This morning a young friend made a Facebook offering referring to people he knows caught up in the heroin epidemic. The article is actually about the benefits of the drug, naloxone, in preventing death from overdose.
“They said it worked right away,” says Trish. “They said she just took this deep breath, this deep, deep breath, and shot up. Then she threw up, but she was fine.”
Her sister had never ODed before, and without the drug might have ended up padding Ohio’s already epidemic-level numbers of painkiller and heroin overdose deaths. In 2011, the last year for which data is available, there were 1,765 such deaths in the Buckeye State, a record.
“But everyone’s overdosing,” says Trish. “You read the obits, you have a friend die. My sister just had a friend die. That’s just what happens.
The young friend of mine who posted wrote back to my expression of pity to tell me that the addicts he knows are often from privileged families. Maybe they would have to be if addiction is as expensive as this article indicates. Suburban crime is up and that relates to heroin use; it is cheaper than marijuana. And marijuana may not be the gateway drug to heroin, rather prescription pain-killers are. The prescription runs out, but the pain persists; no one is supposed to live in pain anymore. So what do people do? Call it an existential problem, but apparently now they turn to heroin.
A year or so ago, when I first heard of the heroin epidemic in my little Ohio town, I asked the county sheriff what the source was. He said most of the local supply is from Afghanistan. How does it get here? How does it get to suburban America and so cheaply? He said, sensibly, that if they knew that they could do more to control supply.
Above is a map showing where America gets its heroin. The map doesn’t give you enough information; 80% of the world’s opium comes from Afghanistan. Some opium production is legitimate since there is a definite and practical need for morphine in medicine. But, “an estimated 3 400 tonnes of Afghan opium was not transformed into heroin or morphine in 2011. Compared with previous years, this is an exceptionally high proportion of the total crop,representing nearly 60 % of the Afghan opium harvest and close to 50 % of the global harvest in 2011.” We can look at illegal heroin’s trade in America as a corollary to war there, not only because it is possible that soldiers stationed in Afghanistan may be the conduit for some illegal sale of the drug in the US, but also because we know that much of that illegal trade is controlled by the Taliban.
In Afghanistan, there is a symbiotic relationship between narco-traffickers and the insurgency, as narcotics traffickers provide revenue and arms to the insurgency, while insurgents provide protection to growers and traffickers to prevent the government from interfering with their activities. Further, drug-related corruption continues to undercut international reconstruction efforts and good governance, as government officials abuse their positions by benefiting financially from the drug trade.
“In 2012, almost all the headmen of poppy-free villages reported to recognize the provincial governor’s authority. As poppy-growing villages are often located in areas where government control is weak and the security situation is bad, it is no surprise that they are less likely to accept the authority of government institutions, although 60% of poppy-growing villages reportedly accepted the authority of the provincial governor but still grew poppy.” I do not know what that says about provincial authority in Afghanistan, but the war on terror that dare not speak its name is partly funded by international drug trade. As an aside, watch for an increase in cocaine use in America as Al Qaeda increases supply out of North Africa.
Note on the map that the US also has heroin coming in over the border to the south. This relates to border security as more than an immigration issue; an open border just makes drug trafficking easier. Couldn’t Republicans cite drug trafficking over that border and the addiction of our increasing numbers of our children as more cause to do our best to seal that border?
You know how whatever we are reading can build connections in the mind. Reading here and reading there, I could not help but make the connection of postmodernism to drug addiction and then back to the conservative response to the latter problem. Just prior to reading that article on the drug problem in our area, I was reading what Peter Lawler most recently wrote about Postmodern Conservatism, about individuals and society. I hope this is not hopeless hash, but since the mind makes connections, I had Locke and Lawler on the mind when I began thinking about the problem of heroin addiction in the US. Peter says,
We are bound together through a web of consensual contracts between individuals who—free by nature—are able to calculate what’s best for them in light of their interests. The fundamental transformational fact—the one that produced modern government, modern technology, and the modern economy—is personal freedom understood as individual freedom. That freedom is for securing one’s own life, one’s own liberty, and one’s own pursuit of happiness. Individuals are, as later philosophers said, autonomous beings; each of them lives for or lays down the law for himself, for what he sees as his own good.
Actually, most Darwinians don’t think Locke was completely wrong on the level of description. Our hardwiring pushes us toward both satisfying individual needs and, in some sense, the flourishing of the species. But as social animals, our evolutionary psychologists can’t help but conclude, we are most of all natural parts; even our individualistic inclinations have some social or species function. In some deeply natural sense, Locke’s personal thought was completely wrong. Our species has flourished–or come to dominate the other species–not because of the techno-freedom displayed by individuals, but because we are the most “eusocial” of the highly intelligent animals.
Somehow all of this breaks down for many people in our society. This does not negate the truth of this in a general way, but free people do what seems irrational and irrelational. Even if we have sympathy or pity for drug addicts, we still must know their behavior is profoundly anti-social; addiction is all about satisfying individual needs. Heroin is an anti-productivity drug, too. And it is in my neighborhood, in my quiet little town, coming in from across the world, an unhealthy connection in a global society.