22 thoughts on “The Opioid Epidemic”

  1. It is bad. Overdoses are now the leading cause of death in US for those under 50.

    Fentanyl is the real killer, as it is thousands of times more potent than heroin. Folks get hooked on pain killers, they run out of doctors who will write scripts, then they run out of friends who will give them unused pain killers from their own medicine cabinets, and eventually they wind up buying from someone somebody knows, who sell fakes from Mexico that are cut with fentanyl and they become a statistic

    1. How many opioid addicts are those who started off getting prescriptions for some sort of injury? I don’t know but I think very few. I think it has more to do with drug culture and people who like to experiment in different ways to get f’d up.

  2. I’m with Rand. I’ve lost a lot of people in the various reference groups of which I’ve been a part over the past 40 or so years. During my libertarian activist years in the 80’s, the losses were mostly of gay friends who died of then-untreatable AIDS, though I also lost a favorite cousin to lupus. In the 90’s and since, the losses have been mostly from heart disease. Since the 70’s I’ve also lost friends to vehicular accidents every few years. During all this time, and even going back as far as my college days, I’ve never known anyone, close or not, who died of a drug overdose.

    The article author and most of her friends seem to be emigrants to the U.S. from the erstwhile Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was – and Russia still remains – a notably gloomy and depressive place. Large numbers of those who remain there seem inclined to drink themselves to death. Perhaps the high overdose death rate this woman is experiencing in her social circle is occurring simply because the U.S. is a society in which there is much more available choice than in Russia – Soviet or present-day – anent nearly everything, including means of self-destruction.

  3. Be very glad you don’t know anybody that’s died from it – yet.

    I don’t myself to date, but I do have a niece and a nephew who are addicts and refuse help, so the clock is ticking.

      1. Well, you “know” me (as much as it can be said to know someone you’ve only met over the internet). Alcoholism runs in my family. Although I had been a drinker before then, it didn’t really hit me until I was 19, when I discovered I had a real aptitude for designing nuclear weapons. I kind of went off the deep end after that, and I stayed pretty much drunk from that time until I was 28. At that point I realized that if I didn’t stop I wouldn’t see my 30th birthday. Haven’t had a drink since June 27th, 1997, but if I have one now… well, one is too many and a thousand isn’t enough.

        I’ve also been a smoker for 30 years, which may have already killed me.

        One thing I know for sure: nobody gets out of life alive.

  4. I don’t know anyone who has died of a drug overdose, and don’t know anyone who knows anyone who has. I have known addicts to the better known pain killers. In fact, I have had relatives who were addicts, and my ex-wife facilitated back when it was easy to buy Vicodin in Tijuana.

    For my own part, I’ve had major surgery recently, and was given a whole bunch of Tramadol and oxycodone. Both are opiates, the latter being much more potent. Neither has any effect that I would seek apart from stopping the rather awful surgical pain, which they do very effectively. They are also quite constipating. Frankly, I don’t see the draw. But I’m glad to have them, and will be equally glad to not need them.

    1. Some people are so worked up by the fear mongering that they don’t take their pain meds because they are afraid of getting addicted, which is stupid. Often, they aren’t just for the pain but reducing inflammation. This is important for a successful recovery.

      I’m in the same boat as you. Oxycodone just makes me sleepy and groggy. But for some people it is a stimulant, especially when paired with alcohol.

      1. That’s the thing that I am afraid about.

        Our new Attorney General here in ‘Sconsin, elected because the powers that be in Madison-Dane County learned how to drive turnout through early voting, is “taking names” and sending out sternly worded letters to physicians and nurse practitioners deemed to be prescribing more pain killers than some deemed normal level. I wondering if it gets to the point that a person is wracked with pain from incurable cancer and has to spend their last moments in excruciating agony.

        1. You’re a lefty. How hypocritical of you not to appreciate the government when it’s there to “help” you.

          Governments tend to be very good at blanket policies and not so good at rational discrimination and nuance. There’s not much doubt that too many opiates were – and are – being prescribed. You’re now getting the typical broad-brush political reaction whose result is likely to be too few being prescribed – and still mostly to the wrong people I suspect.

          Bottom line? Almost nobody has a legitimate long-term need for lots of opiates. People with very bad pain from terminal disease cease needing opiates when they die. People with an acute need for pain relief because of surgery, trauma, etc., cease needing them once they have healed past a certain point.

          But government isn’t an institution that has proven well-designed to deal with people on even such a minimally nuanced basis as I’ve just laid out. It far prefers to treat everyone “equally.” Voltaire’s famous jape about the law in its magnificent impartiality forbidding rich and poor alike from stealing bread, begging in the streets and sleeping under bridges comes to mind.

          1. I’m a lefty?

            I am complaining about the blanket pressure being applied to doctors in my state by a Democrat Attorney General, elected in the sweep that voted out Scott Walker that was driven by Madison Mayor Paul Soglin juicing voter turnout by accosting people on the street into early voting.

            I may not be a Lefty, but I am not a Puritan with respect to “I was able to bear the pain from my kidney stones and so can you.”

      2. I also have a history of kidney stones going back over a quarter century now. I, too, was prescribed opiates to enable sleeping through the passing of said stones. I took them only a few times. Staying better hydrated has vastly reduced my stone problems and eliminated the need for any opiates to deal with the occasional twinges I still get.

        As with MfK, I’ve also had opiates prescribed for post-surgical pain – I had my spleen out a few years ago. I didn’t take them because I didn’t feel I needed to. Maybe I just have a higher than normal pain threshold. Or maybe people are just more generally whiny about any pain whatsoever than was the case in my youth, I don’t know. But it’s well-known that physicians vastly overprescribe antibiotics to avoid patient whinging. I wouldn’t be in the least surprised to find that opiates are vastly overprescribed for the same reason. I suspect the ranks of opiate addicts who got their start via prescriptions are heavily populated by people who whinged their doctors into prescribing their initial doses.

        NSAIDS, in my experience, do a far better job of inflammation reduction than do opiates anyway.

        1. Everyone is different and the same procedure can have different impacts on different people. Some people to have long lasting chronic pain that goes on for years and years or for their entire lives. But as I said above, most addicts probably get addicted through recreational use and not from a medical problem, unless they are part of the group that has long lasting chronic pain.

          The thing about pain is that a person can look fine and this leads people to think they are fine but in reality their inner self is in agony. This affects every aspect of their life from they activities they can engage in to being able to sleep and even their cognition.

          Some opioids have the anti-inflammatory mixed in the same pill. A lot of times, people feel great after a procedure but don’t follow Dr orders when it comes to popping pills and activity levels. Then they get all jacked up and need more medical care.

          1. Yes, there is a certain tiny percentage of the population that actually needs long-term opiate therapy for otherwise intractable pain. There being no real pharmaceutical alternative – yet – they should have it.

            But I have seen nothing that leads me to believe said percentage of the population has exploded enormously in size in recent years. Therefore, pretty much the entirety of the current “opioid epidemic” is due to other causes.

            It is a commonplace that addicts are often “self-medicating.” The overwhelming majority of the “pain” being self-medicated is psychological, but I think the same types of personalities that find themselves incompetent to deal, non-self-destructively, with psychological pain are also those who don’t deal well with physical pain.

            And, yes, I know there are a lot of people with chronic depression and/or anxiety whose personal biochemistries are just “off” and that there is no more sense in asking them to “just walk it off” than there would be giving the same advice to a diabetic. I ought to know. I’m one of them. But there are non-opioid medications these days that are much more effective than opioids or other habit-forming drugs in treating these conditions.

            By rights, there should be a decrease in addictions and overdoses among people with these sorts of issues over the last quarter-century or more, but we see the opposite. The U.S. gene pool having undergone no radical transformations over that interval, I can only attribute this upsurge to a marked rise in the percentage of people who are less competent at dealing with life than was formerly the case and this can only be a learned behavioral syndrome.

            I think it’s traceable to the abandonment of any notion of stoicism as a virtue in the larger society and the concomitant rise in a normative sense of entitlement to “happiness” rather than simply a right to its pursuit. It is an index of the infantilization of society that has been, at every turn, vigorously pushed by the political left.

  5. Opioids can be misused. So what? So can guns. The same illogic used to ban guns is being applied to opioids. If I’m ever suffering from debilitating pain or terminal cancer, I want opioids. The new temperance soap-boxers are free to substitute aspirin for THEIR pain if they wish, but they have no business dictating my needs or acting as intermediaries between my doctor and me. The do-gooders and politicians can take their hysterical media frenzies and pseudoscience and go fuck themselves with it.

    1. Aspirin is not a good replacement in a lot of cases where these drugs are prescribed. You wouldn’t prescribe a blood thinner to someone who just got out of surgery would you?
      However that is not to say that there are not viable OTC NSAIDs like ibuprofen that you could take in most cases where these drugs are prescribed. Personally I think opioids should only be allowed in terminally ill patients and under medical supervision. These synthetic opioids are just too dangerous to be ignored. It is a real issue.

  6. Always, with the drug warriors, the new drug is the worst ever, more powerful, more deadly, and they always prime the pump with harrowing statistics. A decade later we find out that it wasn’t as bad as they were making out at the time and, sometimes, they even admit they were exaggerating a little “for our own good.”

    We just buried a friend’s son on Monday, OD’ed on something, but nobody is saying what yet. Had problems a decade ago, cleaned himself up, got a career, then appears to have relapsed very recently and couldn’t take it. The problem with illegal drugs is that, like bathtub gin, there are no controls on manufacture. Usually when there is an OD, it is because the drug is more pure than normal.

    Anyhow, he is the first one I knew personally. Oh, and my wife’s cousin is unlikely to reach old age – cannot or will not get her act together and nobody can help her. But the crisis, whatever it is, seems to be happening a long ways away from me.

    1. Well, while I am in favor of decriminalizing drug consumption, I have a different opinion with regards to drug trafficking. Especially hard drugs like this. Fentanyl, for example, is a drug which is even more powerful than Heroin. In a lot of cases it is prescribed it should not have been prescribed in the first place. Just two decades ago such prolific prescription of opiods simply did not happen and it is not like public health was significantly worse because of it. In fact the average life expectancy in the USA has gone down, not up, in the period.

      It is simply too easy to abuse it and go over the lethal dose with Fentanyl. Even if you wanted to prescribe opioids there are much less lethal opioids available. In other cases the side effects of opioids mask symptoms which may lead to a worsening of a patient’s actual health instead of the opposite. It is just a palliative which does not even have anti-inflammatory effects.

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