By Jessica Bruder
July 31, 2018 89 comments
DOPESICK Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America By Beth Macy Illustrated. 376 pp. Little, Brown & Company. $28.
In 2000, a doctor in the tiny town of St. Charles, Va., began writing alarmed letters to Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin. The drug had come to market four years earlier and Art Van Zee had watched it ravage the state’s poorest county, where he’d practiced medicine for nearly a quarter-century. Older patients were showing up at his office with abscesses from injecting crushed-up pills. Nearly a quarter of the juniors at a local high school had reported trying the drug. Late one night, Van Zee was summoned to the hospital where a teenage girl he knew — he could still remember immunizing her as an infant — had arrived in the throes of an overdose.
Van Zee begged Purdue to investigate what was happening in Lee County and elsewhere. People were starting to die. “My fear is that these are sentinel areas, just as San Francisco and New York were in the early years of H.I.V.,” he wrote.
Since then, the worst drug crisis in America’s history — sparked by OxyContin and later broadening into heroin and fentanyl — has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, with no signs of abating. Just this spring, public health officials announced a record: The opioid epidemic had killed 45,000 people in the 12-month span that ended in September, making it almost as lethal as the AIDS crisis at its peak.”
My comment to the NYT, now also the blog post before this one:
If we legalize and regulate addictive drugs, much of these enormous profits from the illegal drug business would decrease dramatically. When alcohol was re-legalized after prohibition, armed gangs were disbanded and killings decreased greatly.
Many economists, at least privately, admit that we should legalize addictive drugs to ameliorate the negative effects. Herbert Stein and Milton Friedman are two famous right of center economists who have called for legalization.
Legalization would allow us win the war on illegal drug trafficking, and it is probably the only way to win the war on drug trafficking.
It would not be simple. There would need to be investment and resources into drug addiction rehabilitation programs, jobs programs, support systems. We would need severe financial penalties and long jail sentences for businesses and individuals that push addictive drugs onto non-addicts. The law has to be severe with people who turn citizens or patients into addicts.
Decriminalization would be an immediate place to begin, to get tens of thousands of petty drug users and sellers out of our jails.
We have a heroin epidemic in New England and the rest of the country right now. Much of the heroin is bad, and kills people. If heroin was legal and regulated, doses would be bad for you, but wouldn’t stop your heart. Countless young people, including my son Austin, would be alive after experimenting with the drug. It is the illegality of these drugs that make them unregulated. Bad batches kill people, like my son Austin. The huge illegal profits are destabilizing whole countries, and police forces, prosecutors and judges.