Donald Trump declared opioids a national health emergency – but did so two days after his Secretary of HHS said that it was premature to do so. An administration about-face which raises questions about Trump’s sincerity – if Trump’s lack of follow through on everything wasn’t already enough to cause doubt.

Add in the fact that the week so far has been dominated by Trump’s ad-libbed North Korean policy – where he presents himself as a madman with his finger on the nuclear button – and cynics will say his drug war declaration gives him an excuse to talk about something else.

For once, everyone would like the President to show a commitment to something beyond his twitter feed, polls, and Fox News. But we shall have to see if opioids focus his attention as nothing else has done so far.

The heroin/synthetic heroin epidemic is killing people. But we haven’t been taking it seriously. In the states, Governors showed concern. But federally, Jeff Sessions prioritized pot.

Part of the problem is our understanding of addiction. Many believe it is a sign of weakness or a moral failing. They pooh-pooh the idea that it is a disease. In their philosophy, if people would only get a grip, show some balls and face up to their problems, they would be able to shake the monkey off their back.

Many of the sanctimonious preachers of self-control are oblivious to irony. Frequently, these tut-tutters are alcoholics, smokers, and overeaters. And among those are many who have repeatedly sworn to quit their vice – but failed. As Steven McCovey observed, “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior”.

And that’s not all. Whites characterized drug addiction as a ‘minority’ problem. It was something that blacks and Hispanics did. Think not? Consider the glamor of cocaine vs. the scourge of crack. Suburban Prozac versus urban heroin.

And so it was no surprise that the ‘remedy’ to drug addiction was more law enforcement. And border walls. And mandatory sentences. With rehabilitation an after-thought. Nixon – and does Trump want the comparison – declared a ‘War on Drugs’. The efficacy of which can be shown by our burgeoning opioid problem.

Finally, the powers that be have noticed that white kids from ‘good’ families are OD’ing. As well as actors like Philip Seymour Hoffman. And stars like Prince. Opioid deaths are no longer the grubby secret of the underclass and inner-city.

We’ve seen the like before. In the 1980s, AIDS was first thought of as something that happened to homosexuals – indeed it was originally called GRID, ‘Gay Related Immune Deficiency’. But then came Ryan White – and the realization that 13-year-old boys and blood transfusion recipients could get it – and it wasn’t called the ‘gay disease’ anymore.

When Rock Hudson, Liberace, Freddy Mercury and Halston died, AIDS was given a universal human face. Gays were legends and major stars – not just disposable rent boys and hedonistic bath-house habitués from San Francisco. And then came Arthur Ashe and Magic Johnson – and AIDS among blacks was no longer anonymous and ignorable.

The good news is that public opinion demanded that we do something. And now HIV is often reduced to a managed chronic condition, as opposed to a death sentence. After all, Magic Johnson is still alive. And hopefully, we will soon see opiate addiction treated with the same seriousness – without the moral baggage – and with an equally salubrious outcome.


Why Are We Addicted to Treating Addiction as a Crime?

March 20, 2017

What would be the best way to solve addiction in this country? You don’t know the answer? Or do you have the wrong answer? You are not alone. The architects of the “War on Drugs” are equally ignorant. A century ago we decided that drug addiction is a crime. Which is an odd – and unique […]

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The FIFA Scandal Shows that Loosening Financial Regulation Is A Gift to Bankers.

May 30, 2015

“A criminal remains a criminal whether he uses a convict’s suit or a monarch’s crown.” ― Victor Hugo It is said that the only things we can be sure of are death and taxes – let’s add cheating, and take a good look at taxes. Almost every week some business pleads ‘no contest’ to some […]

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For Bigotry to Flourish, Its Victims Must Be Stripped of their Humanity

May 16, 2015

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view — until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Harper Lee – ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. Racism, xenophobia, and other bigotry are easy when you do not see people as individuals – but only as part of a […]

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Really? 5.13.15 – Denominals; Pot, Evolution & the Duggars; Iowa; Books & Bombers.

May 12, 2015

“People are never so completely and enthusiastically evil as when they act out of religious conviction” ― Umberto Eco. A ‘denominal’ is a verb that has been formed from a noun. This headline has an example: “Idaho teacher wishes someone would ‘Ray Rice’ non-Mormon who wants to be school president.” She has cleverly taken the […]

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Will Cell Phones Change Police Culture?

April 11, 2015

“Facts are stubborn things, and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence” ― John Adams. The Walter Scott shooting may turn out to be a watershed moment in American policing. Unlike the Michael Brown killing, there is video. And unlike […]

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For-Profit Punishment. Making Money From Misery.

March 26, 2015

“Criminals do not die by the hands of the law. They die by the hands of other men” ― George Bernard Shaw One of the best-known – and most misunderstood – legal admonishments in the Bible is Matthew 5:38 “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” Law and order types take […]

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Really? – 2.17.15. – Ignorance shouldn’t be contagious; Is money drowning politics?; Heroin’s new geography; Dr. Strangelove resurfaces in Arkansas.

February 16, 2015

Ignorance is a celebration. Anti-intellectualism is a badge worn by conservatives with pride. How many politicos do we need to hear say “I’m not a scientist” without consulting a scientist, before we suspect that ignorance is their shield? Kanye West has added his voice. I do not know West’s politics, but he is a soul mate […]

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The Stupidity of Supply-Siders.

October 14, 2014

“When a management with a reputation for brilliance tackles a business with a reputation for bad economics, it is usually the reputation of the business that remains intact.” – Warren Buffet. Life is full of transactions between those who have stuff – and those who want stuff. In economic terms, deals are struck between suppliers and […]

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