‘Did the war on drugs create the opioid crisis?’ – Brad Waltz

By now most all of us know of someone affected by the use of heroin. There is no question that every story surrounding its use is a sad one. This article is by no means meant to distract from or to minimize that.

So, we have a opioid epidemic. It’s on the nightly news, well nightly. Mike DeWine is making a gubernatorial run in Ohio based on the tragedies. Congress in late 2016 passed the Cures Act; in it $1 billion is set aside to fight the epidemic over the next two years. The latest Senate Healthcare bill sets aside a massive $45 billion over the next ten years. The money will be used to, among other things, “Encourage the use of additional drug courts.” To, “Work to expand same day services for recovery from substance use disorders and co-occurring related disorders.” So, plainly this must truly be an epidemic. Here are how the numbers shake out.

  • According to the CDC, annually 480,000 people die from the effects of cigarette smoking. I’ve no idea the CDC’s methods of tabulating this. I suspect the numbers are a bit fudged to warrant an anti-smoking campaign slush fund.
  • Annually 88,000 die in alcohol related deaths.
  • Car crashes account for (in 2016) 37,757 deaths
  • 55,000 die annually (on average) from the flu
  • In 2013, 31,959 people died the result of stumbling. This number is expected to grow as our life expectancies continue to rise.

So, I ask you, the reader. How many people died from heroin overdoses in 2016? How many people dying (again sadly) warrant more federal power, more taxpayer money- to the tune of $4.5 billion per year, over twice the entire federal budget of Greenland? Must be over a 100,000 right? Or is it more? The Federal government has done nothing in terms of an outright ban on tobacco products and it kills, according to the government- nearly a half million people a year. Granted they tend to be older than the typical overdose from heroin death but the heroin overdose death total must be on par with a legal product like tobacco to warrant such funding and attention. Have your number?
12,989. Now, granted, that is just heroin overdoses. Another 9,580 died from the use of fentanyl and another 17,536 from Oxycodone and Vicodin. In total around 40,000, 15,000 less than die from the flu. 8,000 less than tripped to death.

I’m not sure .012% of the population succumbing to an addiction is a textbook definition of an epidemic, I’d prefer the term power grab, an excuse for government to further fund itself. Regardless, what is the solution? I don’t claim to have that answer. I will give you some more numbers.

  • One million doses of morphine is so large a pallet can be used for transportation. One million doses of fentanyl can fit in an eye glass case or shoebox.
  • Raw fentanyl (most likely imported from China) sells for $12,500/kilo. One kilo of fentanyl will make one million tablets of product and one tablet sells for $20.00. That comes to $20,000,000 per shoebox.

There is a huge profit to be made in these opioids, the product isn’t going anywhere. And given the above numbers, maybe back in the 80’s Milton Friedman was correct when he said of the War on Drugs, It has incentivized dealers and users to make ever more powerful drugs to reduce their size, for ease of transport and concealment both for the dealer and the end user. Because either way the government is going to lock you up and treat you as a criminal. The crime being selling something government doesn’t think you should sell. Even though they have been powerless for decades to prevent the free flow of illicit drugs, like a rabid dog they won’t let go. They will lock you in prison, takes your things and give you a criminal record. It doesn’t want you to ruin your own life; it wants to do it for you. So to avoid government, drugs got smaller and more powerful.

Now we are at the point with fentanyl, a product so powerful, an amount equal to two grains of salt can kill a non-user. Two grains of salt for a user is a “good high”, four grains and the user is dead. Try shaking 2 grains of salt on your popcorn instead of four.

Did the war on drugs create the opioid crisis? I don’t know. I do know that the war has resulted in a police state where there is virtually no such thing as privacy from ne’er-do-well government enforcers. Now the United States has become the most incarcerated nation in the world both in terms of the percent of population and in actual numbers. 1 in 5 inmates is in a man cage for a drug offense, an otherwise victimless crime. Is legalization the answer? I don’t know with certainty, but maybe it isn’t the business of government. Maybe in a supposed free country free people can do with their bodies as they choose. And when they get themselves addicted instead of the leaky bucket that is government, charitable organizations and churches can set up clinics. They could certainly do it far more effectively and cheaper than the proposed $112,500 per overdose over the next ten years that the government has planned.

I don’t know the answer, but on the same trajectory there will never be a large enough government. One trillion dollars has been spent since the War on Drugs began. This good money after bad will certainly do little to cut back on illicit drug use and do plenty do grow the size and scope of government and it’s endless encroachments. And if .012% of the population dying as the result of their own behavior warrants $4.5 billion spent per year? How much more will be needed when it is discovered $112,500 per death does nothing to curb the deaths and the dollar spent per death begins to drop? How much will be enough? How much more freedom and liberty will be taken, not just from users, but from a nation. A nation burdened already by edicts, government encroachment and taxation.

Lastly, watch where you’re walking, come on people!

Brad Waltz
Bowling Green