Here is my view of the opioid crisis.
First, we should understand that what drives supply is money. The saying that “Crime doesn’t pay” is false. If crime doesn’t pay, crime doesn’t happen. Notice how car stereos aren’t ever stolen anymore? It’s because pretty well every car has a stereo and there is no market for stolen ones. So…..one of the key ways to choke off supply is to take the money out of it.
Second, accept as a fundamental premise that enforcement doesn’t work. The drug supply has proven itself to be more reliable than our supply of electricity. Kamloops never has an outage….ever.
Third, recognize addiction as a health issue. We need to “normalize” addiction as a medical condition much like we normalize treatments for diabetes. We seem to have no issue with treatment for alcohol or nicotine addictions but balk at treating addicts of other drugs.
With those premises as something of a foundation, the obvious solution is to stabilize addicts by giving them a safe supply of the thing they are addicted to. From stability an addict can move to treatment and recovery. If we take this approach, we get the best results for the least amount of money. For once, the best solution turns out to be the cheapest one.
Agonist intervention therapy has proven itself to be cheap and effective. Addicts provided a safe supply of opiates are more likely to seek treatment and be successful in treatment. Plus, it costs a small fraction of the police, ambulance and healthcare costs of a single significant overdose.
Once an addict can get a safe supply, they no longer have to beg, borrow, steal, prostitute themselves or whatever to support their addiction. This results in reduced crime, reduced policing costs and reduced insurance claims. They become more stable and better manage their addiction….putting them closer to the road to recovery.
From the dealer’s perspective, there is not much point getting somebody addicted to a substance they can ultimately obtain for free. If there is no money to be made pushing illegal drugs, the practice will whither and eventually die.
Study after study informs us that this is the rational, low cost, most effective approach to this issue. We have to get over our natural bias against giving an addict what they are addicted to and understand that this is a bridging step towards treatment and recovery.
There are some great studies on the topic that can be found here:
This approach also works well for street level alcoholics. Lower costs, improved healthcare outcomes and lower crime are the benefits we reap with managed alcohol distribution.
If we open our eyes and abandon our prejudices, the most effective solutions are right in front of us.
JOHN H. O’FEE