Last Thursday, President Donald Trump declared that the trend in prescription opioid use in America, dubbed the “opioid crisis” by the federal government, is a national emergency that will be addressed with federal money and the use of “all appropriate emergency and other authorities to respond to the crisis,” according to a White House statement.
On March 29, President Trump signed an executive order establishing the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, which was tasked with studying “ways to combat and treat the scourge of drug abuse, addiction, and the opioid crisis, which was responsible for more than 50,000 deaths in 2015 and has caused families and communities across America to endure significant pain and suffering.”
This, coupled with last Thursday’s announcement, leads me to believe that Trump just doesn’t get it.
Oh, I’m not bashing the president here; although the trend of opioid use in America is quite alarming, the fact of the matter is that most people don’t get it – that is, why people abuse drugs in the first place.
One truth that has gone unnoticed is that Trump has already enacted many policies in other areas that are more likely to alleviate the abuse of prescribed narcotics than any federal programs. Since he doesn’t get it, however, the new commission, the national emergency and profit (for the individuals and organizations that get enrolled in the effort) are likely to win the day on this issue.
What do I mean by this? Well, all government efforts to stem increasing trends in drug abuse, whether we’re talking the heroin crisis of the late 1960s, the eternal War on Drugs begun in the 1980s, or this new opioid crisis, have been based upon one supremely flawed premise. Consequently, the actions taken – often to the tune of millions of dollars and years of penitentiary time for many unfortunate citizens – are always wholly misdirected.
The flawed premise is that people abuse drugs because they are available. People do not abuse drugs because they are available; people abuse drugs because they are miserable.
There is ample evidence to support the contention that readily available narcotics and other mood-altering substances do not give rise to widespread abuse or addiction. There always has been, but between profit motives and the emergent progressive nanny state of the early 20th century, efforts to ameliorate drug abuse and addiction have resulted in our elected representatives addressing these problems through some of the most ineffectual and pernicious methods imaginable.
For many years, American consumers could purchase opioids at their local pharmacy without a prescription. In some Western nations, one can still do so; the same goes for certain other compounds that also evoke terror in the hearts of drug-propagandized Americans. In none of these instances did availability ever give rise to widespread abuse or addiction.
With prescription opioids, the prevailing theory goes that some people inadvertently become addicted after having them prescribed for pain or injuries. This happened to legendary NFL quarterback Brett Favre in 1996; after ramping up to dangerous levels of prescription opioid use following injuries on the field, he entered a treatment center to combat his addiction.
Others, however, feign pain or injuries of one type or another in order to enjoy the narcotic high of drugs like Vicodin, Oxycontin and other prescribed opioids. They become addicted, and even if they wish to quit, withdrawal symptoms drive them back to their doctor (or in some cases, multiple doctors).
It is probably all but impossible to tell what percentage of the third of adult Americans cited by the president’s commission as having been prescribed opioid painkillers in 2015 were of the Brett Favre variety versus those who sought to get high, but I’d like to cite some other statistics in support of the theory that it is the mental and emotional disposition of the users that drives the current trend, rather than availability of these drugs.
Also as of January 2015, a record 92,898,000 Americans 16 years and older were not participating in the labor force, a number representing around half of the labor force. As of February 2015, 45.7 million people were receiving food stamps, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In 2005, an average of 25 million individuals were receiving food stamps.
One may recall that we saw these dismal indicators creep up over the preceding six years under the economic sabotage of the Obama administration.
One last statistic: As of May 2015, over 71.6 million individuals – around a quarter of the U.S. population – were enrolled in Medicaid. We know that the unemployed and underemployed Americans enrolled in food stamps and Medicaid during the aforementioned six-year period had previously been productive workers and business owners.
All of this adds up to a pretty substantial amount of human misery by any account. If one then considers that any of these individuals could have consulted a physician and received a prescription for an opioid painkiller within the hour and for as little as one dollar under Medicaid, we see how easily the numbers for prescription opioid abuse could explode almost overnight – which they most assuredly have.
It may not be an iron-clad case against the former administration and Medicaid, but the circumstantial evidence is certainly compelling.
Take it from an alcoholic and former drug abuser: People abuse mind-altering substances because they’re profoundly unhappy, not because the drugs themselves are readily available. Like most government-centered and socialistic programs addressing all manner of social malaise, which we’ve seen fail abysmally in recent decades, this war on prescription narcotics is likely to have about the same measure of failure.
Indeed, the best hope in mitigating the abuse of prescription painkillers is the success of President Trump’s economic policies, which would necessarily diminish the economic, mental and emotional misery of many beleaguered Americans.
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