You are really missing my point here, you seem to think that I’m casting moral judgment on people who use opiates, and I’m not doing that. I literally decried the exact thing you’re accusing me of.
What I take issue with is people minimizing the risk when it is very real. Those deceased friends? Both started with legally prescribed, FDA-approved opiates. They were both addicts, and never would have been if they hadn’t been prescribed excessively powerful drugs to mitigate the pain from their health conditions. One of them died from an accidental overdose caused by an opiate-induced lapse of memory, the other died because he became heavily addicted on prescribed drugs, and ended up moving to heroin because they couldn’t afford the legally prescribed medications anymore.
I am in favor of harm reduction, needle exchanges, maintenance therapy, physician-assisted cessation, and even controlled administration for highly resistant cases. Giving addicts a safe, clean place to go, where they can use under controlled conditions without risk of arrest is ultimately a good thing.
Your replies seem to suggest that you think that I’m advocating for harsher penalties, and that is absolutely not the case, and I really don’t understand where you got the idea that I was. I am, as I have been from the beginning, speaking as an advocate for the people struggling with addiction, the first sentence of my post that started all of this:
I wonder sometimes if the biggest motivator that people have for treating addicts like shit is that it’s a category of people that they can irrationally hate with little risk of judgment from others.
I am lambasting people who cast moral judgment on what is ultimately a medical issue, and trying to warn people that virtually no opiates are “safe.” Virtually any one of them (loperamide doesn’t pass the blood/brain barrier in meaningful amounts, so it isn’t a risk) can result in addiction so people need to be well-informed about those risks and if they are prescribed medications, they not only need to follow the dosage guidelines, but they should question whether or not the dose is too high. A big part of how we got into this mess was because pharmaceutical companies in the 1990’s lobbied the government and engaged in a massive marketing push to convince people that opiate painkillers are safer than they actually are. There is a massive over prescription problem in the US, with some states like Arkansas, Indiana, and West Virginia actually having more opiate prescriptions written per year than there are people in the state. We’re talking like 110 prescriptions per 100 people, those numbers are absolutely outrageous.
The thing that I’m taking issue with is people downplaying the threat that opiates pose to your well-being. I’m not saying they should be banned, but I am suggesting that people be very, very careful when dealing with long-term use of prescribed opiates because that is a common vector toward abuse.
I took objection to a comment that seemed to downplay the horror of addiction by talking about the fact that some people can be completely addicted to opiates, or any drug really, and lead apparently normal lives. I know enough living addicts to know that, yes, on the surface that appears to be the case, but that’s just superficial. Being an addict isn’t fun, it’s a scary and depressing thing. Even if you can maintain the trappings of a “normal” life, you’re still under the control of a substance that dictates where you can go and when, leaves you up at night worrying about running out and not being able to find/afford more, not to mention the immense amount of guilt that addicts have been told they should feel.
Roughly 30% of people who are prescribed opiates abuse them. About twelve percent of those people develop a problem. 80% of heroin addicts start by misusing prescribed drugs. I live in the Midwest, and we saw a 70% increase in overdoses between July 2016 and July 2017.
So it’s great that you had a positive outcome, and I’m genuinely happy for you, but whether you realize it or not, the things you’re saying aren’t going to amount to any good outcome. It’s not that I don’t believe you, it’s that I’m more concerned about the people reading it who have opiate problems that they’re still in denial about. People in that situation, and there are many, tend to hang on tightly to anything that helps delay the inevitable realization that they have a problem. They read things like your post and say, “well yeah, I’m like that guy, I can stop any time.” Some people can, but a really depressing number of people can’t.
I was on a long-term opiate prescription too, as well as a long-term amphetamine prescription. I didn’t have a lot of trouble quitting either of them, but that’s immaterial because lots of other people do. Tens of thousands of people die every year from overdoses, the fact that you or I didn’t develop a serious problem doesn’t change the fact that lots of other people do. I’m not condemning anyone (apart from judgmental people who assume that addicts are bad people, or who feel justified in treating them like garbage) I’m condemning what I see as the irresponsible diminution of of a very real and serious risk.
I’m strongly in favor of decriminalization, harm reduction, and medically-supervised use for people who simply cannot quit, but they’re not the people I’m talking to or about. The people I’m talking to, the people that I’m trying to warn, are the people who aren’t knowingly addicts, and who are under the mistaken assumption that prescription opiates are “safe” because they came from a pharmaceutical company, when that is simply not the case. That’s a massively pervasive misconception, and it has created situations like nearly 3% of high school seniors have experimented with Oxycontin, and that number jumps up to 7.1% for people between the ages of 18-25.
Your anecdote is nice, but the reality of my situation is that I carry Naloxone in my car in case I get a panicked phone call from someone too scared to call 911. It wouldn’t be the first time. My point is, opiates are more dangerous than most people often realize, that addicts are just people with an illness and should not be villified, and that anyone who has been prescribed an opiate should take exercise extreme care.
So what exactly is the point that you’re trying to make? That not everybody develops a problem? Big damned deal, it doesn’t change the fact that a huge number of people do, nor does it change the fact that opiates aren’t dangerous.