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LETTER – Follow the money to find solutions to the opioid crisis

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:
http://www.bccsu.ca/journal-articles/

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.
http://vghfoundation.ca/2014/05/16/managed-alcohol-program/

If we open our eyes and abandon our prejudices, the most effective solutions are right in front of us.

JOHN H. O’FEE
Kamloops

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About Mel Rothenburger (6752 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

5 Comments on LETTER – Follow the money to find solutions to the opioid crisis

  1. james wiggins // April 11, 2019 at 10:25 AM // Reply

    should we also give out free alcohol and cigarettes?

  2. Brenda Sherwood // April 11, 2019 at 6:56 AM // Reply

    Good book on this issue is “Chasing the Scream”. Available through the library. About the failure of the USA’s war on drugs.

    • John H. O'Fee // April 16, 2019 at 6:01 PM // Reply

      In the case of street level alcoholics……yes. Managed alcohol distribution reduces healthcare costs and crime as well as helps people towards the road to recovery. Plus it’s cheaper than any other way of addressing this program. In the case of nicotine…..also yes in the sense that smoking suppression tools (nicotine patches for example) do exactly for nicotine what agonist intervention therapy does for opioids.

  3. We just need to persuade authorities to open their eyes and let go of prejudices and other impediments, including them authorities in the judicial system.

  4. Dawne Taylor // April 10, 2019 at 4:15 PM // Reply

    Great article and perspective John. Thank you.

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