When you think about the New York Times, you usually think about some kind of quality reporting. Maybe even some fact-checking. I think of the NYT’s coverage of the drug war to be more of a mouthpiece for corporate and political America than real investigative reporting. But it’s always nice to know what the rich and influential are thinking:
While heroin use has climbed among all demographic groups, it has skyrocketed among whites; nearly 90 percent of those who tried heroin for the first time in the last decade were white…
The Times states this as if it were fact, when it’s only based on “self-administered surveys to gather retrospective data on past drug use patterns among patients entering substance abuse treatment programs.” I can’t imagine that too many people are honest about their past drug use, let alone those who suffer from addiction. And I imagine that the racial make-up of addiction treatment programs is unlike the racial make-up of America’s prison system. Like a lot of (psychiatric) research studies, this one doesn’t prove anything.
I don’t know what percentage of first-time heroin users have been white in the last decade, but heroin has always been a drug used more by white people than blacks (even if the media in the past portrayed it differently). It’s usually not good to generalize, but people use certain drugs because they have access to them — a $400/day heroin habit is not something most black people would have access to. (Another reason why pain patients, usually poor and disabled, aren’t really a part of this heroin “epidemic.” Even though the DEA says heroin is cheaper than pills, if you need to spend $400/day for the drug to be effective, that’s a choice most pain patients don’t have.)
And the growing army of families of those lost to heroin — many of them in the suburbs and small towns — are now using their influence, anger and grief to cushion the country’s approach to drugs, from altering the language around addiction to prodding government to treat it not as a crime, but as a disease.
“Because the demographic of people affected are more white, more middle class, these are parents who are empowered,” said Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, better known as the nation’s drug czar. “They know how to call a legislator, they know how to get angry with their insurance company, they know how to advocate. They have been so instrumental in changing the conversation.”
Mr. Botticelli, a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for 26 years, speaks to some of these parents regularly.
Their efforts also include lobbying statehouses, holding rallies and starting nonprofit organizations, making these mothers and fathers part of a growing backlash against the harsh tactics of traditional drug enforcement…
These mothers and fathers are also part of the backlash against opioids. So, even though they’ve changed their thinking on how to treat addiction (no jail time for their families), that doesn’t mean they want to end the drug war. Far from it.
Heroin’s spread into the suburbs and small towns grew out of an earlier wave of addiction to prescription painkillers; together the two trends are ravaging the country…
I’d say the suicide epidemic is the trend ravaging our country, but then maybe my opinion differs from those over at the Times. But I get very tired of the media saying that prescription painkillers started this whole heroin epidemic, because that’s not true. Maybe in the media’s little white bubble, painkillers are to blame because that’s all they see — because white people are the ones with the most access to painkillers (and heroin).
This is what pain patients are up against — grieving, middle-class white people, with the time and money to make our lives miserable. Grieving parents writing anti-drug curriculum for schools, opening addiction “clinics,” and yelling in the ears of politicians and those with influence (like Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy). Do you think Mr. Botticelli would make time to talk to pain patients (who are disabled and poor)? Do you think an ex-alcoholic could even understand our position?
While it’s great that more (white) people are finally recognizing addiction as a disease, the problem remains: What’s the best way to treat it? Obviously, what we’re doing isn’t working, and these parents know it because their family members usually spent time in rehab. So, we’re gonna send millions of new patients into treatment and treat them with… what? Bupe and Suboxone? Antidepressants? AA? Talk therapy? An addiction clinic on every corner?
It’s like creating a war against opioids, but not being prepared for the consequences. The plan to substitute alternative therapies for opioids isn’t working — as if there was even a small chance that it would. Now everyone wants to treat addiction with treatments that only work for a small number of people.
We know the results of the failed (white people’s) drug war. What will be the consequences of the white people’s war against addiction and opioids?