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ATLANTA — Tom Price didn’t mince words.

“We lose a Vietnam War every single year to drug overdoses,” Price said. “… It must be stopped.”


That warning, from the secretary of Health and Human Services, reached a receptive audience here last week at a national conference on drug abuse. As Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts put it: “The terrorist threat families in America see is not in the streets of Aleppo. It’s fentanyl coming down your street.”

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  • 20 years later and not much has changed, it has only gotten worse. There has been no attempt at all to break these numbers down, into prescribed medications and illegal drugs. Pain patients are deliberatey conflated with drug addicts, in order to stigmatize and isolate them. A the same time there are areas where there is no treatment for the addicted.
    The so called opiate epidemic, has been a profitable marketing campaign. As long as they keep misleading the public, lying about the numbers and allowing anyone with a gimmick to sell a “solution” we will only see this get worse. It was easier to target pain patients who already had their lives ruined by stigam and deliberate misinformation, than to look at why so many people are choosing to use drugs in America’s Epidemic of Despair!
    In our Market Based Healthcare System, opiate were profitable, and large amounts were diverted from the supply chain. We expected the FDA, CDC and otehr agencies to use scince and facts to deal with this problem, instead they caved to industry interests.

  • This blanket reconstruction of the dosage of pain meds to whom and for what is causing those who legitimately need meds and follow the rules to use them to go without. For some of us, we don’t and would not ever get high or buy on the street, but what our pain management and ER or surgical drs give us, is keeping us alive. You cannot fix this problem by denying everyone everything. Its far more complicated than that. I know of 7 women from my AS support group that have committed suicide after ALL meds were taken away under new rules. Women who had jobs, children, families that loved them but without that tiny bit of help, finally broke. Women who never got high, just got through. Women who have a disease twisting up their bodies who will die, but are no longer allowed to have any sort of relief. When I had my appendix explode a couple years ago, I was offered 25 mg of fentynl for the pain. Nothing after while in the hospital for four days bc I’m allergic to NSAIDS and acetaminophen. Can you imagine my pain? I just laid there and cried. As I do most every day now.

  • This epidemic could be stopped pretty quickly by decriminalizing or legalizing recreational drugs. If addicts could go to a dispensing site for a dose of KNOWN strength then overdose deaths would stop almost immediately. The only requirement would be exposure to the availability of treatment and acceptance of education material together with resources. A drive to educate, especially the young, should accompany any decriminalization or legalization. Children would, of course, not be qualified to get a dose without parental consent or a physician’s ok.
    Read “High Price”, “Chasing the Scream” and “Unbroken Brain” before you condemn this proposal. Our punitive approach to drug addiction does not work and has never worked, it only harms. And we already know that prohibition doesn’t work. Investigate Portugal’s success with decriminalization. By nearly every measure it has been a success for going on 16 years.

    • I totally agree. The illegal keeps the black market healthy and the flow of uncontrolled drugs coming in. So rediculous that the majority can’t see the logic in this. Drug cartels and those connected with them are terrorists and we just hand them billions of dollars and allow them to poison our addicts. Our addicts who by the way are not all criminals! All the crime done by addicts is done to aquire the drug–right? So since we will always have addicts with us isnt legalizing them the solution? So simple isn’t it? Anybody who does not see the logic in this most certainly is a narrow minded idiot!

  • now the government is making it impossible for people with chronic pain suffer.they had to see lines at pain clinic around the block and pharmacists making 500,000 a month just like their lsd experiment and cia bringing in cocaine to fund their war in colombia they’re out to kill us and jail us

  • What is the effect on opioid use, of legal pot? Just looking at the map, the states with medical, or recreational pot use, have done better, than those, without. Could it be that by forcing people who want to get high, to deal with people, who can make big money by selling them an addictive drug instead of pot. California pot shops are doing big business, without flipping customers, to heroin. Could it be, our laws, are part of the problem? Denmark found out the answer is, yes.

  • This 4-stage map is basically a case of a “naked statistic” – a small collection of numbers chosen to encourage fear, as is obvious with the comparison to Vietnam War deaths. This is similar to the emotional effect of the comparison press and government have been making between opiate deaths and the 32,33,000 annual average of automobile crash deaths.

    Why compare to war deaths or car crash deaths and not tobacco deaths? That annual average is 480,000, many years after quitting or secondhand exposure. Additionally, tobacco causes characteristic patterns of damage to every organ system in the body – there is no similar pattern for opioids, the slowing of bowel and lung function reverses when the drug is stopped.

    But the biggest problem with the promotion of these numbers is that “opiate deaths” is a bureaucratic category, not a scientifically-demonstrated fact. Because of tolerance, there’s no standard deadly dose (as with arsenic), so just the amount in a tissue sample doesn’t prove that the opiate/opioid caused the death. But finding out that someone had a prescription, or finding pills or a needle in their possessions is a lot easier than investigating whether the person actually died of something else. Most coroners’ and medical examiners’ offices have a budget of under $3.00 per death. A third of coroners’ offices have no in-house toxicology lab, and sending out samples is expensive. (

    The “opiate death” category is a mashup: people who had an Rx at the time of death, people who used diverted Rx, counterfeit Rx, heroin and multiple drugs if one is an opiate/opioid. (

    In Dec 2016, the CDC using 59 deaths in MN 2006-15 where the deceased had pneumonia and an opiate prescription, said that such deaths should be counted as “opiate deaths” not pneumonia as they had been.

    If this were an epidemic, why scrape around for tiny numbers from years past to pad the death toll?

    Even if we take the reported number of opiate deaths for the year they were reported to surpass car crash deaths, 2008, 36,450, is 1.46% of all deaths that year in the U.S.

    The closing paragraph, in which Dr. Patrice Harris of the AMA’s opioid abuse task force, says, ” “Until treatment for substance-abuse disorders is fully funded, I worry we won’t be able to reduce the number of overdose deaths.” If the issue were really reducing the numbers of deaths from opiates/opioids, we would do what Portugal has done, and legalize all drugs. Within one year, Portugal reduced drug deaths by half.

    But in this country, the issue isn’t about reducing deaths, it’s about using those deaths to do what 100+ years of prohibition, 47 years of the war-on-drugs, the 2009 Mental Health Parity Act requiring insurers to cover drug rehab at the same rate as medical care, has failed to do.

    Considering the fact that more than 90% of all rehab in this country, even the most expensive celebrity-filled facilities, are based on the 12 steps and send “graduates” to 12 step meetings when they leave, and that 12 step programs have a dismal success rate of 5-8%, giving “addiction treatment” more funding is unlikely to have any effect on rates of use of the drugs the federal government has been warring against for a century.


    • Exactly my thought! The most serious drug epidemic by far is tobacco–as Trish notes, 480,000 deaths per year, about ten times the total for all opiod deaths, but no one is calling that a national emergency. I guess that’s because the tobacco deaths occur less dramatically and from problems that aren’t obviously drug-related, especially cancer and heart disease.

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