“I’ve seen the needle and the damage done” sings Neil Young. We can relate to that verse. Due to overdoses, A whole generation of young men and women are dead, dying, lost. I have lost so many family members and friends to this insidious disease. Collectively, we shed a sacred river of tears. Today, I thought of the congregation of friends and family who have succumbed to addiction.
When it comes to a social issue that has resulted in the death of some of the kindest, loving, and gentle souls whose acquaintance I was blessed to make, I am duty bound to ask why this epidemic has gotten so out of control–I am duty bound to research and explore, and find some answers.
And I’m not writing this article for MD’s and PhD’s (yet they should not consider this a snub, and, if solicitous of the research, should continue reading). I am writing this for you: the addict, the addict’s friend, the addict’s family member. And if I start to lose your attention because of my choice of words or my citing of research, please be confident that in the end, you will understand what I have to say.
Please believe in your ability to produce a positive change in society. Your questions, answers, and experiences matter to me, and matter to the lives you spare when your share your story of how faith, hope, and love saved your life and ordained you with a serenity that a superficial high just cannot compare to.
Always remember what our goal is here: we are trying to figure out why all our friends are dying to a vicious disease–a disease that, if we’re being honest, wants to kill me, wants to kill your loved ones, or wants to kill you.
Already some of you have open-and-closed my research. “Addiction is a progressive disease that if left untreated results in death.” I agree with that statement, and so doesn’t the American Medical Association. But addiction is not a unique psychological illness. There are social/environmental causes that precipitates the disease.
One need only compare the rates of addiction in The United States with that of other countries.
It is highly unlikely that everyone with the biological trait that makes addiction more probable, somehow ended up in the United States.
Something precipitates addiction in American society, whether it is political or sociological/social psychological. There is an anomaly in the United States that leads to the highest rates of addiction in the world. The answers to the question, “Why have I lost so many people to this disease?” is closer to being answered when we discover these anomalies.
Let’s take a look at the political anomalies. The United States has a political system that requires candidates to consistently raise money. A congressperson is required to raise $15,000 a week to hold on to his or her seat. That money is not coming from you or me. It is coming from the pharmaceutical lobby. (Aliyah Frumin, “How much does it cost to win a seat in Congress? Well, if you have to ask…” Hardball with Chris Matthews. MSNBC. Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.com/hardball/how-much-does-it-cost-win-seat-congre Accessed on 17 August 17)
So far this year, the lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry have spent $1,657,260,107 on bribing your federally elected representatives to pass laws that benefit the pharmaceutical industry (retrieved from OpenSecrets.org on 9 March 2017).
Money has a harmful influence on our government, but senators like Senator John McCain witnessed the greed and harm that infected our federally elected politicians. Senator McCain pushed for limits on the amount of money special interests could donate (or legally bribe) to our elected representatives. With Senator Feingold, he promulgated legislation that would limit soft money contributions to campaigns.
The conservative Supreme Court’s Decision in the Citizens United v. The FEC now allows corporations to donate limitless amounts of cash to Super PAC’s. Super PAC’s ostensibly do not coordinate with campaigns, but folks with no official role in the campaign act as the mediators between the campaigns and their Super PAC’s. After the nomination process the DNC and RNC act as the mediators. Essentially, since Citizens United, bribery of federal officials is a legal act.
Why is this important to the issue of addiction? The money donated to campaigns by Purdue Pharma, for example, have had devastating affects on the opiate epidemic. Purdue Pharma, “greased the wheel” for FDA approval. And at the time, there were no laws prohibiting companies like Purdue Pharma from enticing doctors and medical professionals from prescribing certain drugs. In Democracy’s Edge, Frances Moore Lappé writes:
…consider that throughout the 1990’s, pharmaceutical manufacturers poured more than $108 million into campaigns for federal candidates and their parties while the Food and Drug administration approved twice as many drugs in half the time it used to take to review them…hundreds of people have died while taking drugs that were later pulled from the market.
– Lappé, Frances Moore. Democracy’s Edge. Jossey-Bass. 2006. p. 59
The 90’s was the OxyContin Era. It led many people to heroin, and heroin has led to fentanyl–an opiate 100% stronger than morphine.
Did the prescribing Doctor tell people how addictive OxyContin is and how tolerance increases, which requires one to take a higher quantity to feel the same effect? It is doubtful. These drugs were pushed on medical professionals by pharmaceutical industries. According to Forbes Magazine:
The FDA approved the medication in 1995 and it soon took off. By 2003 OxyContin sales hit $1.6 billion as the drug helped drive a huge nationwide spike in opioid prescribing. At its peak in 2012, doctors wrote more than 282 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers, including OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet – nearly enough for every American to have a bottle. (Chase Peterson-Withorn, “Fortune of Family Behind OxyContin” Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/chasewithorn/2016/06/29/fortune-of-family-behind-oxycontin-drops-amid-declining-prescriptions/ accessed on 9 August 2017)
Let’s discuss the corrosive proclivities that exist in the social psychological make up of American society–a pervasive sense of hopelessness in the souls of most American addicts presupposes a sort spiritual malady. The genesis of this spiritual malady begins at a young age. We are exposed to commercials and advertisements that darken our souls with the belief that happiness is an external search. We seek money and material goods more than we seek peace, happiness and serenity, which can only be found in the deepest recesses of our minds.
The Jesuits at BC High taught me that happiness requires that we commit acts of justice–we must be “men for others”. And I never feel more fulfilled while engaging in acts of justice–particularly social justice.
And acts of economic justice are necessary to combat the socioeconomic factor in the addiction epidemic. Neoliberalism began with Reagan, and continued with Clintons and the DLC who sought to turn the Democratic Party into a fiscally conservative party.
The middle class has slowly disappeared. No jobs, the inability to take care of one’s family, the rampant hopelessness, all lead to drug use. (Carl Latkin, PhD.; Aaron Curry, PhD; Wei Hua, MD, MS; Melissa Davey MPH, CHES; “Direct and Indirect Associations of Neighborhood Disorder with Drug Use and High Risk Sexual Partners” American Journal of Preventative Medicine Vol. 32 Issue 6 (2007) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0749379707001110 Accessed on 16 August 17
The United Nations has been able to quantify the happiness of each country. The countries that are the most happy are Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Switzerland. What do these countries have in common: universal healthcare, union membership of 80-90%, free day care, good schools, lack of corruption in business and governance. (Retrieved from http://worldhappiness.report/ed/2017/) Essentially these countries learned–a long time ago, at around the same time we were unlearning it–that the economic power of the United States came from the strength of the middle class created by the Keynesian economic model. FDR used this model as the basis for promulgating social security and medicare.
Our friends that have succumbed to this diabolical disease are not just the victims of their genetic make up. They are the victims of a society the values money and materialism over human life. Our society is based on the lie that materialism and self-interest are the traditional traits of American Society. This is an egregious lie.