Letter: Fighting opioid addiction raises hard questions

From: Scott Keen


Our failing “war on opioids” is schizophrenic.

Americans have been dying of opioid overdoses for decades. Nobody mostly cared. We threw “lowly addicts” in jail. Then grandma got hooked.

We know Big Pharma (Purdue Pharmaceuticals, J&J, etc.) lied to America and flooded the market with “abuse proof” painkillers. Thousands got prescriptions and became addicted. When “nice” people started overdosing, the government overreacted, shutting down legal opioid distribution, immediately throwing now-addicted patients off their pain relief meds.

Suffering immediate, terrifying withdrawal, those patients turned to the streets, which replied as supply and demand dictates, and illegal opioid use soared.

Big Pharma has settled lawsuits for billions of dollars with states that were impacted by the opioid dump. They admitted they were lying. Yet the fines amount to a slap on the wrist and the companies will keep billions in profits they made by addicting America. Nobody went to jail.

If Big Pharma tricked people into using opioids and turned them into addicts, why are we still blaming the addicts? Why are addicts still thrown into expensive, dangerous jails instead of sent to cost-effective rehabs? States getting these Big Pharma settlements will surely do something progressive to address drugs, like build more jails, or maybe a new football stadium.

Opioid-related bail bonds are extremely unfair. In Bartholomew County, the courts say a person will face a bond of $57,500 for simple possession of opioids or meth, or one syringe. But one can beat their wife, run from the cops, resist arrest, crash a car and have a bond of $15,000. How is that right?

Now deadly fentanyl is showing up in all street opioids (real heroin is gone), and in many other drugs (meth, coke, counterfeit pills), so weekend partiers are dying too. Big surprise that drug suppliers figured out fentanyl is cheap, extremely potent, easy to smuggle and thus more profitable.

Society still impels addicts to consume unknown, presumably deadly drugs with dirty needles. If the “lowly addict” almost dies from an OD, we feel so good about swooping in with Narcan and pulling them back. They will get thrown in jail regardless and their descent into the legal system grinder begins.

America makes it difficult to get medically assisted treatment, using Suboxone, which can be a major factor in kicking opioids. Pointless restrictions make it hard for personal physicians to prescribe it to their addicted patients. Kudos to “Groups Recover Together” for making this game-changing therapy available to the common, non-jailed person.

Many effective harm-reduction strategies exist, such as testing drugs for users before consumption, monitored consumption spaces, and needle exchanges, with increased access to recovery resources, housing and jobs. Proven actions that save lives, but America still accepts addicts dropping in the streets.

Jesus said something like, “What you do to the least of these, you do unto me.” He is likely not amused.