Christopher Caldwell, writing for the Institute on Religion and Public Life:
"The drug sets an addictive trap that is sinister and subtle. It provides a euphoria—a feeling of contentment, simplification, and release—which users swear has no equal. Users quickly develop a tolerance, requiring higher and higher amounts to get the same effect. The dosage required to attain the feeling the user originally experienced rises until it is higher than the dosage that will kill him. ... Approaching the euphoria he longs for requires walking up to the gates of death. If a heroin addict sees on the news that a user or two has died from an overly strong batch of heroin in some housing project somewhere, his first thought is, “Where is that? That’s the stuff I want.”
Tolerance ebbs as fast as it rises. The most dangerous day for a junkie is not the day he gets arrested, although the withdrawal symptoms … are painful and embarrassing. The dangerous day comes when the addict is released, for the dosage he had taken comfortably until his arrest two weeks ago may now be enough to kill him. ...
The calamity of the 1990s opioid revolution is not so much that it turned real pain patients into junkies—although that did happen. The calamity is that a broad regulatory and cultural shift released a massive quantity of addictive drugs into the public at large. Once widely available, the supply “found” people susceptible to addiction."
And: “Most of Purdue’s revenues still come from OxyContin. In 2015, the Sackler family, the company’s sole owners, suddenly appeared at number sixteen on Forbes magazine’s list of America’s richest families.”
Admittedly, this is pretty lazy thinking / a whole lot of mood-affiliation: bad thing Y (public health catastrophe of unseen proportions) is associated with bad thing X (evil capitalists getting even richer), hence it must be true that X -> Y. Sometimes, it’s hard to escape lazy thinking.
Also: “When we say heroin, we increasingly mean fentanyl. … Fentanyl in its usual form is about fifty times as strong as street heroin. But there are many different kinds of fentanyl, so the wallop it packs is not just strong but unpredictable. … China manufactures a good deal of the fentanyl that comes to the U.S. …
The dealers responsible for cutting it by a factor of fifty are unlikely to be trained pharmacists. ... It takes considerable skill to distribute the chemicals evenly throughout a package of drugs. Since a shot of heroin involves only the tiniest little pinch of the substance, you might tap into a part of the baggie that is all cutting agent, no drug—in which case you won’t get high. On the other hand, you could get a fentanyl-intensive pinch—in which case you will be found dead soon thereafter with the needle still sticking out of your arm. This is why fentanyl-linked deaths are, in some states, multiplying year on year. ...
Some neighborhood bodegas—the addicts know which ones—will pay 50 cents on the dollar for anything stolen from CVS. That is why razor blades, printer cartridges, and other expensive portable items are now kept under lock and key where you shop.
The population of addicts is like the population of deer. It is highest in rustic places with access to urban supplies. Missouri’s heroin problem is worst in the rural counties near St. Louis. New Hampshire’s is worst in the small cities and towns an hour or so away from the drug markets of Massachusetts: Lawrence, Lowell, and Boston. ...
A heroin scourge in America’s housing projects coincided with a wave of heroin-addicted soldiers brought back from Vietnam, with a cost peaking between 1973 and 1975 at 1.5 overdose deaths per 100,000. The Nixon White House panicked. ... The crack epidemic of the mid- to late 1980s was worse, with a death rate reaching almost two per 100,000. George H. W. Bush declared war on drugs. The present opioid epidemic is killing 10.3 people per 100,000, and that is without the fentanyl-impacted statistics from 2016. In some states it is far worse: over thirty per 100,000 in New Hampshire and over forty in West Virginia."
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