Dr. Campbell in the MEDesign Lab

Opioid Epidemic?  Blame the Doctors!
James Stewart Campbell, MD.     2017

With the increasing rate of death from opioid drugs now affecting young and middle-aged white men and women, both federal and state governments are becoming alarmed and looking to place blame, but they dare not blame the real cause of the epidemic: our religiously-based policy of drug prohibition - now called the “drug war”.  Such a declaration would undermine the government’s most powerful police tool for “control” of blacks, Hispanics, Orientals, and others. So in government statements about this new “epidemic”, drug prohibition is never mentioned. News stories about the “opioid epidemic” almost never use the terms “drug prohibition” or even “drug war”.  To divert true discussion a scapegoat is needed – the nation’s doctors must be to blame!  Yet drug prohibition is actually the main cause of accidental death from opiate drugs. 

By never mentioning drug prohibition, the government infers that prohibition has always been the law and should just be accepted as a fact of life. But national drug prohibition only began in 1914.  Later the “Drug War” which militarized drug prohibition was declared by President Nixon in 1970 to oppress his political enemies: the antiwar protesters and the black population.   Despite this escalation, drug prohibition is only a government policy, not a fact of human existence.  Just the contrary – opium has been grown and freely traded by civilizations for well over 6000 years without the need for laws of prohibition.

So how does drug prohibition cause an epidemic of white American opioid overdoses in the year 2017?  There are three major reasons:

First is the major rule of prohibition – a prohibited substance will be imported in the strongest, most concentrated form available. To smuggle an opiate with the best profit, pure super-strong heroin makes more sense than bulky but natural opium. The drug dealers do not care that these drugs can be more dangerous, nor do they care about the health of the adults or children they sell them to.  They just want to make money like other capitalists. This “First Law” has culminated in the production and smuggling of the most powerful and concentrated opioid ever synthesized, so now potentially deadly carfentanyl, 5000 times stronger than heroin, is available on streets across the USA, while the safest way to imbibe opiates – inhaling the vapor of pure dried opium poppy sap – is only available to the rich and internationally-connected.

The Second reason is a rule of war in general, including our present drug war – The first casualty of war is the truth. To enforce and justify drug prohibition, all sorts of lies about drugs have been conjured up by the government and blasted into the minds of the general public by frequently repeated “news” propaganda. The Result - one hundred and three years of drug prohibition has produced an entire nation ignorant in the safe use of opioids. To make matters worse, the US government in the 1990s made a big mistake by insisting that Cannabis is dangerous and drives people mad.  Many citizens of the US have tried Cannabis since the 1960’s and knew that propaganda to be false – they didn’t go mad or kill their friends!  From that point on, all antidrug propaganda – even the advice that opiates can kill – has been largely ignored with sometimes lethal consequences.

The Third, but major, reason for the overdoses in the adult white population is the poverty and despair for which government trade policies are to blame.  In the past 30 years, once-good jobs that supported the heartland of America for generations have gone offshore.  Left behind are the middle-aged workers with nothing - no jobs, no training, and dwindling savings. In many small towns of America the best jobs left are in the illicit drug trade, such as getting inexpensive prescription opiates which are then resold to the rest of the populace where they give a temporary solace, or a way to commit suicide without losing one’s life insurance policy.   As medical sources for prescription drugs have been restricted, however, illegally smuggled heroin and now fentanyl analogues have become the substitute, and, because black-market drugs have unknown strength, accidental overdoses have become more common.   

Since these three factors causing the opiate crisis in America cannot be addressed by the federal government without a real discussion of the policy of drug prohibition, who better to blame than doctors?  But a doctor who cuts off a patient’s opioid pain medication throws that patient (or perhaps another person) on to the dangerous black market. To cover any liability, and to avoid censure by state medical boards, many doctors use drug testing, un-announced pill counts and other methods to detect drug diversion, but laboratory tests can be in error, and all methods can be easily defeated by a clever patient. Result: the destruction of any truthful doctor-patient relationship, and the embarrassing dismissal of innocent patients. Various specialists may shirk responsibility by not prescribing controlled substances at all, and a surgeon may treat pain for only a limited time, but a family physician in the U.S. cannot financially survive with the policy of “just say no” – patients will simply go elsewhere, including the black market. 

If America is to really find a solution to this opioid overdose epidemic, blaming the doctors will only make matters worse by increasing the dangerous unregulated heroin, fentanyl, and carfentanyl trade.  The only solution is to allow regulated sales of the safer forms of opiates to adults only (which might include pure opium for smoking or vaporizing).  Any other treatment is only a Band-Aid on a festering sore.  Better stock up on Band-Aids.


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