In part 1, I discussed the libertarian philosophy, which I as a christian strongly believe in. Based on biblical teaching. I also touched on history and the current (pre-, during-, and post-COVID-19 panic) situation.
Now let us look at the current highest-priority of the War on Some Drugs. Opioids.
Opioids are narcotics used for pain relief and for their euphoric effects. Legally, these are prescribed mainly for their value in relieving pain. They also have euphoric effects because of how they block pain in the body.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are three types of opioids: prescription, fentanyl, and heroin:
- Prescription opioids can be prescribed by doctors to treat moderate to severe pain, but can also have serious risks and side effects. Common types are oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine, and methadone.
- Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever. It is many times more powerful than other opioids and is approved for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain. Illegally made and distributed fentanyl has been on the rise in several states.
- Heroin is an illegal opioid. Heroin use has increased across the U.S. among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels.
This is both an over-simplification and just flat-out wrong in many ways. Fentanyl IS a prescription drug. Heroin (as a brand name) IS illegal, but under its “generic form” (diamorphine), it is prescribed in the United Kingdom and is “legal.” (And heroin is processed from morphine, which comes from the opium poppy. Morphine IS legal in the Fifty States. ) Notice that opium itself is not discussed, is natural, and is illegal.) According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), there is an opioid epidemic in the United States. In 2018:
- 130 people died every day from opiod-related drug overdoses
- 47,600 people died from overdosing on opioids
- 81,000 people used heroin for the first time
- 2 million people misused prescription opioids for the first time
- 32,656 deaths attributed to overdosing on synthetic opioids other than methadone
- 10.3 million people misused prescription opioids
- 2 million people had an opioid use disorder
- 808,000 people used heroin
- 15,349 deaths attributed to overdosing on heroin
And how did this epidemic come about? According to HHS:
In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to opioid pain relievers and healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates.
Increased prescription of opioid medications led to widespread misuse of both prescription and non-prescription opioids before it became clear that these medications could indeed be highly addictive.
In 2017, HHS declared a public health emergency and announced a 5-point strategy to combat the opioid crisis:
- Improve access to prevention, treatment, and recovery support services
- Target the availability and distribution of overdose-reversing drugs
- Strengthen public health data reporting and collection
- Support cutting-edge research on addiction and pain
- Advance the practice of pain management
This all sounds so very good. But…
Government attempts to combat the opioid epidemic are doomed to fail. Nowhere does the government (on the CDC or HHS websites or elsewhere) say that opioid users are responsible for their actions. Instead? If only the government, society, the medical community, and mental health professionals did more of this or that, tried this or that, or had more money to do either, then we would not have such an opioid epidemic in the United States.
Purdue Pharma, the maker of the popular opioid OxyContin, filed for bankruptcy protection in late 2019 after the filing of more than 2,600 lawsuits alleging the company helped fuel the opioid epidemic. The states are drooling over the prospects of getting billions of dollars from the company.
And it’s not just Purdue Pharma that is under attack. Much of “big pharma” and the physicians who prescribe its drugs are increasingly being made out to be monsters. Like the tobacco industry, they are seen as both evil villains and cash cows for government and the medical industry itself.
Now, I am no fan of the pharmaceutical industry, and I stay away from doctors (and medication) as much as possible. But whatever their share of the blame for the opioid epidemic, there is someone that I never hear blamed for being addicted to or overdosing on opioids: the opioid user.
Drug users are ultimately responsible for the negative consequences of their actions.
Opioids have a real, valuable, and legitimate use beyond “recreational” use. The original natural opioid, opium itself, has been known and used for five thousand years. And mankind has improved it (or so we think) by purifying it and strengthening it. Because it has a valid use. In christian terms, God gave it to us, and NO gift of His is inherently bad.
Yet more people in the Fifty States will die from opioid abuse in 2020 than the current worst predictions for COVID-19 deaths. Because whatever the negative consequences of using drugs, there is one person who is ultimately responsible for whatever happens to him: the drug user.
In a free society, individuals, not government bureaucrats, decide what risks they are willing to take and what behaviors are in their own best interests. A free society has to include the right of people to take risks, practice bad habits, partake of addictive conduct, engage in self-destructive behavior, live an unhealthy lifestyle, participate in immoral activities, and undertake dangerous actions—including the use and abuse of drugs. And there will be people who make stupid mistakes. Always.
But then they are responsible for their choices and actions. State and local governments shouldn’t be spending one penny on any drug user’s drug-related medical treatment. If you overdose on OxyContin, fentanyl, heroin, or any other drug, then you pay the hospital bill—if you make it to the hospital. If you need a clean needle, then you pay the bill. If you need help getting off drugs, then you pay the bill. With freedom comes responsibility. You are ultimately responsible.
We will look at this more in Part 3. Your comments are appreciated.