A good friend of mines son named Jacob died recently. He was only 20.
He injected heroin into his veins and died a few hours later.
He was a good kid. I liked him. I had not seen him in a years but I had met when he was a boy. He was a sweet person. He was one of those adorable kids you remember because of the goodness that oozes out of them.
He went to school, had a job and a girlfriend. And like most of us he was trying to better his lot in life. From what I understand he did not have a drug problem but did use drugs recreationally.
On this one instance, his occasional drug use cost him his life. His parents and friends will forever be saddened by this needless loss of life.
When I was in my teens, the recreational drugs that circulated were marijuana and some times cocaine. That was about it, because that was about the only thing that was accessible.
But as I have gotten older, it seems the amount of drugs available have skyrocketed. I would argue that it all changed in the late 1990’s with a change in the law.
If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that I write quite a bit about politics, because even the slightest changes in the law affect us all. Even though you might think changes in laws don’t affect you, they inevitably do.
I believe the genesis of the heroin boom began in the late 1990’s when drug companies were given the green light to start making new pain medication drugs. At the time, there were no real alternatives for patients who suffered from chronic pain. That is not to say there was no pain medications available, but there was not enough variety for the many ailments people suffered from. Some long time pain sufferers had no real recourse to alleviate their suffering and had lived it with it for years.
Lawmakers had been reluctant to open up the markets for new pain killing medicines as they were worried about the real possibility of an increase in drug addiction. But given the pressure by their constituents and the drug companies, a new industry was created.
One of the drugs that hit the markets in the mid 90’s was Oxycontin an opioid type medication similar to heroin. Both drugs are chemically similar, they are equally addictive, and both drugs are considered very difficult to withdraw from. Yet one was legal.
Drug companies and doctors benefited immensely by prescribing OxyContin as there was lots of money to be made. But there was a nasty side effect to the business, the patients got addicted. Doctors were happy to prescribe them to a point but once they started noticing that there patients were now addicts they had to cut them off. Doctors liked the money but were smart enough to know that they could lose their license if they started prescribing too much of it.
Desperate for their fix, the patients started buying the drugs in the black market and in Florida, pill mills started popping up to fill the need. A pill mill is an operation in which a doctor, clinic or pharmacy pre- scribes and/or dispenses narcotics without a legitimate medical purpose. These doctors used their pre-scription pads to flood their communities with illegal narcotics.
These mills started booming all over Florida and became the epi-center for the drug trade. Patients, now cut off from their doctors found ample supplies through these pill mills. And when the addicts could no longer afford them they turned to heroin for their fix. Given the similar nature between these two drugs, the heroin market took off.
Clearly taking a pill is preferable to the alternative of heroin which is injected by a needle into the vein, but given that heroin is cheaper, people flocked to heroin. For example an 80 mg OxyContin can cost $60 to $100 a pill. In contrast, heroin costs about $45 to $60 for a multiple-dose supply. So many normal people” would never would have thought of injecting something onto their veins began to do so regularly did so because of their addiction and the cheapness of heroin.
Unlike Oxytocin where the doses and amounts are closely monitored, heroin is unregulated and manufactured in the black market. So when someone injects heroin into their veins, that person is literally in the hands of the drug dealer who made that batch. Growing up it was unheard of anybody who did heroin. It was the stuff of the hard drug users. But not anymore. Heroin has come to middle America. This is how a sweet kid, from a solid family with good economic prospects ends up killing himself. He used heroin because it is cheap and available and widely used as a drug of choice for many now. The stigma of heroin now longer exists.
This is how a change in law from 20 years ago can have major consequences many year later It was widely reported that during Donald Trumps campaign, he was astonished by the amount of people that came up to him asking for help to solve the scourge of heroin. Drug use was not one of his main policy points but given the amount of sad stories he heard, he actually began to address this issues at many of his stops.
Now with marijuana being made legal in many states, who knows what future awaits us twenty years down the line. Living in Texas I have meet many recent Colorado transplants who have told me the main reason for leaving the state was the widespread use of marijuana. So we have already begun to see people take action due to this new law.
Right now, 3,999 American children die every month from an accidental overdose of heroin. That’s right, 129 people a day die from an overdose. This is the impact of laws. This is the impact of politics and this is how one change in law can affect us all.
Rest in peace Jacob. You will be missed.