Opioids are narcotics used for pain relief and for their euphoric effects. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are three types of opioids: prescription, fentanyl, and heroin: Prescription opioids can be prescribed by doctors to treat moderate to severe pain, but can also have serious risks and side effects. Common types are oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine, and methadone. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever. It is many times more powerful than other opioids and is approved for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain. Illegally made and distributed fentanyl has been on the rise in several states. Heroin is an illegal opioid. Heroin use has increased
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Opioids are narcotics used for pain relief and for their euphoric effects.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are three types of opioids: prescription, fentanyl, and heroin:
Prescription opioids can be prescribed by doctors to treat moderate to severe pain, but can also have serious risks and side effects. Common types are oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine, and methadone.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever. It is many times more powerful than other opioids and is approved for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain. Illegally made and distributed fentanyl has been on the rise in several states.
Heroin is an illegal opioid. Heroin use has increased across the U.S. among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), there is an opioid epidemic in the United States. In 2018:
- 130 people died every day from opiod-related drug overdoses
- 47,600 people died from overdosing on opioids
- 81,000 people used heroin for the first time
- 2 million people misused prescription opioids for the first time
- 32,656 deaths attributed to overdosing on synthetic opioids other than methadone
- 10.3 million people misused prescription opioids
- 2 million people had an opioid use disorder
- 808,000 people used heroin
- 15,349 deaths attributed to overdosing on heroin
And how did this epidemic come about? According to HHS:
In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to opioid pain relievers and healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates.
Increased prescription of opioid medications led to widespread misuse of both prescription and non-prescription opioids before it became clear that these medications could indeed be highly addictive.
In 2017, HHS declared a public health emergency and announced a 5-point strategy to combat the opioid crisis:
- Improve access to prevention, treatment, and recovery support services
- Target the availability and distribution of overdose-reversing drugs
- Strengthen public health data reporting and collection
- Support cutting-edge research on addiction and pain
- Advance the practice of pain management
Government attempts to combat the opioid epidemic are doomed to fail. Nowhere on the CDC or HHS websites are opioid users said to be responsible for their actions. If only the government, society, the medical community, and mental health professionals did more of this or that, tried this or that, or had more money to do either, then we would not have such an opioid epidemic in the United States.
Purdue Pharma, the maker of the popular opioid OxyContin, filed for bankruptcy protection last month after the filing of more than 2,600 lawsuits alleging the company helped fuel the opioid epidemic. The states are salivating over the prospects of getting billions of dollars from the company.
And it’s not just Purdue Pharma that is under attack, “big pharma” and the physicians who prescribe its drugs are increasingly being made out to be monsters.
Now, I am no fan of the pharmaceutical industry, and I stay away from doctors as much as possible. But whatever their share of the blame for the opioid epidemic, there is someone that I never hear blamed for being addicted to or overdosing on opioids: the opioid user.
Drug users are ultimately responsible for the negative consequences of their actions.
I write often about the evils of the government’s war on drugs. Throughout all of my articles I make clear the libertarian position on the drug war:
There should be no laws at any level of government for any reason regarding the buying, selling, growing, processing, transporting, manufacturing, advertising, using, or possessing of any drug for any reason.
It is not the proper role of government to prohibit, regulate, restrict, or otherwise control what a man desires to eat, drink, smoke, inject, absorb, snort, sniff, inhale, swallow, or otherwise ingest into his mouth, nose, veins, or lungs.
The war on drugs should and could be ended immediately and completely. All drug laws should be repealed, all non-violent drug offenders should be pardoned and released from prison, and all government agencies devoted to fighting the drug war should be eliminated.
There should be a free market in drugs without any government interference, regulation, taxing, or licensing.
But with freedom comes responsibility.
Just because libertarians believe that “illegal” drugs should be legal, doesn’t mean that we believe that these drugs are harmless, beneficial, safe, or healthy. To the contrary, they may be addictive, dangerous, destructive, or deadly. Using drugs may ruin you financially and cost you your health, your mind, your job, your status, your reputation, your family, your friends, or your life.
But whatever the negative consequences of using drugs, there is one person who is ultimately responsible for whatever happens to him: the drug user.
In a free society, individuals, not government bureaucrats, decide what risks they are willing to take and what behaviors are in their own best interests. A free society has to include the right of people to take risks, practice bad habits, partake of addictive conduct, engage in self-destructive behavior, live an unhealthy lifestyle, participate in immoral activities, and undertake dangerous actions—including the use and abuse of drugs.
But then they are responsible for their choices and actions. State and local governments shouldn’t be spending one penny on any drug user’s drug-related medical treatment. If you overdose on OxyContin, fentanyl, heroin, or any other drug, then you pay the hospital bill—if you make it to the hospital. If you need a clean needle, then you pay the bill. If you need help getting off drugs, then you pay the bill. With freedom comes responsibility. You are ultimately responsible.