Overstating Opioid Addiction Doesn't Stop It

posted by LaDona Harvey - 

Addiction is terrible. Drug and alcohol addiction must be addressed, and the people affected must get the help they need. This, in NO WAY, should be taken as some kind of sideways support for using drugs. 

I do not use any illicit drugs, and I don't abuse prescription medications. 

I am not proud of it, but I did drugs in the 80's, so I know the allure. I guess I am lucky, since the thought of doing drugs today turns my stomach.

I have also seen, first hand, the ravages of meth, on a close family member. Watching that hideous drug warp and ruin his mind, is an enduring heartbreak for my family. 

Some people fall into drugs, and some become addicted when they have medical needs that must be addressed. 

Some people started using drugs because of untreated mental issues. 

And still others simply, really, really like them. 

I don't, and I certainly don't think drugs are harmless. They can be devastating. 

And some people desperately need them. For actual pain. 

That brings me to this: Acting US Attorney Alana Robinson recently told KOGO, the opioid crisis is, " The worst public health crisis in history." 

That is absolutely untrue. It's a marketing position, not a statement of fact. 

I agree that these are deadly, dangerous drugs. And I don't want to see ANYone addicted to them, or dead because of them. 

Let me explain what I mean by this being a "fiction."

The 1918 flu pandemic infected 500 million people around the world. it killed 50 to 100 million people. 

It is estimated that the black plague in the mid 1300's killed 75 to 200 million people. 

I would call both of those fairly serious health crises. 

And neither statistic in any way takes away from the horrifying numbers of deaths by drugs in the US. The New York Times looked at the numbers and estimated that drug overdose deaths in 2016 most likely exceeded 59,000. That is ALL drugs, legal, illicit, opioid and otherwise.

According to the UN, about 190,000 people around the world die, per year, from drugs. 

These are terrible numbers, and they certainly warrant a very close look at the way the drugs are prescribed and used, and some best practices when it comes to who gets them, and why. 

What is does NOT warrant, however, is another "war on drugs." There are people who live with chronic pain who need them to function, and there are people in acute pain who will need them on a temporary basis. 

We need to be very sure that this little war we are gearing up for does not make it more difficult for those patients to get them. We also need to make sure that doctors are not afraid to prescribe them, when they are truly needed. 

As an aside, lets add the law of unintended consequences to the mix. Heroin use has spiked in the US. You figure a bunch of people just decided one day to start looking for something to do, and decided heroin looked fun? If I had to guess, those heroin addicts started on prescriptions drugs. Drugs they could no longer get. So they turned to the closest thing they could get, heroin. NOW they are using needles, spreading deadly viruses in between themselves, and on to unsuspecting loved-ones. That seems like a win.  

The government has lost every war on drugs it has ever fought. And it will lose this one. 

The only war on drugs that can be won, is fought hand-to-hand, in the heart and soul of the addict. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images

LaDona Harvey

LaDona Harvey

La Dona Harvey is co-host of San Diego's Morning News on News Radio KOGO AM 600. Read more

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