The proposed new restrictions on prescription pain killers, dishonestly touted as “saving lives”, do exactly the opposite. All research and evidence establishes that when legally prescribed opioids are more difficult to acquire, those who need them turn to less expensive and more easily acquired alternatives – all of which are illegal.
Florida’s experience is the most blatant example of what happens when a “moral crises” of an “epidemic” leads to “death by legislation.”
The Florida legislature passed laws to curtail the largely unfettered prescription of opioids. The result: Deaths from prescription opioids dropped 69%, but heroin deaths more than doubled to a record 408.
Restricting access does not reduce need.
The most common prescription painkillers on the market, including hydrocodone (Vicodin) and oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet), are actually opioid drugs, just like heroin. All of these drugs are derived from opium. One of the major derivatives of opium is morphine, from which heroin is derived, whereas the pharmaceutical painkillers are derived from the other major element, known as codeine. Heroin has similar effects to painkillers, making it an ideal substitute for those looking for a way to replace their painkillers.
Unable to get their usual prescription from doctors, those who were dependent upon them had to buy them from people who had them and would sell them at greatly inflated prices not covered by insurance. With prescription opioids now difficult to find and terribly expensive, those who needed them sought an effective and less expensive opioid pain killer. This is one readily available: Heroin.
Making prescription pain killers harder to get results in more deaths, more crime, more babies born addicted.
Who in their right mind wants more drug deaths, more addicted babies, and more heroin addicts? Well, ask yourself who benefits from that situation? (1) Heroin dealers (2) law enforcement, who then requests funds to fight the growing crime caused by the increase in heroin addiction, (3) so-called “addiction treatment centers,” and (4) prisons, because the majority of people in America’s prisons are there on drug charges.
This is a well-established pattern in America’s “war on drugs,” and it is so predictable that there are entire sociology studies and even full-length books on the subject of “moral panic” over “drug epidemics” that lead to repressive harmful legislation.
Once patients move from legal prescription medications to illegally obtained medications, they are now “criminal drug addicts” who must be “treated,” or arrested and punished and locked up. So much for removing stigma from dependence and/or addiction.
We need only to look to other countries who solved these problems long ago by completely erasing the stigma of addiction by not making a medical condition a crime. Taking it out of the shadows, taking away the secrecy and guilt, and providing the maintenance medication needed to live a normal and productive life has brought the deaths from heroin overdose in Sweden, for example, to ZERO.
Any organization that claims to have as its goals to reduce stigma and reduce addiction but gives their endorsement to legislation and policies that are proven to increase heroin addiction and drug related crime is, in the most polite words possible, lying through their deceptive teeth.
In fact, all efforts to reduce the availability of drugs, be they legal or illegal, have the same effect: reduced safety, increased harm, and more danger to public health.
If you doubt this assertion, there are numerous studies internationally that validate it – from USA, CHINA, AUSTRALIA and elsewhere. The more you repress drugs – be it by increased police presence, police sweeps, or legislation, the more you make drug use difficult, the more you increase the stigma, push it deeper into the shadows, and make life more dangerous for everyone while not reducing the use of drugs at all.
Let us resolve to deal with what is real, because reality is something you can live with.