Opioid Crisis Is Not About Drugs!

The rising number of opioid overdose deaths is prompting a response – increased staff, naloxone kits, treatment beds and safe injection sites are among the attempts designed to deal with the issue.

Unfortunately, all the ‘resources’ in the world will not ‘fix’ the problem from that kind of approach. Even the total eradication of opioids (and fentanyl and, and and…) can’t solve this crisis. There will always be another substance, and people seeking an effect or feeling prove that nothing is impossible. Sniffing nail polish, huffing gasoline, drinking mouthwash, etc.

That bears repeating:

There will always be another substance.”

The real crisis is not any drug – it is the fact that society breeds people who turn to, and find relief in, substances used for ‘self-medicating’ or achieving a feeling or lack of feeling.

The Toronto Star reports that Premiere Kathleen Wynne agrees “what’s happening in Ontario is a public health crisis.

Yet healthcare workers, politicians, and the general public seem to think addressing this by preventing overdoses is a strategy. It is not – it’s putting out fires in front of you while simultaneously lighting matches and sparking fuel surrounding you.

Now, don’t blame Kathleen Wynne! Or any politician. Even addiction treatment theory* isn’t responsible for causing this situation. A dysfunctional society caused it, and you and I are enabling it.

*Harm Reductionists are trying to mitigate the effects of addiction, not eliminate it. This theory is spreading and constantly gaining popularity – partially because other methods of addiction treatment aren’t ‘easy’, and have limited success.

Total abstinence is a hard-sell. I once told a physician and a psychiatrist that I didn’t care what the impact was – nothing would make me quit smoking marijuana because “No, like, no, just fuck you. I like it! I don’t want to stop.” Fortunately I did eventually realize the harm was far greater than the benefits in my case, and I spent a couple years building on other ways to cope with life, PTSD, etc. Using complete abstinence, I quit turning to pot and gambling, and Ativan. I never preferred drinking, so I just quit that too while I was at it. I’m still addicted to nicotine and sugar, but (harm reduction model, ironically…) at the moment I’m working on some internal psych-social stuff. In other words, I’m working on the roots; the Whys of addiction.

The crisis solution needs to go there and get to the root of the matter.

The only approach that I’m aware of, which starts to address addiction at the source, is found in the work of Gabor Maté.

Sadly, addiction is just one manifestation among the epidemics that plague Western society – obesity, mental illness, suicide, etc. etc.

Nothing is going to change until society changes. Damn, that’s a rather daunting task now, isn’t it? No wonder we want to slap bandaids over addiction; in some ways it feels like the only real possibility.

At some point though, we’ll have to stop ‘polishing the brass as the Titanic sinks.’ Instead of sending hundreds of rubber dinghy lifeboats, we have to find a way to prevent the ships from sinking.