Going After the Opioid Profiteers

Lambert here: I have no quarrel with going after Big Pharma CEOs (sadly, well after the fact). I do quarrel with medicalizing “deaths from despair,” which the focus on treatment does, and erasing workplace and community issues (which the story hook of “sport-related injuries” does). I mean, this is a story about the Teamsters, and are there no truckers in pain, at home if not on the road? That said, it’s good to see some action from a union, since either news of the problem hasn’t reached the Acela Corridor, or they don’t want to hear about it.

By Sarah Anderson, who directs the Global Economy project at the Institute for Policy Studies and is the author of the new report Off the Deep End: The Wall Street Bonus Pool and Low-Wage Workers. Originally published at Alternet.

Travis Bornstein never told his friends about his son Tyler’s drug problem. He was too embarrassed.

Then, on September 28, 2014, Tyler’s body was found in a vacant lot in Akron, Ohio. The 23-year-old had become addicted to opioid pain killers after several sports-related injuries and surgeries. Unable to afford long-term treatment, he ultimately turned to a cheaper drug — the heroin that killed him.

“Now I have no choice but to speak out,” the elder Bornstein, president of Teamsters Local 24 in Akron, told a crowd of thousands at the union’s convention in 2016. As he shared the unvarnished tale of how a middle-class, star athlete wound up in that vacant lot, Bornstein lit a fire under the 1.4-million-member organization.

The Teamsters pledged $1.4 million for a nonprofit organization the Bornstein family set up to expand treatment for addicts in Ohio. They’re also going after the drug industry CEOs who’ve been profiting off a national opioid problem of epidemic proportions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription drugs and heroin) has quadrupled since 1999. In 2015, opioid deaths in the United States hit a record-breaking 33,000.

The labor union is targeting the three largest U.S. prescription drug wholesalers — McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen — for flooding hard-hit areas with the highly addictive pills.

Between 2008 and 2012, for example, these companies shipped 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone opioid doses to West Virginia — 433 for every man, woman, and child in the state. During that time period, 1,728 people in the state overdosed on the painkillers.

The companies deny any wrongdoing, pointing the finger instead at corrupt doctors and pharmacists who sell pills directly to addicts and dealers. But as West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin recently told the Charleston Gazette-Mail, “Obviously, they had to know, with a state this size, and that many pills coming in, that something wasn’t right.”

The Teamsters are using their clout as pension fund investors to demand that drug wholesalers take responsibility for their role in the epidemic, conduct full investigations of their distribution practices, and hold CEOs accountable.

At AmerisourceBergen, for example, CEO Steven Collis hasn’t coughed up a penny of the tens of millions of dollars he pocketed as the firm was reaping opioid windfalls — even though the company has paid $16 million to settle a West Virginia case over their negligence.

The Teamsters are demanding that some of the CEO’s pay be “clawed back,” in the same way that Wells Fargo executives involved in last year’s bogus account scandal had to forfeit some of their compensation.

They’ve made similar demands on McKesson, where CEO John Hammergren’s compensation has amounted to an astounding $368 million over the past five years.

Part of the problem with accountability at McKesson, according to the Teamsters, is the fact that Hammergren serves as both CEO and chairman of the company. The union is filing a shareholder resolution urging the board to appoint an independent chair.

Meanwhile, Travis Bornstein is continuing to speak out, telling his son Tyler’s tragic story to students, policymakers, and others as he works to expand the availability of drug treatment for communities ravaged by the opioid crisis.

Since Tyler’s death, he’s learned that opioid addiction isn’t a moral failure, but rather a disease, like cancer or diabetes. “Now my son is my hero for everything he was able to accomplish with such a gut-wrenching disease,” Bornstein said. “I was the fool.”

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

79 comments

  1. Steve H.

    : a middle-class, star athlete

    So now we give a kcuf. At least they used a comma.

    On the plus side, is that a union taking a moral stance? I thought that had been selected out post-Reagan.

    Let me go whole-hog optimism and say the Teamsters could be a real node to accrete a working-class power base. Hopefully the suits running the unions haven’t sucked all the minerals out of the bones.

    Reply
    1. Carla

      Well, the AFL-CIO is all-in to save Obamacare, vs. replacing it with Expanded and Improved Medicare for All, and I haven’t seen any signs of the Teamsters supporting the latter, either, so I wouldn’t hold out any hope for those bones.

      Reply
    2. perpetualWAR

      That’s exactly what I thought…..esp when the article talked about how they were using their clout as pension funders. Why did they refuse to use this clout when their members were losing their homes to the crooks?

      Reply
  2. JEHR

    So we are seeing a world run by billionaires where trying to make billionaire CEOs stop making drugs that kill people will not work when money is what makes billionaires tick (not empathy, understanding or moral uprightness). The wonder is that most parasitic predators do not set out to kill their hosts but why would these predators worry about their prey? If this drug is taken off the market, there are lots of others that can be created. It’s that old death wish both from above and towards those below that will continue in this “brave new world.”

    Reply
  3. UserFriendly

    On a similar note, my current state rep, Ray Dehn, is running to be the mayor of Minneapolis. He just wrote this regarding addiction:
    http://www.startribune.com/with-drug-addiction-focus-on-prevention-and-treatment-not-criminalization/416476163/

    He is sooo much better than the one we currently have or the other city council member that a seriously suspect is taking a lot of $ from big business. (they are both using weasel words about $15/hr)

    Dehn, however, is awesome and I have him half way talked into starting a Job Guarantee here. Anyone who lives in Minneapolis should caucus for him on Tuesday April 4th 6:30pm-8pm at your precinct.

    And here is a talk through of how to caucus and who has been endorsed by the local Our Revolution for City Council.
    https://youtu.be/EEyDFBIweLk

    Reply
  4. oaf

    Why are certain drug dealers supported by the government; while others are declared criminals?
    Seems the ACA supports profits of one sector of the economy at the expense of the rest. Must be some Constitutional basis for it. WTFIT?

    Reply
      1. WheresOurTeddy

        The Purdue Gang is well-connected. Not small-time and certainly not independent, the 2 largest sins of neoliberalism.

        If you don’t make enough money to buy a congressperson or a committee, do you really exist at all?

        Reply
    1. JohnnyGL

      The ones connected to the Mexican political parties are bad….Zetas, Tijuana Cartel, etc.

      The ones connected to our political parties are okay.

      Reply
      1. Pespi

        Remember when we let banks openly launder mountains of obvious mexican drug money to help prop them up during the financial crisis?

        Once you get big enough, it’s like you gain a dimension, and the laws that apply to the 2d people don’t apply to big 3d corporation

        Reply
  5. Dave

    See overdoses on heroin almost every day now in the medical ICU in a major inner city hospital. See the family struggling to cope/comprehend brain death of their child. One girl I took care of had wounds on her fingers and arms from where the rats were gnawing on her flesh, literally eating her, that goes right to your mental hard drive.

    I do not know how much longer I can do my job, as seeing this daily takes a real toll on your psyche. I do know these SOB’s who are profiting from flooding the markets with opiates should be prosecuted. And the damn treatment clinics, which use a model from alcoholics anonymous which is proven NOT to work with opiate addiction, bleed the desperate parents of cash(many taking out 2nd mortgages on their house to pay the exorbitant fees). After treatment they go out on the street and immediately resume at their pre treatment dose and promptly go down as their tolerances are much lower since they are 30 days clean.

    Opiate addiction actually permanently changes the bio/chemical/physical makeup of your brain once addicted. The only proven treatment is methadone and medical care by a physician.

    Reply
    1. Carla

      Thank you very much for the vital, incredibly difficult work you do and for this heartfelt and moving comment. I wanted to make some of the same points you raised re: the pharma execs profiting from misery, as well as the endless and ineffective treatment racket — but you addressed those things much better than I ever could.

      Until we achieve Expanded and Improved Medicare for All, I’m afraid we not be able to effectively address any of our public health problems, and addiction is a huge one.

      Reply
    2. jrs

      Suboxone is widely prescribed for opiates. Are you saying all opiate addicts should be on methadone for life? Has a lot of side effects for that, so does suboxone although less (for one thing a lifetime of constipation on either drug probably isn’t too healthy).

      Reply
      1. Dave

        Yes subaxone is prescribed as well, as it has narcan in it. I am not saying it is the optimal outcome. I am saying it is the only effective treatment for the hardcore addict.

        Reply
    3. YankeeFrank

      “The only proven treatment is methadone and medical care by a physician.”

      This is true only if the goal is a slow withdrawal process. Too many methadone programs will only accept patients if they agree to stay on at their current dose. That’s not treatment, that’s just switching drugs to string a person out on.

      The only treatment that really works, and it doesn’t have to be methadone, is slow, steady withdrawal over a period of many months, so that the body has a chance to rebuild its own opiate generating capacity, and so that once the drug is finally, fully withdrawn, there isn’t some incredible shock to the system which is both physically risky and incredibly painful, as well as a giant mental shock that leaves the person unable to cope with a body completely incapable of producing its own opiates (and which after only 30 days is not at all ready to face the loving embrace of the world again).

      Its the moral police that insist on complete withdrawal with perhaps a few days to drop to a lower level before its cold turkey time. Its cruel and pointless, and against common sense and medical science to force people to go cold turkey or stay strung out on methadone for years.

      Reply
      1. GERMO

        “How to get people off opiates” shouldn’t have to be the discussion here in post-Case-Denton USA.
        Treatment is important of course, but I feel that the causes of entry into addiction are rarely discussed honestly. It’s about injuries suffered by an abused and relentlessly overworked low-wage working class, in large part, that have caused opiate addiction to travel from the inner-city underground to rural and suburban ordinary life. Many injuries are sustained over years and years of physically repetitive micro-damage and by middle age become chronic pain, but as it didn’t result from being run over by a forklift or something, is treated by the medical industry the most efficient way possible: take pills, get out of here, we’ve got other patients to see.

        Why people are getting chronic pain in the first place, what class of people are experiencing this (people doing physical, repetitive and often low-wage labor), and how this could be different, is to me the elephant in the room. We see a lot of speculation about addiction treatment substituting for the real analysis that needs to happen, which ultimately is about who is profiting off these workers by cutting corners, working them too hard, stressing them out, and discarding them like used tissues when their bodies crack.

        Methadone by the way is often terrible but it is a profitable industry that’s willing to take credit for all those who were going to get off the drugs one way or another. Speaking from vast narcotics addict experience…

        Reply
        1. Pespi

          This is a very important question. Americans are in pain, this isn’t fantasy. Lobbying got doctors to prescribe opioids instead of liqour. The entire cultural pattern of movement is broken. Sitting all the time ingrains patterns that cause injury when the body actually has to be used.

          People who are in pain need painkillers, they need physical therapy, and we all need to embrace a paradigm of good movement, and more movement, or it won’t end.

          Reply
  6. screen screamer

    I was somewhat chagrined when I went to a community meeting about the drug trade. All the finery were there, DEA, state and local constables, state and local attorney’s etc etc so on and so forth.
    The very first presentation was from a state constable who had a white board showing a map of the US. On the map were big red arrows that showed the points of entry and routes of the heroin trade complete with the end destination as noted with a little star of our community.
    He explained how the drugs come in from the ports, then move up the major thoroughfares into major cities, then moved from the cities to smaller inland cities via carriers and then by automobile to our fine hamlet where they sell the drugs to our children, who then become sick and many die.
    The take away from all of this is that the locals were going to do their best to arrest those that came to town bearing gifts to all the sick children.
    If we were honest, we would understand that nothing is going to be done. The problem is structural and industrialized. Banks were left afloat during the 08 crash by drug money. The feds make too much money off the drug trade, and there is a killing being made after our children die as they tear out the organs and sell them off for a nice tidy profit. So we may as well just enjoy the show.
    Make some popcorn, load it up with butter and salt and hope that your kids aren’t the ones that fall prey to this insidious invasion.

    Reply
    1. Dave

      I understand your anger. A vast majority of illegal drugs come via our southern border, as per government agencies such as the FBI and DEA. I must point out that no organs are ever sold. They are donated by the family, or if they are designated organ donors. All too often, due to their addiction, these donors have communicable diseases (hepatitis, HIV, etc.) or they were down too long and the organs are failing and thus inappropriate for donation.

      Reply
      1. Tom_Doak

        No organs are ever sold, but a hospital can only bill six figures for an organ transplant if it has a donor that’s a good match for someone in need. So there is still a “profit motive” there. Unfortunately, as you say, many OD victims are not suitable donors.

        Reply
        1. screen screamer

          The young folks are plenty good enough. Teens who have just started this thrill ride end up brain dead but the innards intact enough to send out to folks who want them.
          Irony. Being pulled over by a policeman for having the nerve of baby shoes hanging from my rear view mirror less than a block away from a known drug market. Can’t make this stuff up.

          Reply
      2. bob

        “A vast majority of illegal drugs come via our southern border, as per government agencies such as the FBI and DEA.”

        If they know so god damn much about the problem, why is it still there?

        I heavily doubt any of what they claim as “analysis”. Part of it is willful ignorance, part of it is just plain ignorance.

        South of the border is just a dog whistle. Say what you mean- Brown people. Be honest in your prejudices. Then go ahead and explain how the very, very ‘non-south of the border’ pharma co’s enlist the favor of all of those brown people to do their bidding.

        Reply
        1. Dave

          My spouse is hispanic and I have been married to her for 32 years…. back in the day our marriage was problematic (both sets of parents disowned us for marrying out of our “race”). We have 2 daughters together who are considered hispanic because their mother is 100% hispanic. So you can kiss my ass with your bulls**t dog whistle crap. Look it up for yourself. The majority of drugs come through Mexico. PERIOD.
          https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2086.html

          So bob, go ahead and level the racism charge all you want to nullify me. I have been through this many times before you and will go through this many times after you.

          SPEAK TRUTH

          Reply
          1. bob

            The CIA as authority?

            Who you married has NOTHING to do with how and where “drugs” are manufactured, trafficked or distributed, as much as you might like to think it does.

            It also doesn’t make YOU any sort of authority any more than it makes your wife a drug dealer.

            The politics of personal testimony, plus the CIA, for backup.

            Reply
          2. bob

            Also, are we looking at the same link?

            ” world’s largest producer of opium; poppy cultivation increased 7 percent, to a record 211,000 hectares in 2014 from 198,000 hectares in 2013, while eradication dropped sharply; relatively low opium yields due to poor weather kept potential opium production – 6,300 metric tons – below the record set in 2007;”

            That’s not Mexico, or indeed anyplace that could be construed as “south of the border”. It’s Afghanistan. Afghanistan is in Asia.

            Reply
            1. bob

              More “numbers” to ponder-

              2015 GDP of Afghanistan- 19.3 billion

              McKesson sales in 2015- 179 billion

              Access to markets that aren’t “south of the border” adds quite a bit of value, for people with enough power to claim it.

              Reply
              1. screen screamer

                The specifics to the particular pogrom that I attended was the heroin trade. Most of this comes in from the West Coast ports. Not all of the heroin, most of the heroin.
                It has been well noted over the years that banks have laundered untold billions in drug money. I believe it was HSBC that paid the largest fine ever for this sort of activity. They certainly are not the only bank to have paid fines for this particular crime. ALL the major banks have played a major role in this activity and I think that perhaps Wells problems with all the fake accounts from the last couple of years may have at least played a part in this scenario.
                At the end of the day, I would bet that local constables are paid to keep things rolling as well as local politicians. There can’t be that much knowledge about the drug trade that includes basically what kind of cars the small couriers are driving to bring the stuff into our towns. If they wanted to, the drug trade could be absolutely crippled and brought to it’s knees in a short period of time should anyone had the balls to make it happen. But they don’t and they won’t. Instead we will watch with dismay as kids roll into the hospitals brain dead with parents deciding what to do with what body parts. It’s sick.

                Reply
            2. sierra7

              Written years ago but considered a seminal “source book” for how the political/heroin scene works:
              “The Politics of Heroin” 1991 (reprint 2003)
              Author: Alfred McCoy
              It is a stunning description of how the heroin trade has worked over the years; how the CIA has been involved (previously the French; before that and probably in confluence: the Corsicans…..it is a long tale.
              Remember the large scandals in the 1990’s when the CIA had to hold public meetings across the country trying to deny the allegations?

              Reply
      1. beth

        Kill the Messenger

        movie about journalist, Gary Webb.

        Webb began researching “Dark Alliance” in July 1995.[17] The series was published in the Mercury News in three parts, from August 18–20, 1996, with one long article and one or two shorter articles appearing each day. It was also posted on the Mercury News website with additional information, including documents cited in the series and audio recordings of people quoted in the articles.[18]

        Reply
        1. sierra7

          Yes, also the story that Gary Webb wrote; actually a series for the San Jose Mercury News. Because of intense political and internal government pressures, both the NYT deeply attacked Mr. Webb pressuring the San Jose Mercury News to eventually separate itself from the series; Gary Webb was black balled and eventually committed suicide.
          Ah yes, the NYT….the dishrag of America!

          Reply
    2. bob

      The ever present outside agitators.

      Listening to cops talk about drugs, and the drug trade, is akin to taking advice on sex from a catholic priest.

      There are very different agendas, and a complete lack of understanding of “the problem”.

      Stop letting them frame the debate.

      Reply
  7. nathan riley

    The theory propounded here is that exposure to pharmaceutical quality opioids induces addiction and that cutting supply will reduce addiction. In fact as this story makes clear, it induces purchases on the black market of heroin laced with impurities. Switzerland gives heroin to about 1,000 users many of them hold jobs, pay rent and have full lives. For the better part of a decade, the U.S. has restricted supplies of its pharmaceutical quality meds and overdose deaths have risen to astronomical levels (higher than suicide or auto accidents for certain age cohorts). There is a connection between the prohibition and the deaths. Some users of opioids want a daily dose, getting that dose is more important than their family, the law etc. Perhaps they know something we don’t? These people are making choices and learning to live with them and nurture them is the ethical response.

    Reply
    1. Carla

      Poor, little Portugal has been making like wealthy Switzerland in this respect for the last 15 years. How do they do it? The most recent article I could find in a quick search is this, from 15 Nov. 2016:

      http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/10/portugal-fifteen-years-decriminalised-drug-policy-161015091127668.html

      But of course, as Wikipedia points out “Health in Portugal is characterized by the existence of a high quality healthcare system (ranked as the 9th best in Europe and 12th in the World), allowing the country to achieve good rankings in several health indexes.” Covers everyone, natch.

      Oops. USA scores an epic fail again!

      Reply
      1. Tinky

        I recently walked into a private street clinic in Lisbon, in order to have a wound that was not healing properly cleaned and dressed. One of the nurses did the job, and it took around 15 minutes. Cost? Six Euros!

        Reply
      2. human

        Daughter recently had an anaphylactic reaction (shellfish allergy) in Thailand. Rushed to nearest hospital, treated and kept overnight for observation. She wasn’t allowed to leave the next morning until her prescription arrived from the local pharmacy. Total cost $14.

        She carries epipens, but, at $300 each, she saves them for emergencies. Kids. Go figure.

        Reply
    2. sierra7

      The US is a puritanical state, narrow minded to the extreme. I don’t expect anything but brutal treatments, incarceration and eventual death for most of the heavy addicts in this murderously exploitive country. Our system of capitalism is centered to exploit all the human frailties for profit; witness the poor health care system we have and no political courage to change.
      None of this is going to end well.

      Reply
  8. RenoDino

    The Gin Craze lasted over half a century in England and was a top down phenomena promoted by the landed aristocracy for profit regardless of the terrible social consequences which were characterized as the failings of the lower classes. It was only crop failures and higher prices for grain on the world market that finally ended the availability of cheap gin. Attempts to end the epidemic by social intervention all failed.

    It’s was only when it became a money loser that the Gin Craze ended. Determining where that economic choke point is for the current opioid epidemic, and then having the political will to apply pressure at that point, is the only solution to the problem.

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_world_/2014/09/05/the_gin_craze_war_tyranny_class_and_the_dark_history_of_england_s_love_affair.html

    Reply
      1. Julie

        Yes, the gin craze and present day drug addiction share the ” potency effect ” where drugs become stronger to facilitate ease of transport and sale. The gin of the craze was a mortiferous liquid unrelated to the drink we are familar with. Criminalization leads to potent (adulterated) heroin.

        Reply
    1. FluffythObeseCat

      Good pull from the Memory Hole. I guess we have to make prescription writing less of a money maker. Maybe force insurers to favor physical therapy and actually curing people of injuries…… instead of paying doctors top dollar to write scrips for palliative do-nothing dope.

      Reply
  9. JohnnyGL

    I think the model of the opioid crisis is starting to look more like the financial crisis than I realized.

    The big pharma companies are playing the role of the underwriters and mortgage lenders.

    The doctors/pharmacists are like the subprime borrowers. It’s a nice bit of misdirection to blame them because if they didn’t do enough prescribing the pharma companies would move on and find others to do it for them. Big banks went phishing for borrowers who’d overborrow and big pharma goes phishing for docs and pharmacists who’ll over-prescribe.

    As for the deaths and ruined families, well, there’s parallels with ruined neighborhoods blighted by houses with ripped out copper pipes that are left to fall apart because the banks won’t sell them to new owners because if they foreclosed, they’d have to take the hit on their balance sheet.

    Reply
    1. BJ

      This is an interesting thought, about it being like FC. I asked my sister and brother-in-law about their take, both doctors. They refuse to believe the pharmaceutical companies have any responsibility. They specifically blame the patient score system. Since their pay is linked to patient satisfaction, they find them giving into patients to keep their scores and pay up. Why would subprime barrowers refuse a nice house? Why would doctors refuse better pay? Not sure if phara actually had any responsibility for patient scores being added to obamacare, but if they did they played the chess game well.

      Reply
      1. bob

        “I asked my sister and brother-in-law about their take, both doctors. They refuse to believe the pharmaceutical companies have any responsibility”

        They are furnished with personalized pharma company fluffers. Normally the job title is “sales”. It’s a neat little, very lucrative clique that the pharma cartel has spent decades breeding.

        Reply
  10. ArkansasAngie

    I am the executive director of Soldier ON Service Dogs.. We provide free service dogs to veterans with PTSD.

    Many of our veterans self-medicate because of pain and trauma.

    Opioids are awful. Honestly … IMHO … they should be restricted to hospital use only.

    BTW — Subscribe to post has an error

    Reply
      1. Toni Gilpin

        She means when you click on “Subscribe to Post” on the heading of the comment section you get a page of garbage text. I think that’s been true for a while, BTW. Also I’ve never been sure what it means, because is it necessary to subscribe to be able to comment here? Anyhow, it does confuse new readers, I’m sure.

        Reply
  11. Susan

    “deaths from despair,” – Lambert.

    Indeed. The Minneapolis mayoral candidate touches on this, but in general, our loss of community is not addressed. How isolating must it be to be a trucker?

    We are a people on the move or on the run, if you will. Is it any wonder we reach for drugs to substitute for what we are conditioned to desire (community) yet cannot find? Dissatisfied here? Go there. Don’t have just what you want when you want it? (think strawberries in December) No worries – someone is ferrying it to you post haste. Send your kids away so they, too, can “climb every mountain, ford every stream.”

    Stephen Jenkinson (Orphan Wisdom) writes and speaks about this in a larger context – North Americans – we’re all on the run. We’ve been running since we began sailing from across the seas.

    Thanks, too, for the link to the trucker’s forum. I read the whole thing. Added that to the file – drugs you did not know about. It’s a pretty concise description of why there is Trump. Obama was perhaps the oxycodone, but it’s been outlawed/regulated, so we turn to the street (our neighbors) for the heroin. Things can get quickly out of control.

    Reply
  12. JoeK

    I hold Purdue Pharma personally responsible for the very premature death of a family member due in no small part to oxycontin addiction. Not that there’s anything I can do about it….I guess.

    Reply
    1. Robert Dannin

      You could and should do something about it by organizing a public boycott of the many art institutions benefiting from the Sackler family largesse, the ultimate form of philanthropy as a vehicle for money-laundering.

      The OxyContin Clan: The $14 Billion Newcomer to Forbes 2015 List of Richest U.S. Families

      Reply
  13. KurtisMayfield

    We fought the drug war for decades using the following methods:

    #1. Prosecute the users/low lever drug dealers.
    #2. Go after the source of the drugs. (Colombia, Mexican drug cartels)

    I see we are beginning to go I after the cartels, but why aren’t we going after Afghanistan?? This is where the opium is coming from.

    Reply
    1. Michael Fiorillo

      “… why aren’t we going after Afghanistan?”

      Maybe the heroin is flooding precisely because we’re in Afghanistan; the first heroin epidemic in my experience was in the late 60’s and early ’70’s, when the cities were flooded with skag which was brought into the country from Southeast Asia, one of the “multiplier effects” of our misadventure in Vietnam.

      Reply
      1. jsn

        My wife has a late uncle who was a CIA pilot running dope out of Vietnam to fund other covert operations. While our current black budget no doubt pays for a lot of nasty things, I can’t imagine the internal institutional force within our secret government that would have ever ended that kind of thing, so I assume it’s ongoing.

        I heard about this back in 88 or 89s from him, so when the stories about the Arkansas racket implicating the Clintons came out it was very difficult to parse. I eventually landed on the belief that it was right wing BS, but the incredible corruption of the Clintons subsequently in evidence at the Clinton Foundation does keep the speculation alive.

        Really it’s just another aspect of the War on Americans waged under the guise of “poverty”, “drugs” and “terrorism” since the Civil Rights legislation nominally ended race privilege: the result was to push out the oppressions of Jim Crow onto the entire working population. In fairness to the incredible historical suffering of black Americans, it’s lacked the brutality of Jim Crow until just recently, when the “progressive” “Democrats” have finally gone all in for “othering” the white working class in a desperate bid to keep them from the obvious class solidarity they should be pursuing with everyone outside the Oligarchy itself.

        Reply
  14. Eclair

    Why do I read NC first thing in the morning and then become depressed for the rest of the day? (Only kidding … )
    RenoDino, your comment on the gin craze in England sparked a sequence of thoughts in my brain … opium wars in China (those Brits again), the state-by-state loosening of marijuana restrictions, the surge in craft breweries and distilleries.

    Here in Colorado (where you can legally get a mile high!), business is booming. The big guys are moving in to take over the growing and distribution of marijuana; my neighbor, whose contractor supply family business owed a large warehouse on Interstate 70, sold it to a grow outfit; her son then opened a craft distillery in a previously run-down area south of Denver, which is being ‘revitalized,’ with antique shops, restaurants and pot shops … lots of pot shops.

    A formerly local craft brewery opened a huge new brew house, with attached restaurant, within walking distance of our house … then immediately sold the business to Anheuser-Busch. New craft breweries and distilleries are opening up daily.

    So, a twofer for the Elites; make scads of money and enlarge your business empire, while keeping the peasants too sozzled with expensive alcohol, spirits and pot to contemplate revolution and revolt. And, when they lose their jobs they can revert to the cheaper prescription opioids, antidepressants and anti anxiety meds..

    Carrie Nation is twirling in her grave.

    Reply
    1. Ian

      How is pot entering the coversation in a negatve connotation as legalization has reduced opiote usage and there are indications it is reducing alchohal consumption. People need relief, whether it be for physical, mental trauma or just relaxing and marijuana is an excellent tool especially in contrast to the formentioned other drugs put forth in similar context. I dont like that big industry is taking over marijuana either, but its legalization is a net positive societally speaking.

      Reply
  15. Stupendous Man - Defender of Liberty, Foe of Tyranny

    This isn’t exactly on point.

    For years I’ve considered this required reading for anyone wanting to engage in meaningful discussion regarding drugs, illegal drugs, the war on drugs, addiction, etc.

    https://govtrack2010.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/aint-nobodys-business-if-you-do-the-absurdity-of-consensual-crimes-in-a-free-country-by-peter-mcwilliams.pdf

    The web site drugsense.org maintains a “Drug War Clock” that gives an estimate of the monies, both state and federal, spent on the war on drugs in the current year.

    http://www.drugsense.org/cms/wodclock

    Reply
  16. Mark C

    Two questions, the first rhetorical:

    Can anyone explain why the epidemic of opioid addiction is viewed as a product of economic and spiritual despair and a major public health crisis, but 30 years ago the epidemic of crack addiction was viewed as a product of a particular community’s moral failures and as a public safety issue best addressed by the criminal justice system? Why aren’t heroin dealers and addicts getting long prison sentences? The “scared straight”/cold turkey approach doesn’t work for heroin addiction? I’m sure the prison industrial system would be thrilled if heroin was viewed as the “new” crack.

    Second question: Can’t state attorneys general follow the model used to go after Big Tobacco for damages? Why don’t they file lawsuits against prescription opioid pharma manufacturers like McKesson and Purdue for the public health care costs incurred by opioid painkillers? I realize prescription opioids are usually just the “gateway” to heroin addiction, so maybe the legal precedent of the tobacco lawsuits does not apply here. Just curious if any lawyers can opine on whether this approach might work.

    Reply
    1. reslez

      Don’t know why your first question is rhetorical. I’ve read plenty of opinion pieces by conservatives arguing that the white underclass belongs to a pathological culture, that they aren’t willing to work because they’re lazy, would rather use drugs than work (for $9/hr for pitiless panoptimanical sadists), etc. And I’ve seen many remarks from liberals blaming rural whites for their predicaments followed by plenty of smug washing-of-hands because the dumb racists deserve it.

      Fixing this problem would cost rich people money. But there are plenty of social merit points to be gained blaming the powerless so let’s do that instead.

      Reply
      1. Eclair

        Thank you, reslez. Because of your brilliant characterization of many bosses as “pitiless panoptimanical sadists,” I can finally describe a boss I worked for, many decades ago, in a company that produced deadly missiles. Well, actually, the description fits a few other bosses I have had in the decades since then.

        Reply
  17. bmeisen

    2015 Germany
    total population 82,000,000 (including est. illegal immigrants)
    drug-related deaths 1226

    2015 USA
    total population 335,000,000 (including est. illegal immigrants)

    drug-related deaths 52,000 (33,000 opiate related)

    The rate in the USA is about 10x higher than in Germany.

    I think Germany has a health industry driven drug-abuse issue, i.e. a significant number of Germans are addicted to prescription non-opiate mood improvers and health “optimizers” e.g. laxatives with a little boost.

    Regarding opiate addiction I know of no jurisdiction in Germany that does not have a tolerance and counselling policy, i.e. junkies in general are not forced into hiding and crime. I would guess that most junkies in Germany have health coverage, very probably the public or “gesetzlich” coverage.

    All Germans are required to have health coverage. Either we buy it from for-profit “private” insurers or non-profit “gesetzlich” providers. Private insurers require a health screening before admission, charge more for existing conditions, and promise more personal, better care from physicians and hospitals becasue the pricing from private insurers is more attractive to care givers.

    Most Germans are in non-profit health cost sharing schemes where admission is blind and pricing less attractive to care givers. It is possible to stay under the radar and pay health costs yourself. Not easy becasue there are bureaucratic check-points, but I knew a gig-economy type who was winging it. No doubt some junkies are winging it. But part of the attraction of being a junkie in Germany is that you can be hooked over a long period and have health insurance, a little money (called Arbeitslosengeld II), an apartment and even a treatment program.

    There has been the criticism that if you make it attractive then the number of junkies will increase. But by tolerating and providing coverage junkies in Germany tend to be watched more or less carefully. The comparison with the USA proves that the approach here is working. An irony is that nobody in Germany really cares about a middle class housewife who is hooked on prescription laxative/boosters and has been for years.

    Reply
  18. Alex Morfesis

    It’s a racket…most of heroin comes from our little sandbox…Afghanistan…for less than 3 billion dollars per year we could buy up all the poppies the very religious(snark) muslims in Afghanistan(maybe we should call them haramis) can produce…

    But then all the horrid things people submit to in obtaining the heroin that eventually is beyond the financial capacity of most…Would go away and the pathetic klowns running things would not be able to enjoy the crippling effect on humans…

    We could outbid the drug dealers at the source and eliminate the vast majority of street crimes in this country…but that would remove the fear factor most people live with who don’t live in fortress communities…

    A racket…

    Reply
  19. Dean

    From where does big pharma source the primary ingredient for their legal pills? Same place as the illegal powder? Serious question.

    Reply
  20. Howard Beale IV

    Sorry to be the contrarian here, but I have a real problem labeling addiction as a disease-rather, addiction is a failure to live life on life’s terms. Before y’all start getting into my grill, I would urge you to look at the works of Lance Dodes, M.D. and Stanton Peele, Ph.D before you engage in discussion with me. Also, you might want to visit the notable Rat Park study as well. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. YankeeFrank

      “on life’s terms.”

      What does that even mean? That people should just shut up and take whatever misery the oligarchy imposes? Yeah, I remember, that sociopath Charlie Munger told us to “suck it up and cope” when he and his plutocrat buddies were bailed out with tens of trillions of taxpayer dollars.

      The oligarchs have made life in this country a living hell for the vast majority, and some of us are coming out in spots and you tell us to accept life on “its” terms as if its all part of god’s wonderful plan for us.

      Ironically, the “Rat Park” study you mention actually goes directly against your first point, such as it is. That study basically shows us that “its the environment we live in, stupid”. And who exactly is in control of, and shapes, that environment?

      Its easy to judge those who are having a hard time with life. For some reason I don’t think you’ve been personally dealt a bad hand to assert the oligarchy has no culpability in this epidemic.

      Oh, and btw, that movie wreaks of boomer self-involvement and self-righteousness. You are smug and arrogant. Two negative personality traits that lead to more stupidity than most others.

      Reply
      1. Art Eclectic

        Smug and arrogant applies to you as well, friend. Just because life hands you a shit sandwich doesn’t excuse you from anything. The same argument applies to guns, the guns aren’t the problem. Our culture of violence and glorification of it as a problem solver are the problem. The gun, much like hydrocodone and oxycodone, is just a tool.

        Take away the hydrocodone and oxycodone and the same people will just drink themselves to death. If you’re not going to take a long look at the culture of despair and why Rat Park is dead-on correct, you’ll just trade one way of slowly killing yourself for another.

        The working class (of all colors) are living in a spiral of despair that cannot be stopped. We will never return to the types of employment that allowed the working class to have a decent place to live and a future for their children. Build all the walls you want, shut down every last bit of immigration. Automation and robotics will keep eating away at jobs up and down the food chain, that ship has sailed. We’ve already arrived at The Hunger Games, only it’s hunger for meaning, for place, for hope. It’s hunger for being useful in a world that no longer has any use for a large number of people.

        Taking away the hydrocodone and oxycodone won’t solve that problem.

        Reply
        1. Synoia

          The same argument applies to guns, the guns aren’t the problem.

          Really? Tell that to the UK where guns are and have been unavailable for generations.

          Then look at the murder rate.

          Reply
    2. Mark S.

      Yeah HB4, please be careful with that. If an addict or alcoholic in recovery uses the concept of “life on life’s terms” as a reframe to inform coping with life without their substance, it can be a wonderful tool. Otherwise, it’s a form of “Let them eat cake.”

      Reply
  21. patrick

    I would like to see a list of the major stock holders/ beneficiaries of these killer companies. Pharma, military, energy, prison related stuff etc.This list would include their children’s and grandchildren’s names. Inherited wealth, like religion, poisons everything (most of the time).

    Reply
  22. Andrew Foland

    A few days ago there was an article about specific pharmacies in WV that had absurdly high sales of opioids.

    There’s a 0% chance the pharma district sales guy didn’t know exactly which pharmacies those were, and why. And 0% chance his boss didn’t know.

    It would seem there are little fish here ripe to be squeezed to get info on the higher ups, if the DA had the will and minimal competence.

    You only have to think of the “muppets” email from the financial crisis to understand that they aren’t evil geniuses running these things, merely evil. If you can make it to discovery I bet the emails will be all sorts of damning.

    Reply
    1. bob

      “There’s a 0% chance the pharma district sales guy didn’t know exactly which pharmacies those were, and why. And 0% chance his boss didn’t know.”

      So true. Anyone who knows anything about pharma sales and marketing know this. They know EXACTLY what they are sending where, and are counting the days until they are allowed to claim their cut (sales bonus) from the Upstanding Legal Billionaires cartel.

      Reply
  23. Davidt

    The penalty for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico should be compared to the drug companies’ fine for lying about the addictive qualities of Oxycontin. BP’s fine was based on “correcting” the damage done. Why was the drug companies’ fines and punishment comparable?

    The criminal activity that results from being an addict is a direct result of the fact that the drug is illegal and the addiction drive the addicted to do things in the beginning they know are wrong.
    Like Pavlov’s dog the addiction “trains” the addicted to do anything (criminal activity) to get the drug.

    In other countries where the drug is legal there are not the “cravings trained” criminal activities to afford the drugs and the user leads a more or less normal life when viewed by society.

    Reply

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