Jason — very nice job identifying two of the culprits in a sad chapter in history. I am painfully aware of the big pharma / heroin connection. One of my sons went from ‘jammin’ oxys’ in high school to dying from an accidental overdose before his 30th birthday.
The injustice of Purdue’s management walking with a minor salary reduction and Chapo Guzman slipping the leash is appalling. The only people paying a price are the users and the addicts that form the last rung of the supply chain.
I do want to point the finger at two other culprits — Mother’s Against Drunk Drivers and the warriors in the war on drugs.
MADD is a good cause. Drunk driving deserves every opponent that it has. What MADD (and similar initiatives) has done though is choke off the supply of alcohol to young adults without doing anything to reduce the demand. The result is that high school students source their intoxicants in the illegal economy rather than the legal economy. There are two significant drawbacks to this — 1) it is easier to diagnosis alcohol intoxication than a lot of drug intoxication. After all, everyone knows what drunk looks and smells like; and 2) the moral threshold of the average drug peddler is much lower than that of the average liquor store owner. My son was once threatened with death by the step father of a friend who was supplying all of them with drugs. Lastly, for a number of reasons, if you are going to get intoxicated… you are better off having a couple of drinks instead of a bunch of poorly labelled pain pills or heroin.
The warriors in the war on drugs have exacerbated the problem unintentionally as well. By creating huge risks in the drug trade, they have created wild profits. People like Chapo Guzman manage the risks by putting them in the hands of low level functionaries while retaining the lion’s share of the profits. Since the demand is unmitigated, those that step up to meet the demand reap large profits.
I was doing a job in Central America. The country had relatively lax pharmaceutical laws so that if you asked for it, you could get it. You did not need a prescription — pain pills included. There was a little bit of abuse but the reality was people preferred alcohol. Meanwhile, those that choose pills are getting them in controlled quality, quantities and doses. Even with the laxity, the whole society was not doing pain pills all day long.
I do not have a simple answer. I think that the solution is multifaceted -
- Reduce demand and the supply will dry up;
- Avoid unnecessary restrictions so that you keep people out of the illegal economy;
- Avoid unnecessary restrictions so that people are not hamstrung for life with criminal records;
- Provide many intoxicants in a controlled environment (like alcohol) to avoid variations in quality and purity that cause so many of the accidental deaths and injuries;
- Provide many intoxicants in a controlled environment so that you can take the wild profits out of the business; and
- Hold people accountable and subject them to reasonable punishments / consequences if they misuse / abuse intoxicants.
Substance abuse is a scourge. The key to victory is managing demand not containing supply.