The opioid crisis

Harvesting Opium. Public Domain,

I’ve been teaching a course on the Global Drug Trade this year, and my class recently covered the opioid crisis, including the emerging drugs of fentanyl and carfentanyl. If you haven’t heard of these drugs before, you might want to read German Lopez’s Vox article “How an elephant tranquilizer became the latest deadly drug in the opioid epidemic.” While the epidemic exists in the United States, these drugs are causing havoc in British Columbia, Canada. What is distinct about these drugs is that they are not only dangerous to the user, but also first responders. The crisis has been so serious that it has caused people to rethink how we deal with illegal drugs in a profound manner.

In my class there was a great deal of discussion of whether the broader opioid epidemic is being covered differently in the media because many people using these drugs are middle class, white and older. They are also distinct, my students noted, in that most people who become addicted do so because they received a prescription for the drugs legally. There is no question but that major corporations have pushed these drugs, as this wonderful John Oliver piece describes. The epidemic has deepened, because when people have difficulty accessing legal opioids they have turned to heroin. …