The US has been waging a war against drugs for half a century, viewing drug addiction as a criminal phenomenon instead of a health issue, therefore no headway has been made in curbing the US opioid crisis, an American analyst says.
The so-called ‘War on Drugs’ refers to a US government campaign launched during the administration of former President Richard Nixon, which included the prohibition of drugs and military intervention, with the stated aim being to reduce the illegal drug trade.
The United States leads the world in both recreational drug usage and incarceration rates. Many experts believe that the War on Drugs has been costly and ineffective largely because inadequate emphasis is placed on treatment of addiction.
The current opioid epidemic in the United States has multiple reasons, among them the excess prescription of pain killers, which in turn contribute to an increase in pharmaceutical financial gains, said Keith Preston, chief editor of AttacktheSystem.com.
“People become addicted to pharmaceutical drugs when undergoing medical treatment, and then because of the addiction they develop they can’t stop the habit, so when their medical treatment is over with, and they are cut off [from] their drug supply then they start buying prescription drugs off the street that are sold on the illegal market and often they will switch to heroin because heroin is actually cheaper than prescription opiods,” Preston said in an interview with Press TV on Wednesday
“So we have now this wave of heroin addicts as well as people who are addicted to prescription opioids as well,” he added.
Preston said the Trump administration’s approach to the drug crisis is encouraging in the sense that it has not recommended the escalation of the war on drugs and instead has taken a non-criminal approach to the crisis recognizing the crisis is more of a health issue.
“There may be some signs of a turning of the tides there,” he said.
The White House Council of Economic Advisers said Monday that the true cost of the opioid epidemic in 2015 was $504 billion, more than six times the most recent estimate.
The council said a 2016 private study estimated that prescription opioid overdose, abuse and dependence cost $78.5 billion in the US in 2013.
Most of that expense was attributed to health care and criminal justice spending, along with lost productivity.
US President Donald Trump said Monday at a cabinet meeting in the White House that the "opioid epidemic that is ravaging so many American families and communities" would be among topics for discussion.
Last month, Trump declared the US drug crisis a “public health emergency.” He also announced an advertising campaign to combat the epidemic, but did not direct any new federal funding toward the effort.
Opioids are drugs formulated to replicate the pain reducing properties of opium. They include both legal painkillers like morphine, oxycodone, or hydrocodone prescribed by doctors for acute or chronic pain, as well as illegal drugs like heroin or illicitly made fentanyl.
The word "opioid" is derived from the word "opium."
US government and healthcare officials have been struggling to stem the epidemic of overdoses, which killed more than 64,000 Americans last year alone, up from 52,000 the previous year. More than half were related to opioids.