Too bad he was a heroin peddler, kind of hard to advocate any type of leniency. If he was a weed dealer, he could have been offering a package deal. Two boxes of thin mints and a half ounce of kush, please.
Sadly, just another bum sub-contracting for the cartel. Only the government gets to peddle poison, er medicine, legally. The problem is another fellow will step right up in his place and around and round we go. When will we learn from our lesson here? Sure this guy probably doesn’t deserve his freedom for a while, assuming he’s at least something of a major player in that region. More than likely he’s another ex-con schmuck who can’t get decent work and is lured in by the prospect of an easy living. Taking these guys off the streets does little to stem the flow of drugs. It’s more about the aesthetics it creates. Kind of like building a border wall to keep out drugs that primarily come through ports of entry. We need to devalue the product they are selling. The massive over-prescribing that went on from the late 90s until about 2015 when enough people had died that finally America looked in the mirror and realized the true scope of how deep and prevalent this issue is.
Let’s be real. Nearly two decades of that type of flagrant irresponsibility coupled with insatiable greed by profiting manufacturers led us down this dark path. The data was there pretty quickly after pain became a vital sign and the new wonder drug OxyContin was conceived by the Sackler family and their company Purdue Pharma, but no one felt the need to read into it and identify a potential crisis before it really took hold. I mean, what’s a few lives when there are billions to be made? Nah, that’s cool. They instead pushed harder, offering perks to physicians who will prescribe OC to anyone with a hint of pain, and many times even those with no medical need…it was cheap and easy high that people could legitimize with one simple, concise response. “Oh it’s from a doctor, so I’m not abusing drugs, nor am I an addict. This is my MEDICINE.”
So while the data poured in, the money to grease the legislative wheels was not far behind. Flash forward to 2016, finally the pendulum swings. But not in a commonsense way like distinguishing those truly using the medicine from those who were just gaming the system to feed their addiction or contribute to their income (black market prices made selling your medicine a lucrative practice, and everyone from grandmas to teenagers were complicit in feeding this machine). No, instead they just decided instead to cut supply of many narcotic pain medicine and force patients to sign waivers of compliance, much like a probation contract, leaving many of us to feel stigmatized. They also took prescribing privileges away from most doctors that don’t specialize in pain medicine…creating a whole new headache for those who have only had to deal with their primary care doctor.
These pain clinics that are now the only way to receive a medicine of that sort for chronic pain sufferers like myself, save a 7-day supply one time from your primary care provider. The issue is the lack of specialists for that discipline of medicine; for example, Jasper, Benton, Newton county combined have two doctors who both have offices in other cities and only spend one day a week treating patients in our area. This obviously has created a logjam in patient care, and even more so because one doctor accepts a few insurances and the other, which I recently inquired about…offered me an afternoon appointment…34 days away.
This is obviously absurd for someone diagnosed and legitimized as a patient truly in need of care. Should you be placed on any restricted medications, you must return every month for any refills to be re-evaluated, regardless if your condition has changed. No big deal to some, but schlepping my wheelchair into the backseat in 10 degree weather with sideways snow can prove tricky, inconvenient, and ultimately unnecessary. This is doing little to stem drug abuse, and in actuality likely created an even worse problem. Those people who have been shut out of access suddenly were left searching for answers after being stalled out by doctors who are so scared of reprisal from the DEA that they are letting it govern their decision-making process. Enter heroin stage right, and the surging avalanche of usage that has paired up rather coincidentally with the reduction of pain medicine. People will go to great lengths when they are in desperation mode, resulting in everything from experimenting with illicit drugs to just killing themselves as a permanent solution to their pain.
If you think this is an exaggeration, you haven’t been paying attention. Overdoses are still surging even with all the restrictions on prescription opiates, because the cartel set up a vast network during these over prescribed years and were ready and waiting to supply the masses with a potent and dangerous replacement. And with the arbitrary reduction in supply of medicine, we also have doctors forced to cut prescriptions down, regardless if it’s medically relevant because of DEA guidelines. Again not medically relevant, just an average they are maintaining to show the public that they are rectifying the issues So the answer to this point is to punish pain patients and cracking down on the lower rungs of the supply chain waiting for the medium-sized or once in a blue moon big Chapo fish to assuage the public’s fears.
It turns out that busting the low level dealer using their profits to manage their own addictions has done little other than clog our justice system with people in need of actual help. Setting up facilities with a couple hundred beds for men and women separately is a start. Mandatory counseling for preventative purposes to help our youth grasp the genuine danger of these drugs should be the norm. This affects so many families these days and I can only imagine how many children could benefit from being able to discuss their unique situation would be another great resource. Maintenance therapy drugs like Suboxone and Methadone, while effective for some, have become another legal means of maintaining a high. Which honestly I would have less of an issue with if these meds weren’t being manufactured by the same companies who profited so handsomely from the original catalyst, OxyContin. There is an inherent shadiness there in profiting from the solution to the very problem they created. Again, I am an advocate for these medicines if they are deemed to be a viable solution for an individual, and are properly distributed.
Ultimately, it will take a multi-pronged approach with a long-term vision to temper this epidemic. It will take concerted effort from those with the means to create a solution that will be effective. But until we afford legitimate treatment to those in non-urban areas, we will continue to see the problem fester. I’m not talking about for-profit rehabilitation, which while sometimes an effective course of treatment, is often marred by fraud and corruption because those insurance policies pay out a pretty healthy stipend for those running the rehabs to house and treat patients. Who could have guessed those well-intended facilities would be corrupted by money and profits?
We need facilities that are non-profit and completely transparent in their mission and to educate first ourselves then our younger generations on the perils of this issue. We need to stop pouring money into more and more law enforcement to combat drug use. It has never worked and it never will work as long as it’s such a lucrative commodity. If you think there is no connection between for-profit prisons and an increase in funding for law enforcement, then please go back to your milk and cookies because the adults are talking. There are answers beyond solutions that bloat profit margins. We just have to allow for change to happen and quit practicing the same antiquated methods of combating this issue. Thank you to anyone who actually made it all the way through this. As a disabled man in his 30s with a severed spine and several metallic stabilizers in my back, I am all too familiar with how chronic pain patients are slowly being treated and sometimes punished, I also have been in the throes of addiction and dependence, and know all too well the heavy burden it places on not only the individual but also those in their support system.
It’s a dark and lonely place, and addictions manifests itself in many forms, from drugs to gambling to sex…and often people are too proud to admit fault or ask for help due to the stigmatization of being an “addict”. Again, thank you for considering my take on this issue, and please take some time to educate on how to contribute to the solution rather than contributing to the mindset of useless criticism and judgment.