Aren’t we looking at the wrong epidemic?

I have in recent years written upon the issue of the opioid/heroin epidemic on more than one occasion. Although it remains a topic of discussion in our public forum I must note, admittedly with some degree of cynicism, that the intensity has diminished substantially since the last election season. The problem is still there and the discussion continues. A lot of discussion, though perhaps not heard as much. Now, in a new election season, it is a voice that is drowned in the entire manic Trump obsession which consumes this bi-annual contest.

Those who may have only given a cursory read of thoughts I have shared on this subject will recoil at any suggestions I offer; their judgement tainted by having been reflexed by some “trigger” word.  I readily admit that my thoughts on the subject are regarded as unorthodox, but I have not tempered these in response. Not in any way. In fact my thinking upon the entire question has moved yet further afield from the herd.

Context is important. Proper perspective is vital to proper understanding. So let’s begin this discussion yet again by applying some of this. We are a nation of some 320 million people, give or take. Who the hell really knows for sure? It’s a nice round figure to work with.

There are a variety of sources that one may consult, but as an example I will cite the National Institute on Drug Abuse figure revised in March of this year, from the NIH, at an estimated 2.6 million addicts. This figure is derived from a combined total of those designated as opioid or heroin addicts. The study makes a point to mention that these two categories are not mutually exclusive. Any way you cut this there will be no “exact” figure. The best we can arrive at is a reasonably informed estimate. Using these figures then, we can say that this represents a total of just under 1% of the population.

It is in no way at all my intention to put that number up as a means of diminishing the concern. The degree of concern in this matter is tied more to it’s lethality than to it’s numbers. The number becomes important in establishing perspective. The process of seeking out the numbers provides an astounding perspective all it’s own.

I won’t say never, but I can confidently say that it is highly unlikely that you will ever see anything I publish with a hyperlink inserted to some other source, article or study. Any silly sod can do that; it’s not what I do, I am a writer. Still, I am no different than others in that I utilize those resources which are available to me.  I opened up two separate Google queries, each worded the same:  What is the estimated number of __________ in the US. In one blank I entered alcoholics, in the other opioid/heroin addicts. The results say something, I think, though I am still working out exactly what that is.

Depending upon whose studies are consulted, there appears to be a range of estimation in determining alcoholics from 12.7 up to 26.9% of the population. For purpose of discussion let’s stipulate to a rough median of the two and set this at 20%. One in five. The substance abuse issue that effects 20% of the population yields a query result of  104 million in seven tenths of a second. The substance abuse issue that effects 1% of the population yields a query result of 108 million in six tenths of a second. At first glance these figures would appear to be out of proportion. If I have any mathematics/statistical wonks in this audience please, I welcome your analysis of these numbers and any significance they may hold.  Perhaps its obvious and I’m just missing it. One thing which one may certainly conclude from these numbers is that there is indeed a good bit being discussed and written upon the topic. It’s not all talk. In some quarters there are things actually being done about it, the efficacy of which remains to be proven.

I do not know the methods, models or protocols observed in each of these widely varied studies. I’ve not gone that far into the weeds, and frankly someone else can waste their time doing that. I don’t require an exact figure on any of this to affirm what I can easily observe on my own. A number of these studies must include, at least in some part, a “survey” model. The problem with any survey model, of course, resides with it’s subject matter. As an example: take a survey of 100 adult women and ask them to reveal how often they masturbate. Or a hundred men, either way don’t expect that the results received are 100% honest! For any survey model in these uncomfortable categories there has to be a certain modifier introduced in an attempt to account for dishonesty. Without getting right down to some certified result in any of these studies I think that most reasonable people will agree that it is very probable that the estimations offered for either category are inherently understated.

Though the total numbers may vary, the wide disparity (at least twenty-fold) between the two abuse issues as a percentage of the population may tell us a great deal about why we aren’t doing a better job addressing the problem. As I continue to work through my own ultimate conclusion regarding the disparity of the aforementioned search figures, I am beginning to suspect that this demonstrates the following. We are spending a great deal of time studying, discussing  and expending energies toward the opioid/heroin issue, while conversely we may as well be spending entirely too little time and energy in addressing the issue of alcoholism. I also hold some healthy suspicions as to why this may be true.

Let’s speak of this strictly in the terms of the abuse aspect for a moment. In this respect there is but one principal difference between opioid/heroin abuse and alcohol abuse and it is this: one is an event, the other a process. Each are the instrument of the task which completes the act. The act belongs not to alcohol or heroin: it belongs to the user. This is a logic that is uncomfortable for some to admit. It is the same logic which tells me that guns do not kill people. People kill people. People own the act, the gun is but one of a multitude of instruments. Just as I am no proponent for the banning of guns, I am neither a proponent for the banning of drugs.

Prohibitions do not work. We tried that, it didn’t work out so well, but… Did we learn anything? The prohibition of alcohol did little to stem it’s consumption, just as the prohibition of marijuana has done little to stem it’s consumption either. The continued demand for alcohol under prohibition criminalized the enterprise, thus enriching criminals as is almost ever the case the nanosecond that government gets involved in anything.

Now we are at the silver anniversary of the repeal of prohibition and there is still a criminal enterprise in alcohol under state regime. From brewery/distillery to wholesaler, retailer, tavern owner, carryout owner, all the way down to the individual consumer. Just think of how many times the greedy, mindless bean counters in federal, state and local governments dip their filthy hands into that pool! While the prohibition failed to accomplish what it set out for, if we are to use the measure as applied in considering the opioid epidemic, then what we have done since is a stellar failure.

You see alcohol is different. It’s a state sanctioned slow poison. The lethality of it’s abuse is only realized over a prolonged period, over which taxing authorities may profit rather handsomely. Just as with tobacco products. The same bastards that count the silver lecture us about the evils of these poisons, poisons that are only available through the state sanctioned outlets of their own creation. Poisons that they do nothing to produce, process, package, ship, or distribute and yet they stand there shameless with their hands out for their cut of the action every step of the way. They fund propaganda ads condemning “big tobacco”, parading young, hip looking urban types who counsel their peers “they don’t care about us”. Yeah. Hey Chico? How much ya pay for that pack of smokes? 10$ ? Really….You do know the tobacco company gets less than a dollar of that money?  There’s your truth dot hashtag what-the-fuck-ever.

So here’s your real skinny kids. You’re not gonna like this. I might even make you mad enough that you’ll say “Well! I won’t read any more of his shit!” Nevertheless, at some distant point you will recall this and say “shit! that guy was right!” If 20% of the population are going to get a pass on the abuse of a substance that has proven demonstrably harmful to families, children, our highways and streets, work attendance and performance, and on and on then…. Well, what do you really think they are going to do, beyond lip service, about the opioid epidemic? And are any of you naive enough to still believe that law enforcement is going to solve this? Ha! Sniff some more glue!

You can abuse alcohol every night. You can do it entirely legally, within the comfort of your own home. That is, in fact, the recommended venue. As long as you show up for work the next day, on time and reasonably presentable, and not drunk at the time….Well, then your golden. Never mind that you are a half blind, dehydrated, sleep deprived, irritable fucking asshole from the minute you walk in until the time you leave. You pass the drug test, don’t have to go make an appointment at Lab-Whore to go pee in the cup. We’re cool. We’re the drunk club. Oh yeah, its definitely a thing.

The state is fine with this. They’re making money. Don’t make the mistake of believing anything they say. Pay attention to what they do. You see those 1% junkies? The truth is (and yes its an ugly one) they are as good as dead. They represent a net loss, anyway you cut it. The optics may be bad, but hell, let’s be real. 1% is still, uh… 1%. And, as a no doubt unintended benefit, this justifies more laws, more cops, more prosecutors, MO MO-NAY.

When your objective is to build a state of clients, not citizens, this is all a can’t lose proposition for the state. And provided you know which teat to tug on you too can profit!

 

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