Opioid Crisis in the US Stresses Need for A Radical Approach: Decriminalization
On Thursday, October 26, approximately one week ago, Trump delivered a statement officially declaring the United States in a “state of emergency” concerning the rampant use of dangerous opium-derived drugs. But many feel that Trump’s action on the matter is a case of “too little too late”. Trump has commented on the severity of the problem as far back as August, but has not taken action until now.
In his defense, the issue is not entirely easy to deal with or straightforward. I don’t blame Trump for his bewilderment when faced with this problem. The so called “War on Drugs” has not been an effective method to reduce addiction or reduce the incentive to make illicit narcotics transactions. That was the case long before Donald Trump was president.
- Read more: PanAm Podcast: The War on Drugs Has Failed: Interdiction Won’t Solve Fentanyl Epidemic
- Read more: Mexico Announces Legalization of Medical Marijuana, Warns of Rise in Heroin Use Among Teens
Too often people seem to expect that the president personally solve every problem, and make every decision concerning the United States’ domestic and international interests. In a way I don’t really blame him, because he’s inherited an executive branch of government that has been systematically expanded over the course of nearly two decades by his two most recent predecessors, Obama and Bush.
It is ironic that both the Democratic and Republican parties have allowed this since Trump is not seen as competent or deserving by the elite from either party, despite the fact that he ran for president with the Republican nomination. I want the issue dealt with as much as everyone else, but with everything on Trump’s table already, I just don’t think it makes sense for one person to be micro-managing so many things.
The sensible way for a president to delegate in such a scenario would be to appoint a so -called “czar”: a high-level official given authority for dealing with a specific special circumstance. The problem is that Trump already tried that with Tom Marino, but Marino stepped down before he even got started, after reports came to light that he had been supportive of bills favoring “big” pharmaceutical companies who benefit from flooding the market with opiods.
These drugs are prescribed as pain medications, but they are highly addictive, and dangerous when abused. They can also lead to heroin addiction, as heroin is also an opium derivative, and has the advantage that every illicit narcotic enjoys, of being easily bought and sold without price regulations or prescriptions. What happens typically is that a person develops an addiction to pain medications while dutifully following his doctor’s indications, but finds himself still addicted when the prescription runs out. If people had the liberty to purchase drugs over the counter they wouldn’t turn to illegal and dangerous alternatives.
The seeds for this problem have been taking root for years. I can remember classmates of mine in high school using prescription opioids, particularly oxycodone, as a recreational drug. It was not terribly difficult to acquire, although difficult relative to other recreational substances since it’s availability depended on a willing prescription holder. I myself was prescribed it on two separate occasions, once after having wisdom teeth removed, and once after surgery resulting from a wrestling injury. In neither case did I find that the residual pain warranted something so strong. I also recall that several of my friends and classmates eventually developed heroin addictions. At the time I did not realize that there was a link between heroin dependence and oxycodone use.
I’m willing to give Trump the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his poor choice of possible drug czar. It’s impossible to tell if Trump would benefit in the same way Marino would have, or if his declared intention to combat the problem is sincere. The forty-fifth president has been nothing if not unpredictable, but his policies on food stamps have been beneficial and effective, so he seems sincere in cutting down on frivolous legislation and spending that harms the American people.
If he chooses someone else as drug czar, they will have their work cut out for them. The system of corruption and misinformation runs deep. Doctors, politicians, and the pharmaceutical companies are all intertwined in a mutually beneficial system that makes them all rich at the expense of our health and safety. The pharmaceutical companies get to sell more product, the doctors bill the insurance companies for whatever they prescribe, and the politicians get huge kickbacks for doing nothing. I don’t see how any one person, be it Trump or someone in his administration, stands much of a chance against this well-oiled bureaucratic nightmare.
Many of these issues are also treatable with marijuana derivatives, which, despite their stigma, are less habit-forming than opioids. The legality of a drug has little if anything to do with its potency or danger. For example, one opioid called “fentanyl” is many times more potent than heroin, and prescribed regularly as a painkiller.
The only solution I can envision would be to decriminalize recreational drugs. The drugs being prescribed legally are proving no less harmful or habit-forming, and people should have the right to decide for themselves what to take, rather than be pushed opioids that in many cases they do not need. I can speak from experience that the oxycodone I was prescribed on two separate occasions was unnecessary and a hazard that I am glad I had the sense to avoid, despite disobeying my doctor’s orders.
How can we trust our doctors to give us the drugs that are ideal for us in light of the current crisis and state of affairs? People need the liberty to educate themselves, and decide what drugs to use with doctor recommendations, not crony corrupt orders for drugs that we don’t necessarily need.