Here’s an excellent article by The Washington Post. It reports that while declaring the opioid crisis a national public health emergency, President Donald Trump said: “Nobody has seen anything like what’s going on now.” The article takes a longitudinal perspective, using historic evidence, to challenge Trump’s assertion.
The article is important because it highlights many major drug epidemics in the US, going back to the Civil War. There are a number of recurrent themes, including aggressive marketing from pharmaceutical companies, and the growing importance of illegal drugs. Another recurrent theme is widespread use of drugs in the US miliary, especially in wars.
Unfortunately, the article does not provide a checklist of winning intervention strategies. While there are some clues, it misses the point that perhaps the context has changed. For example, there’s now a global supply-chain of illicit drugs to US addicts and the CIA with its interventions in Afghanistan is an integral player. Also social attitudes are different – the public quickly turned against ‘crack cocaine‘ users but there’s a widespread sympathy for opioid addicts. Recent research by Pew highlights that nearly fifty percent of US families can cite a member with opioid addiction, so perhaps the current crisis is larger as Trump highlighted.
There are many threads to the current US opioid epidemic. Older addicts have typically turned to prescriptions and overzealous doctors and drug companies have rushed to meet their needs. But the more alarming threat is to younger addicts who are turning to imported, illegal drugs.
Perhaps, there’s room to focus on sociological trends in US society that leave the underprivileged, from lower social groupings, light on education and skills, weak on motivation, and deprived of opportunity – all highly vulnerable to drug addiction?