November is the time when the parties and gatherings of friends and neighbours start. It’s cold and dark and there is nothing more fun than and wine and dine around a fire in the hearth. Halloween and the day of the dead are both gone and we’ve had Muriel, Camp and her daughter Sophie over for some Swiss Fondue, always a seasonal favorite, even for vegetarians. We tried to steer the conversations away from all the trouble in the world but it’s hard to ignore the devastating fires in California and the vast worldwide demonstrations for a livable future environment. Over and over we just emphasised how lucky we are to live in the temperate Pacific Northwest, at the edge of the rainforest. Camp and I saved some tales of woe and misery for our weekly Thirsty Thursday at the pub. The one that is really bothering me is the horrific opioid addiction and resulting death toll due to overdoses in the US and Canada.
‘You know that on average every day 120 people, 900 per week, die from opioid or fentanyl overdoses in the US alone, like an intercity commuter plane crashing every day,’
I said as I joined Camp at our usual table.
‘Yes, I know all about it,’ Camp said. ‘It’s a tragedy and the main culprits, at least at the beginning, were not the Mexican cartels or the Chinese Fentanyl pushers but the honorable pharma giants like Purdue which launched Oxycontin in 1995 as the wonder drug for all pain. They knew full well that this opioid based drug will quickly lead to dependence and addiction. On the contrary, the Sackler billionaire family set a machinery in motion to convince politicians, doctors, hospitals and patients and to prescribe Oxycontin even for minor pain. The whole country was soon awash with this drug. Doctors prescribed it for seniors with knee problems or for kids with stomach pains. Everybody wanted it, the parents, the doctors and the patients. When the overdose deaths due to misuse of the drug started to rise at the beginning of this century, the lawmakers made it harder to prescribe and obtain Oxycontin, thereby pushing armies of addicts into the streets and the arms of heroin and Fentanyl dealers. We’re talking middle class, ordinary people all over America, like Teachers, bankers, trades people, mothers and fathers and even students who were now all opioid addicts.’
‘And the Sacklers keep denying any wrongdoing and now want to send their company, Purdue, into insolvency so they can keep their billions of blood money,’ I said. ‘According to Forbes they own about 14 billion and beat out such champs as the Rockefellers and Mellons.’
‘And thanks to them we now have the Mexican cartels slaughtering each other, fighting over the ports and routes for the cheap Chinese Fentanyl, which finds its way onto the streets of the US and Canada and keeps fire fighters, frontline medics, hospitals and coroners busy trying to stem the bleeding and dying,’ Camp said.
‘In the first six months this year alone, five hundred people died in BC from overdoses, a decrease of 30 percent over last year,’ I said. ‘I guess that’s a positive note in a symphony of misery,’ I said.
‘Of course, that pales with the 130’000 drug related homicides in Mexico since 2015, 36’000 alone last year. For a country with 125 million people, the current murder rate is 100 per day. It’s mostly cartels at war with each other or the police. Once in a while civilians get caught in the crossfire like last week when 9 members of a Mormon community in Sonora, just south of the border were ambushed.’
‘The only way to stop this opioid epidemic and the related violence is to decriminalize all drugs, as they did in Portugal, and take the crime off the streets. Instead of policing and fighting drugs and addiction with guns and jails we need to see it as a health crisis and fight it with humanitarian resources. I think Lopez Obrador, Mexico’s new president, agrees with that, as opposed to Trump who calls for war on the cartels. ‘War is the worst solution,’ Obrador said.
‘Yeah, good luck with that. As long as there are millions to be made in the ‘war on drugs’ and taxpayers are on the hook for resources for the afflicted, the dying will continue.’
‘You got a point there,’ Camp said. ‘All the money confiscated and related to the illicit drug trade should be redirected into social services and medical support for addicts.’
‘But our governments are just as addicted to alcohol, tobacco and gambling taxes,’ I said, ‘all of which were supposed to support arts and sports.’
‘Ready for a refill? You boys need to try our Pumpkin infused ale. A special for the season,’ Vicky offered.
‘Pumpkin beer?’ Camp said, raising a sceptical eyebrow.
‘It’s on the house,’ Vicky said.
‘We never turn down a free beer,’ we both said in stereo.