Opioids- a Mass Killer We’re Meeting With a Shrug – Nicholas Kristof – NYT

“About as many Americans are expected to die this year of drug overdoses as died in the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.For more than 100 years, death rates have been dropping for Americans — but now, because of opioids, death rates are rising again. We as a nation are going backward, and drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50.

“There’s no question that there’s an epidemic and that this is a national public health emergency,” Dr. Leana Wen, the health commissioner of Baltimore, told me. “The number of people overdosing is skyrocketing, and we have no indication that we’ve reached the peak.”

Yet our efforts to address this scourge are pathetic.”

Yes. Here is one of many comments I support:
Mindy Ohio 5 hours ago
Sadly, there is still so much stigma surrounding the disease of addiction. Not one single person wakes up and each and every day and chooses to use. The brain is hijacked and rational decisions are impossible. We have ridden this roller coaster for many years. Our son, for today, in recovery, started in high school with OxyContin and then soon moved on to the cheap alternative, heroin. Our years of terror, fear and anger have morphed into compassion and rebuilding. But there are no guarantees. We have spent untold sums over the years, and are fortunate that we have not wiped our resources clean. Yet, even with the wherewithal to access good care, the system is overwhelmed. Treatment, i.e., evidenced-based therapies, medical-assisted-treatment (Suboxone etc.), is limited in availability because of overwhelming demand. Our son, who recently relapsed, was prescribed Suboxone and we called every pharmacy in the area to no avail.
The “Drug War” must end. We cannot arrest our way out of this crisis! As has been demonstrated in other countries, legalization works!! However, I fear, our Puritanical, judgmental, holier-than-thou white male-dominated lunatic right will continue to wag their fingers at these “losers.”

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Young Victims of the Opioid Epidemic – The New York Times

“Opioid overdoses have claimed more than 300,000 lives in the last 15 years, including some 33,000 in 2015 alone. But those numbers do not tell the full horror of this epidemic, which has devastated the lives of countless children whose parents have succumbed to addiction to prescription painkillers and other opiates. In one terrible case last month, a Pennsylvania couple died of apparent overdoses, and their baby perished from starvation a few days later.”

A successful effort to reduce drug addiction would look very different than our current war on drugs. It would be complex and multilayered. As several famous economists, including Herbert Stein and Martin Feldstein, have noted, we have to legalize and decriminalize addictive drugs to end the epidemic and the illegal trades horrific, related crime. We would have to have a Marshall Plan of support for addicts, possibly including the unemployed. One of my goals is too elaborate more on each idea either in a book, or at my blog, InconvenientNews.wordpress.com. My son Austin died in 2010. He is one of the 300,000 to die in the current epidemic. The illegal trade is a powerful force, a $50 Billion a year business that is destabilizing familes and governments around the world.

Peña Nieto Faces Unrest in Mexico as Gas Prices Climb and Trump Ascends – The New York Times

“MEXICO CITY — Amid nationwide marches, highway blockades and looting stemming from widespread outrage over an increase in gas prices, President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico went on national television to appeal for understanding.

With international oil prices rising and Mexico dependent on gasoline imports, he argued in the speech on Thursday, the government had no alternative but to raise prices at the pump. “Here I ask you,” he said, gesturing at the camera, “what would you have done?” “

Don’t Lock ’Em Up. Give ’Em a Chance to Quit Drugs. – The New York Times

“The United States once had a less punitive approach to addiction. But beginning in the 1970s, its presidents, exploiting fears of criminality that white voters associated with African-Americans, initiated a war on drugs that expanded drug policing and prosecutions. This shifted money away from treatment toward interdiction and incarceration, and prodded the country to embrace a “lock-’em-up” mentality.

Belatedly, those policies have come in for a reckoning. Politicians from both parties now acknowledge that too many people have been put away for too long; in any given year, nearly a third of those who enter prison are admitted for drug crimes. Racial inequities are stark. While studies suggest that black Americans are less likely than whites to sell drugs, they are 3.6 times more likely to be arrested on suspicion of drug dealing.

It was evidence of those jarring racial disparities that led Seattle officials to consider the LEAD approach. Lisa Daugaard, now the director of the nonprofit Public Defender Association, spent years waging a legal battle against the city’s police force over racially discriminatory patterns in drug arrests. At the time, Seattle’s population was 8 percent African-American. Research suggested that white people dominated the city’s drug trade. Yet 67 percent of those picked up for serious drug offenses (other than marijuana) were black. “It was an extreme situation,” she said.”

Source: Don’t Lock ’Em Up. Give ’Em a Chance to Quit Drugs. – The New York Times

David Lindsay

Hamden, CT Pending Approval

Though many prison guard unions and the Ku Klux Klan scream every time I write this, it is time to at least decriminalize all addictive drugs. Better, we we would also legalize these markets, to stop the armed gangs created to protect the illegal markets from undermining communities and governments. Addiction is known to be a disease, it is time to return to treating addiction as a disease and not a crime.

Important article, some good comments, like:

Meredith NYC 10 hours ago

“Good that parts of USA are progressing into the 21st century. We need frequent updates of whatever progress there is. Here’s one of many foreign role models:

Per huff post article– Portugal Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary of Decriminalizing Drugs.
“In 2001, Portugal decriminalized the possession of small amounts of all illicit substances. Having small amounts of drugs is no longer a criminal offense. It’s still against the rules; it just won’t get you thrown in jail or prison. It’s a civil offense — like a ticket. Portugal continues to punish sales and trafficking of illicit substances.

The results are in: decreased youth drug use, falling overdose and HIV/AIDS rates, less crime, reduced criminal justice expenditures, greater access to drug treatment, and safer and healthier communities.”

Why was Portugal able to put this program through?”

Reply 39 Recommended

Radical Inquiry

Humantown, World Government 3 hours ago

“I am a board-certified psychiatrist.
The fix is to legalize all drugs (for adults), just as Portugal has done.
Think for yourself?”

Want to Make Ethical Purchases? Stop Buying Illegal Drugs -By MARIO BERLANGA – The New York Times

“Many of my friends and classmates here in the United States care about making the world a better place, and they try to make purchases that reflect their values. Some have become vegetarians to save animals or fight climate change. Others buy cruelty-free cosmetics, fair-trade coffee or conflict-free diamonds.

Yet I’ve noticed at parties and festivals that some of these same people pop Ecstasy or snort cocaine. They think this drug use is a victimless crime. It’s not. Follow the supply chain and you’ll find a trail of horrific violence.In Mexico, the official death toll from the past decade’s drug trade stands at over 185,000, with many of the dead innocent bystanders. And these tallies don’t include the thousands of people who have disappeared, including four members of my family who were kidnapped and never seen again. We were deprived of our loved ones without explanation, without even their bodies to cry over.

I was born and raised in a midsize town in northern Mexico. As a child, I biked and skated in the streets. But these days, kids aren’t allowed to play outside. Everyone has a heartbreaking story of how the drug trade has damaged his life.”

Source: Want to Make Ethical Purchases? Stop Buying Illegal Drugs – The New York Times

As I’ve said before, if we legalized all addictive drugs, just like we legalized alcohol after prohibition failed, the extraodinary profits from an illegal trade would disappear, and so would the armies of armed thugs to protect the illegal markets.

This small Indiana county sends more people to prison than San Francisco and Durham, N.C., combined. Why? – The New York Times

“LAWRENCEBURG, Ind. — Donnie Gaddis picked the wrong county to sell 15 oxycodone pills to an undercover officer.If Mr. Gaddis had been caught 20 miles to the east, in Cincinnati, he would have received a maximum of six months in prison, court records show. In San Francisco or Brooklyn, he would probably have received drug treatment or probation, lawyers say.But Mr. Gaddis lived in Dearborn County, Ind., which sends more people to prison per capita than nearly any other county in the United States. After agreeing to a plea deal, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison.“Years? Holy Toledo — I’ve settled murders for a lot less than that,” said Philip Stephens, a public defender in Cincinnati.

A Growing Divide. People in rural areas are much more likely to go to prison than people in urban areas, a major shift from a decade ago.

Dearborn County represents the new boom in American prisons: mostly white, rural and politically conservative.A bipartisan campaign to reduce mass incarceration has led to enormous declines in new inmates from big cities, cutting America’s prison population for the first time since the 1970s. From 2006 to 2014, annual prison admissions dropped 36 percent in Indianapolis; 37 percent in Brooklyn; 69 percent in Los Angeles County; and 93 percent in San Francisco.But large parts of rural and suburban America — overwhelmed by the heroin epidemic and concerned about the safety of diverting people from prison — have gone the opposite direction. Prison admissions in counties with fewer than 100,000 people have risen even as crime has fallen, according to a New York Times analysis, which offers a newly detailed look at the geography of American incarceration.”

Source: This small Indiana county sends more people to prison than San Francisco and Durham, N.C., combined. Why? – The New York Times

Obama’s Death Sentence for Young Refugees, by Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

“If I’m sent back, they will kill me,” says Cristóbal, who is staying temporarily at a shelter for unaccompanied migrant kids in Mexico. He says he was forced to work for the gang as a cocaine courier beginning at age 14 — a gun was held to his head, and he was told he would be shot if he declined. He finally quit and fled after he witnessed gang members murder two of his friends. Now the gang is looking for him, he says, and it already sent a hit team to his home.Yet he may well be sent back under a policy backed by Obama and Peña Nieto. I admire much about the Obama administration, including its fine words about refugees, but this policy is rank with deadly hypocrisy.

Source: Obama’s Death Sentence for Young Refugees – The New York Times

I really wanted to weigh in and disagree with Nicholas Kristof here, but the comments were closed. Luckily, and to my amazement, someone wrote a comment with my three main points, so I completely endorse the following comment:

Matthew Carnicelli

is a trusted commenter Brooklyn, New York 1 day ago

“Nick, I refuse to fault Obama here inasmuch as this is clearly one of those scenarios where a President is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

The furor over uncontrolled immigration is one of the factors driving the Presidential candidacy of an American fascist – and yet you see fit to blame Obama for not doing more.

The human rights situation in Mexico is a horror story as is, as drug cartels and criminal gangs wreak havoc across that nation, largely, if not exclusively, because our American appetite for narcotics is unacceptable to our moral elite. And yet you expect Mexico to do even more for us, by providing sanctuary to these children.

The reality is that we need a comprehensive economic and cultural strategy for the Americas if we ever hope to address this problem – and part this strategy must involve the decriminalization of narcotics. Another part of this strategy must involve real world grassroots economic development for Mexico and Central America, so that these governments have a prayer of dissuading their youth from choosing a life of crime and violence. There’s no reason but sheer corporate greed that these nations can’t be hubs of manufacturing for the Americas – with their workers being paid FAIR WAGES (not serf wages) for the work done.

Nick, what you propose is a band-aid – but what’s required is a greater vision, a truly American vision.”

Drug Deaths Reach White America – The New York Times

My eldest son Austin died August 5th, 2011, from a heroin overdose. I consider him a casualty of the drug wars. He had become a petty dealer, because the money was and is phenomenal. He tried heroin just once or twice, for bragging rights. I have argued now for about 40 years, that we should decriminalize and legalize all addictive drugs, and with the savings and proceeds, offer a Marshall plan to help licensed addicts. The history of prohibition is a sign post to what will happen. The drug sellers will not need armies of thugs with automatic weapons to protect legal businesses, that most of them will leave anyway, since the returns will go down to normal returns, not astronomically rich returns. Besides saving the lives of countless Americans, we would stop destabilizing governments around the world like Mexico, Columbia, Peru, and Afghanistan. We might bring our prison populations down to percentages like the rest of the world. We will still have to counter addiction, with a hundred tools, starting with a program of near full employment, where we make the government the employer of last resort. My guess is that ending the failed war on drugs will save so much money, that the savings will cover most or all of the social programs I have mentioned.

“The Recovery Act would attack these problems on several fronts. For starters, it would direct the secretary of health and human services to convene an interagency task force to develop a system of best practices for prescribing pain medications that would then be conveyed to doctors. It would authorize the attorney general to make grants to state and local governments, nonprofit agencies, and other entities to assist them on several fronts: expanding or developing alternatives to incarceration, such as treatment, for defendants who meet certain criteria; improving educational opportunities for offenders in jails, prisons and juvenile detention facilities; making more widely available the drug naloxone, which reverses the effects of an overdose; creating high-quality drug treatment programs; and establishing places where people with unused medications can safely dispose of them.”

Source: Drug Deaths Reach White America – The New York Times

Black anti-crime activism in the ’60s and ’70s helped pave the way for our current system of draconian drug laws and mass incarceration. nytimes.com|By Michael Javen Fortner

There were many good comments after this piece, including: John Graubard New York 5 hours ago

“The history of “law enforcement” in Black neighborhoods has gone through several iterations, none of them good.

Up until about 1960 the policy was basically for the police to (a) close their eyes to low-level criminal activity there, (b) act as an enforcement arm for white-controlled organized crime by preventing local competition, and (c) strictly enforce the laws when a Black man committed a crime outside the Ghetto. (For those of us who can remember, it was as if a wall existed on East 96th Street, white to the south, Black to the north.)

Then we had the Rockefeller Drug Laws. The first was for civil commitment, but when that did not work we had the punitive laws that basically put everyone involved away for a long, long time.

Then came the “broken windows policy” and stop-and-frisk, which did get some career criminals off the street, but also fed into the perception, whether or not true, of a New Jim Crow through the unequal enforcement of the laws.

What we need is something simple – fair, reasonable and equal enforcement of the law, along with decriminalization of simple drug possession. Of course, unfortunately, that has never been tried.”


Black anti-crime activism in the ’60s and ’70s helped pave the way for our current system of draconian drug laws and mass incarceration.
nytimes.com|By Michael Javen Fortner


Eric Holder tries to reduce prison sentences

Justice Dept. Seeks to Curtail Stiff Drug Sentences
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. will announce new steps intended to curb soaring taxpayer spending on prisons and help correct what he regards as unfairness in the justice system.