Workers Vanguard No. 1092

1 July 2016


On Opioids and Addiction


3 June 2016

I appreciated your article on “Capitalist Misery and Heroin Addiction” [WV No. 1089, 6 May]. Among harm reductionists, it is believed that drug use is an informed and deserved choice made by adults; often it is not negative. Still, many will say they are medicating problems caused by the material world they exist in. Your article covered many of the ways the state punishes people for this, but I would like to mention a few more.

Aside from the criminalization of drug use itself, capitalism harbors many inhumane treatments of drug users. Naloxone, a drug that reverses opioid overdoses and saves lives, ranges from unavailable to illegal in much of the country. Despite the fact that it has no pleasurable or “abusable” effects, law makers avoid the topic until it becomes favorable among affluent white communities. As you noted, America has no issue vilifying poor black drug users. It takes the addition of white youth fatalities to make politicians care.

Good Samaritan laws, which provide legal protection for persons involved in overdose situations after calling 911, are also side stepped despite the fact that their only consequence would be the saving of countless lives. Instead people are left trapped between fear of imprisonment and death.

Access to syringes is yet another way that drug users could be assisted. Using cleans stops transmission of HIV and HCV (Hepatitis C), and lessens issues like abscesses and blood infections. The Center for Disease Control has officially stated that needle exchanges are effective and beneficial, yet they still remain illegal in many places. Even when they are legalized, many places see a high demand but absolutely no funding. Instead, opposing politicians claim that access to sterile supplies encourages criminal behavior. Injection drug users [IDUs] are left to fend for themselves.

While HIV treatment has progressed slowly over time, issues like intentional exposure laws criminalize infected persons. Those who have HCV (well over half of long term IDUs) face plenty of barriers for accessing treatment. There is a safe and highly effective cure, but funding for it can be difficult and many health care practitioners are poorly informed. HCV is viewed as a disease incurred by one’s own immoral choices, so it is not a priority. If a person can find a doctor and funding, insurance programs in most states have mandatory sobriety periods with confirmatory blood tests. There is no scientific evidence to back such practices, yet they remain the standard in treatment. Many choose to stay infected rather than deal with this belittling process.

These are just some of the things that came to mind as I read your article. I encourage readers to keep an eye out for laws that can affect drug users; hopefully small changes can give us a speck of humanity under capitalism. I can only hope that these individuals manage to get by without excessive pain induced by the state, until an educated working class can free them from the capitalist system and allow us all to live making our own choices.


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2 June 2016

To Workers Vanguard

I have a small point to add to the very good article “Capitalist Misery and Heroin Addiction.” A powerful recent investigation by the LA Times (“OxyContin’s 12-Hour Problem,” 5 May) exposed one cause for the spike in opioid addiction: lies, capitalist profit, and big pharma (in particular, Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin). The article details how OxyContin was launched into position as the bestselling painkiller in America based on marketing materials promising a unique 12-hour duration so that it can be taken at twice daily regular intervals. But even before it went to market, trials showed that this duration didn’t hold for many patients. And since then, Purdue worked overtime to squelch any claims that it might last a shorter span of time. The result of this has been an epidemic of patients who go into withdrawal twice a day until their next dose. These repeated episodes of withdrawal raise the risk of addiction and abuse. One expert the Times quotes describes how Oxy at 12-hour intervals could be “the perfect recipe for addiction.” The article goes on to describe many individuals’ harrowing stories of patients subjected to tremendous stress and agony by the big 12-hour lie. The untold misery caused here (conducted in the name of healing others!) is but one small example of how the capitalist profit motive runs counter to basic human decency, corrupting and destroying every aspect of social relations. This scandal serves as a further demonstration that we cannot provide genuinely quality healthcare for all short of overturning the profit system and establishing a socialist society based on human need rather than lining the pockets of the wealthy few.

Gerrit Bogle