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The Equalizer: How the Opiate Epidemic Crossed Cultural Divides

Updated: Mar 11, 2023

They claim opiate addiction obeys no cultural, racial, or economic divides. This is true, opiates reach every corner of society and grab hold of the richest and poorest alike. A democratic drug, for this democratic nation. The C.D.C. reports daily overdose deaths surpassing 128 people in 2018, with the opiate epidemic significantly more lethal than all drug epidemics preceding it. And still people are often more familiar with the crack-cocaine epidemic, remaining largely ignorant to the wide-spread destruction that opiates and heroin still cause. How has heroin infiltrated parts of society that older generations and drugs couldn't possibly fathom, meanwhile flying largely under the radar of public concern? Let me try to explain:

It's often overlooked that the country has already experienced opiate addiction and widespread heroin use, long before drugs like crack or methamphetamine were around. With the industrial revolution came consumer products, often containing morphine and its derivatives in over the counter medical and health supplies. Patented by Bayer Pharmaceuticals as early as 1890, Heroin was their cure-all, but tolerance and reports of addiction led legislation to clamp down on wide-spread opiate use. While consumer products were forced to eliminate morphine derivatives, the First and Second World Wars brought enough suffering to promote rampant drug use.

Heroin had devastated inner-cities in the decades before crack cocaine, but is overlooked by the violent crimes crack cocaine caused. To my baby-boomer father who couldn't understand why or how a middle-class white kid growing up in a ski-resort town could possibly be addicted to heroin, the answer is our government. He had witnessed heroin's effect on friends and the black community in the years surrounding the Vietnam War. To my father, heroin was a ghetto drug, but not the case anymore. Not until the unsuspecting approval from the FDA did Purdue Pharmaceuticals extend the notion of a heroin user beyond inner city ghettos and poverty stricken crack-houses. It took a hundred years of waiting before they popped the next slick opiate agenda and the 1990's became Oxycontin central.

The FDA and everyone else knew that heroin and morphine derivatives were highly addictive, yet the medical establishment and policy makers were hoodwinked. Opiate pain pills were prescribed for every ache, injury and illness, as big pharma and Purdue Pharmaceuticals profited hand over first on the death of my friends, family, and community. With vamped up production, falsified claims, fake-research, and malignant fraud, the U.S. government allowed Big-pharma to knowingly and wittingly expose millions of unsuspecting Americans to the highs and utter lows of heroin. My first dose of heroin came when I was 16 and the doctor prescribed Lorcet (Oxycodone) for the pain of a pulled tooth. Clearly unnecessary, I think I could have gone without.

The first step to uncovering the hidden trail of heroin, is calling a spade, a spade. In the depths of my addiction, I preferred government regulated opiates to the uncertainty and impurities contained in street drugs. Oxycontin became a legal and illegal gold mine of consistency and purity in the eyes of the opiate dependent slave. While its been well established that Oxycontin is pharmaceutical grade heroin, the comparisons have largely failed to communicate the same dangerous potential among all pain pills, including some that were once considered "non-narcotic," like Tramadol. Opiates and synthetic opioids are all interchangeable substances and should be thought of the way one cannabis strain compares to the next. It took me several years of full-blown addiction to pain-pills before experiencing the similarities between pharmaceuticals and heroin first-hand. That's why when I look back to the start of my dependence, my first drug-dealer and supplier had no issue dealing drugs to children: He was the family practitioner.


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