An LU student’s perspective on the opioid crisis.
The opioid crisis has been a huge problem as of recent years. According to the South China Morning Post over 300,000 people have died in the US since 2000 due to prescription opioid overdoses.
These types of opioids are prescribed for seizures, different types of pain and other ailments. Many of these opioids are extremely addictive and are not very difficult to obtain. Marijuana on the other hand is a Schedule I narcotic on the federal level, has zero recorded overdose deaths and helps greatly with many of the same physical and mental ailments. So why has the government spent so much time and energy in keeping marijuana illegal and a social taboo?
The answer to this question is a simple one: the Pharmaceutical Industry, or Big Pharma, lobby controls much of the policy implemented in Washington.
According to the Guardian, Big Pharma lobby groups have spent over $2.5 billion on pressuring Congress in only the last decade. And it’s not slowing down anytime soon.
Big Pharma companies do not want competition in the market, and once a substance that is cheaper, easier to produce, far less addictive and far healthier enters the market, Big Pharma will struggle. This is one big reason why the federal government is very slow to implement any kind of reform in the medical cannabis industry.
This has led to millions addicted to prescription opioids and the black market drug industry expanding even while the government expands its efforts in the war on drugs.
So, part of the problem is that the government is fighting itself. Washington funds and promotes Big Pharma, while U.S. citizens become addicted to prescription opioids. At the same time, Washington has not yet decriminalized Marijuana, which is a much safer and less addictive alternative and has been proven to help opioid addicts quit their addiction.
However, Washington’s support of Big Pharma is only one of the problems with the war on drugs.
Besides Big Pharma, it is important to look at the consequences of the drug war. The prohibition of alcohol in the United States required a constitutional amendment, but the prohibition of many other substances for some reason did not require a constitutional amendment when President Nixon began the war on drugs.
The Cato institute points out that this prohibition may be the primary cause of drug-related crime as opposed to the consumption of drugs. Prohibition leads to a black market with very little regulation and a surplus of violence and health issues.
The drug war policies implemented under Nixon have led to extreme increases in overdoses. Since individuals can no longer afford the safer drug, they turn to the cheaper, more addictive drug.
Before 1971 one in 100,000 deaths in the United States were related to drug overdose–in 2014 it was 14.7 in 100,000 deaths. This increase shows the failure of the war on drugs and how it continues to undermine itself.
Civil liberties are also infringed on because of the war on drugs. The war on drugs has clearly affected minorities than white people in America. According to the Cato institute, minorities are subjected to no-knock raids and drug-related charges more than double to that of white individuals, though they both use drugs at similar rates. Judges also sentence first time offenders that are black much harsher than first time offenders that are white.
The drug war has also led to the militarization of police in the U.S., which has in turn led to the average American trusting the local law enforcement less. After all, law enforcement is supposed to protect and serve.
But while law enforcement is supposed to protect and serve, in many states it creates felons from nonviolent adults. In many states one can obtain a felony charge for possessing a mere three-fourths of an ounce of marijuana. This felony charge often leads to that individual turning to a life of crime after they are no longer able to work in many industries or receive student loans for many universities.
The war on drugs has proven to be useless.
Marijuana is less addictive than prescription opioids, yet it is illegal and scheduled as a class one narcotic on the federal level.
Overdoses have increased dramatically since the implementation of the drug war, yet Washington still persists.
Civil liberties are constantly tread upon because of the war on drugs, but law enforcement and the federal government insist that it is for our safety.
Because of the prohibition of certain substances, a dangerous black market has arisen. With all of this said it makes me wonder why the United States government continues this war on common sense.
Sobczak is an opinion writer.