphine-and-opiates, Access Date, February 05, 2018
National Institute on Drug Abuse » Legislative Activities America’s Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse
Nora D. Volkow, Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control May 14, 2014

 

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