OPINION: Why More People are Dying from Heroin and Fentanyl than Commonly Prescribed Painkillers like Oxycodone
Heroin and Fentanyl deaths are now more common than deaths from prescription drugs like Oxycodone. Here is an educated opinion as to why.
The answer is simple and logical, in my opinion. Let me offer a perspective from someone who knows people who struggle daily with opioids.
The answer is:
- People are becoming addicted to oxycodone and other legal opiates. Most people will do these, but “never heroin.”
- Heroin and Fentanyl, however, are cheaper and easier to get (especially with new opiate regulations). So once a person is addicted, they switch to these. TIP: Being addicted is like a mixed between being drunk (you make dumb decisions because you have a cloudy head) and being a teenager in the grip of hormones (you make dumb decisions because you have a cloudy head). We are quick to judge people, but most of them are kids experimenting with drugs and not realizing just how crazy one of many little pills is going to be. They have no frame of reference for knowing about the way addiction works.
- Then people die because Heroin and Fentanyl are way stronger than oxycodone (and often cut).
- Thus, one would expect Heroin and Fentanyl deaths to eclipse deaths from legal (and far more expensive, especially given demand) painkillers.
TIP: See the full article on the data from VOX: Opioid overdoses are climbing. But prescription painkillers aren’t driving them anymore. Heroin and Fentanyl deaths are now eclipsing deaths from prescription drugs like oxycodone.
Why is This a Problem?
There are a vast number of negative results from the opioid epidemic.
- There are drug dealers out there making un-taxable money killing our next generation.
- There are pimps out there getting our daughters and sons, rich and poor, to break the laws and turn tricks. The parent gives them money for a movie, but heroin might cost double that.
- Some mother is losing their children.
- Some kids are getting STDs by sharing needles or not using a condom.
- Some future Oppenheimer is funneling their energy into hustling instead of science as Plato says in his Republic about the philosopher king begging for alms.
- Some investors are making billions getting people hooked on legal drugs. The GOP wants to give them a tax break.
- Someone is going to die from heroin because they didn’t have access to health insurance. It could be either the middle-class kid whose plan doesn’t cover the essential health benefit or a poor kid who doesn’t have access to Medicaid.
The murderers are the war on drugs, the investors, the lack of regulation, and those who defund the safety net.
I’m not going to say that drug companies, politicians, and parents are murdering their children indirectly for profit, because we are on shaky ground here. We can’t just make vast accusations about those with money and power, but those with a moral compass might want to do a bit of soul-searching with those thoughts in mind.
The War on Drugs is not the Answer
The above might suggest the idea that we need to deal with this via “law and order,” but the opioid epidemic can’t be fixed by punishing users; their brains aren’t working normally; it’s like punishing a mentally handicapped person for their handicap.
Jail doesn’t fix an addict; jail locks an addict up with other addicts as part of a failed war on drugs.
I can’t tell you if oxycodone regulations are working; they may work longterm. However, short term I’m sure what is happening is that those already addicted are having a “supply/demand” problem and turning to heroin and the newly prevalent why-regulate-when-you-can-profit cousin Fentanyl. Fentanyl is the mack truck of opioids and those using it don’t stick the patch on. These addicts are using it in more dangerous ways.
The epidemic is critical right now. There isn’t a simple fix here, but the fix is clear.
To combat the opioid problem, we need several things. 1. more mental health treatment and access, 2. a culture that does not promote drug use. I am referring to culture, not laws. We don’t prepare people for the streets, but they are there everyday and your kids are there. 3. working to combat poverty and insecurity with employment and economic independence as the lack of those drive drug use.
Going to war against Heroin while at the same time taking away access to mental health treatment is just as evil today as it was in the 1980’s.
This week, President Trump signed an executive order that would create a commission to review various strategies to prevent addiction. I think this is a very positive move, but if the answer that comes out is some right-wing war on drugs or war on mental healthcare, it will be beyond a sin.
Politicians should hike their butt over to a depressed city and walk through the streets; things are not good.
The VOX piece was very good, but I truly think it is clear that the writer has never gotten high on opioids on a city street with a bunch of burnt kids. It is light in the office, it gets very dark on the street. The jails are overflowing. We need real solutions. The armchair analysis of what the drug problems could be is good, but people need to get their hands dirty. The solutions are going to be found by talking to those in the trenches. If the solution magically turns into “private prisons” and “deregulation” and “more drugs,” then we know that the so-called “solution” is corporate pandering dressed up as a 21st-century cure. I hope that politicians will try not to insult the public with half-baked solutions this time.
TIP: We know that some old solutions like buprenorphine and methadone, fail repeatedly. These don’t work on many levels, as they keep people hooked on drugs. It is much harder to give up a buprenorphine or methadone habit than a heroin addiction. I promise you that people know this to some degree, but I don’t think they really understand it. I used to think the system was corrupt, but perhaps the motivations at work are self interest, a lack of understanding, amoralism, and a little corporate interest. These are the same factors that give us a pipeline. I think that the people who move the nation are so far removed from the people who fill methadone clinics that no one even really realizes the utter catastrophe. Opioids are necessary evil. They are great on the battlefield and hospital, and I certainly didn’t mind them when I got my teeth pulled. But the body count is staggering. This drug destroyed parts of my generation and turned many good kids into half-bit gangsters. I don’t think I could do anything with my life aside try to help people understand healthcare better. That is how shocking the problem is. The term “crisis” is not misused. Please don’t respond to the crisis by attacking heroin as though it is the main problem. There is one and only one way to stop heroin; if we aren’t going to do that, then we should be addressing the mental health side of this and treating things like buprenorphine, oxycodone, and fentanyl in a more humane and moral manner.