By Dani Ross, Staff Writer
A ton of media attention has been focused on America’s “opioid crisis” in recent months. America has had a drug problem for as long as America has been America, so what’s so special about this time in history?
In the Journal of the National Medical Association Drs. Bowser, Fullilove and Word wrote the following as part of their submission on the heroin epidemic:
“Heroin abuse as an outcome of the prior use of painkillers increased rapidly over the past decade. This ‘new epidemic’ is unique because the new heroin users are primarily young White Americans in rural areas of virtually every state. This commentary argues that the painkiller-to-heroin transition could not be the only cause of heroin use on such a scale and that the new and old heroin epidemics are linked.
‘‘The social marketing that so successfully drove the old heroin epidemic has innovated and expanded due to the use of cell-phones, text messaging and the ‘dark web’ which requires a Tor browser, and software that allows one to communicate with encrypted sites without detection.
‘‘Central city gentrification has forced traffickers to take advantage of larger and more lucrative markets. A second outcome is that urban black and Latino communities are no longer needed as heroin stages areas for suburban and exurban illicit drug distribution. Drug dealing can be done directly in predominantly white suburbs and rural areas without the accompanying violence associated with the old epidemic.
‘‘Denial of the link between the new and old heroin epidemics racially segregates heroin users and more proactive prevention and treatment in the new epidemic than in the old. It also cuts off a half-century of knowledge about the supply-side of heroin drug dealing and the inevitable public policy measures that will have to be implemented to effectively slow and stop both the old and new epidemic.”
If the painkiller-to-heroin pipeline is to be blamed for this latest wave of overdoses, then why aren’t the people that provide the painkillers being prosecuted as drug-dealing kingpins?
Take the Sackler family, for instance. They are the creators and owners of the drug OxyContin. They have made billions of dollars off of this highly addictive drug and no one named Sackler has been legally punished for their role in killing hundreds of thousands of Americans.
Interestingly enough, Arthur Sackler, the elder brother of the three brothers from Brooklyn, made his first pot of money by changing the way drugs were marketed. He was the first to introduce print media advertising into the pharmaceutical marketing plans.
In the 1960s Sackler made a small fortune pushing the drug Valium. He then took his earnings and turned to manufacturing drugs himself.
The Sacklers are the sole owners of Purdue Pharmaceuticals, a manufacturer of OxyContin. Purdue Pharma has offices both in Durham and Wilson.
Private industry is not the only entity to blame. The American government has a major role in this crisis as well. As recently as 2016, drug industry-backed legislation passed that limits the power of drug enforcement agencies to intervene in cases where large shipments of opioids are delivered to pharmacies known to supply the black market.
The drug industry contributed $1.5 million to the 23 Congressional sponsors of the Ensuring Patient Access and Drug Enforcement Act that made this loophole possible.
The current opioid epidemic is killing every three weeks the same number of people who lost their lives in the attacks of 9-11, according to President Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction.
Also, we constantly watch commercials that feature smiling actors having a great quality of life while promoting a certain drug. The joyful music is playing in the background and flashes of bright colors and family gatherings of joyous occasions are meant to distract you from the myriad of horrible side effects that the drug has.
But play close attention because the devil is in the details. Many of the legal drugs on the market today have a side effect of death.
Pharmaceutical companies spend millions of dollars on research and development to create more addictive products. The more addictive the product, the more money coming in.
Doctors learn how to apply the pharmaceutical product to illnesses to keep money coming in.
Street dealers skip the formality and profit off the addictive properties of drugs directly.
The pharmaceutical company, doctor and street dealer all play a role in this crisis. The only difference is that the lower you are on the food chain, the more likely you are to go to jail if caught.