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Thursday, July 09, 2015
Heroin overdoses up—leading to press sensationalism and government repression
As I read in the news recently, heroin use is up. Heroin can
be a deadly drug (it is easy to overdose on it), and that means overdose deaths
have also increased. This makes news, both local, state and national. It can
also lead to mainstream news media hype.
From decade to decade there is always some kind of drugs
that users flock to. In the 1980s it was crack cocaine. Later it
Now it is heroin. The problem is that such news usually causes unnecessary hype
in the news media followed by over reactions by our elected officials.
Mandatory minimum sentencing and restrictions on
over-the-counter cold medicines are examples of actions or overreactions by
legislators trying to deal with these drug epidemics.
The latest hype-fad is to link new heroin use with legal
pain medicines manufactured for chronic pain.
"Such medicines, which
include Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet, increase individuals’ susceptibility
to heroin addiction, Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, told Reuters.
“Everything we see points to
more accessible, less-expensive heroin all over the country,” Frieden said of
the joint report by the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration which
analyzed national survey data on drug use from 2002 to 2013.
The report found that nearly all
people (96 percent) who use heroin also use multiple other substances, and that
the strongest risk factor for heroin abuse is prescription opiate abuse."
The article then claims that people who use or abuse
prescription painkillers are 40 times more likely to use heroin. But what
statistics or facts do they present to back up that claim? The article presents
statistics taken to show that the use of heroin is in fact increasing.
Hospitals have recorded increases in heroin overdoses. But much of what it says
about prescription drugs, such as OxyContin, seem more opinion than fact. And I
would definitely challenge such opinions.
This doesn't sound much different from the old arguments
that marijuana leads to heroin. That argument still gets made and it is totally
illogical. It is true that many hard drug users start with marijuana. But many
people today smoke marijuana and never use anything harder. Also people who
sell hard drugs are also likely to sell marijuana.
But this 'one-leads-to-the-other' chain of events is simply
First of all, prescription narcotics have an intended use.
They are for serious pain. And there are people who really need those drugs to
deal with that pain. Preventing patients from getting those drugs amounts to
torture. Then there are people who use and abuse such drugs when they can get
them on the black market or from friends. Most of these people do not jump from
prescription narcotics to heroin. Many of the people, who use prescription
narcotics, don't know where to get heroin. Also their is still a great stigma
(the perception that this drug is the most dangerous and most addictive) to
heroin use that does not surround the use of prescription narcotics.
I used to take part in the drug culture so I am familiar
with the patterns of such drug users.
Some people do use both prescription narcotics and heroin. Many people on
heroin will use prescription narcotics if they are available and heroin is not.
But the stigma of heroin keeps a lot of prescription narcotic users from
seeking it when their narcotics of choice are not available.
All this hype is probably going to lead to more restrictions
on prescription drugs that are already classified as CII (schedule II), the
most restricted classification of pharmaceutical drugs. Heroin is CI meaning
that it is can not be prescribed because it is considered to dangerous for
I have known people who have had cancer and they had trouble
finding doctors who were willing to prescribe drugs to deal with their pain.
Already some doctors are afraid of coming under the suspicion of the DEA so
they don't like to prescribe any pain killers. That is a problem that many patients,
who need these medicines, have. One proposal to stop people from getting
narcotics would be to keep them from "doctor shopping" for those who
will give them the pain killers they seek. Again the problem is that some
patients with pain really need those drugs and their doctor may not want to
prescribe them. I knew a cancer patient that had this problem. If he could not
have gone to a different doctor, how was he supped to get the pain medicine he
According to Reuters:
"He (Frieden) said doctors
are prescribing “way too much of these medications, and the result of it is
large numbers of people who are addicted.”
And what exactly does this mean. Are doctors writing
prescriptions without any proof of pain? Are they giving out OxyContin for mild
head aches? Or is this statement jus his opinion?
The usual pattern on these drug epidemics is the press
begins pouring out a lot of hype about
the drug and it dangers. As with heroin the dangers are real. While other prescription
drugs may also have their dangers and can also be addictive, the press is
likely to exaggerate those dangers. This will whip the public into panic mode.
Then lawmakers will come up with draconian measures that will infringe on people's
constitutional rights, putting more people in jail and putting a lot of
needless red tape against those who actually need these drugs. Drug abuse in America
usually leads to sensationalism by the press and repression by the government.
We need to oppose both.
See Steve Otto, War on Drugs or War on People?, (Ide House, Las Colinas, Texas)
substances, and certain chemicals used to make drugs are classified into five
distinct categories or schedules. schedule V is the least restrictive and schedule
II is the most. Schedule I is banned from pharmaceutical use.