America needs to find a new way to talk about drugs. Clearly , not all illegal drugs are bad–more than half of US states have bucked federal regulations banning marijuana. And the prescription opioid epidemic demonstrates that the regulated pharmaceutical system is wide open for abuse. 2016 told a tale of these two medications, and how people have them circumvented the route America thinks about get high.
It took longer than a year to get to this point, of course. President Nixon and his staff crafted the 1970 Drug Abuse and Control Act to rein in the excesses of the previous decade’s counterculture. It established five classes of drugs, called Schedules, ranked according to potential for abuse and medical value. Marijuana and heroin were especially targeted, and listed as Schedule I, the most restrictive category. That means they both had high potential for abuse, and no redeeming medical value. Perps busted buying, selling, employing, or transporting these substances could get multi-year incarcerate sentences.
The 1970 law also made the modern pharmaceutical system. Compounds with less addictive potential and greater medical value were placed in lower schedule categories, where physicians could prescribe them. Prescription opioids, like oxycontin, satisfied this more regulated capacity.
Clearly, the system isn’t working great. Marijuana is the most widely used narcotic in the country, and its annual demises are currently under low zeroes( although people have died because of stupid decisions they’ve stimulated while high ). Meanwhile, prescription opioids like oxycontin kill about 20, 000 people each year.
In a legal sense, the backlash against federal weed proscription began in 1996, when California decriminalize medical marijuana. This year, the state also voted to allow recreational cannabis use. Four days before that election, on November 4, President Obama told Bill Maher that California’s full spectrum weed legalization could attain federal enforcement against weed untenable. And indeed, as of such elections, 28 nations( plus Washington, DC) now have laws decriminalize weed medically, recreationally, or both. Those states contain almost two thirds of the US population.
Donald Trump’s election changes things a little bit. His picking for us attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is a fervent anti-drug hawk. Under his regulation, the DEA, FBI, and other federal agencies could prosecute cannabusinesses and citizen tokers in post-prohibition countries. The medical marijuana motion weathered these kinds of assaults for decades, and as a result has accumulated a lot of legal precedent in nation and federal tribunals. However, recreational use–first decriminalize by Colorado and Washington in 2012 — hasn’t really been tested like that. And if Sessions, or other anti-drug advocates do go on the attack, they’ll be doing so with the possibility that their cases could reach the Supreme court, where Trump has vowed to fill Antonin Scalia’s vacant seat with person equally conservative.
The prescription opioid problem is a bit more complicated. It has hit especially hard in economically-stressed rural areas, places where Republican lawmakers can’t easily demonize inner city foibles. It began as a result of pharmaceutical companies gaming the FDA’s rules for prescription drugs. Purdue Pharmaceuticals, manufacturer of Oxycontin, is the epidemic’s easiest scoundrel. In the 1990 s, the company started a marketing campaign targeting a so-called epidemic of chronic pain. As a outcome, doctors started prescribing Oxycontin, and other opioids like it, in droves.
Purdue constructed billions on this strategy. And in the process, get millions of people hooked on medications, which led to hundreds of thousands of deaths.( As proof that federal drug policy isn’t complete FUBAR, Purdue paid $600 million to the federal government for misinforming the public about its drug .)
The bright side to the opioid outbreak, if there is such a thing, is that it has changed the style people think about drug addiction.” This current form of opioid addiciton is more relatable than the past stereotype of heroin junkies lying in the street ,” says Katherine Neill, a drug policy expert at Rice University.” Not that that stereotype was ever accurate, but now that it’s suburban and rural kids get hooked, they aren’t getting demonized in the same way .”
That’s led to a changing attitude in how to deal with the craving.” Big trends to watch is how nations are treating drug use as a medical, or public health problem, rather than something criminal ,” says Neill. Such an attitude is still catching on, but moves like Ithaca, NY’s proposed safe space for heroin users shows that parts of the country are moving towards a health-focused, rather than crook, mentality.
It’s also led to strange situations, like the kratom uprising earlier this year. In late August, the DEA announced it was putting this herb–related to coffee, but triggers a mild opiate-like response–on the Emergency Schedule 1 listing. The kratom community, purportedly in the millions, responded in droves. A plenty of former opioid addicts use kratom–which is really difficult to overdose on–to treat their ache and the effects of coming down off harder drugs. They even got congressional allies involved. The DEA backed off, momentarily, and opened up a public comment period( which aimed December 1 ). The federal enforcement agency’s ultimate decision is still pending.
If the DEA’s reaction tells you anything, it’s that the public’s attitudes towards use and addiction are changing. Simple messages don’t work anymore–but states and their constituents are ready to see the subtlety in their neighbors’ tales of drug use and craving. Whether the country’s new political regime adopts that changing mentality is a blind guess.