Heroin Deaths are Higher than Gun Deaths–yet Drug Abuse is Lacking in Political Discussions

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Last year, there were 3.4 firearm homicides per 100,000 (1), while the deaths from heroin overdose in America’s youth, aged 18-25, were 7.3 per 100,000 (2). Which is a bigger issue, drug abuse or gun violence?

Donald Trump on his official site posted a PDF dedicated to how he intends to protect the Second Amendment, yet he has no policy for handling drug abuse. He has a stance on ISIS, making it the highlight of his focus on foreign policy, yet he has no policy for squelching the avalanche of heroin crossing our borders.

In the year 2015, 28,328 people died globally in terror attacks (3), while 43,225 Americans died of drug overdoses (4).

It is clear that drug deaths are being ignored, being seen as a problem of character in the individual, however, this is often not the case. The Rat Park Experiment, led by Canadian Psychologist Bruce K. Alexander, concluded that the use of drugs, at least in lab mice, could be attributed to their environment (5). This drug addiction has links in human psychology as well, especially when correlated with actions taken in Switzerland.

At first, the Swiss tried to make the [heroin] problem disappear with a law enforcement solution. They repressed drug use and trafficking with arrests and incarceration. The proportion of the prison population jailed for drug use increased to 80 percent at one time.

Despite America’s “War on Drugs,” the continued rise in drug use and prison sentencing occurs (just as it did in Switzerland). Thus, we should take a page from the lessons learned by the Swiss and reexamine our efforts to control drug use.

 

 

Depict number of perscriptions per 100 people in the US. Some places have more than one per person, showing drug abuse

 

After failing to solve their drug issues, the Swiss tried something new, now providing medically safe sources of the drugs to help people wean off, while providing treatment. It helped, but the underlying issues of environmental and social influences remain.

The reality is that in America, there is crushing income inequality, and rampant over-prescription. Some states, seen above, have more than 1 prescription per person per year, of a drug which is well known to be addictive, and is well known to add to the heroin epidemic. This is a gross oversight both of medical professionals and the government.

Next time there is a dinner party debate over gun control, or terrorism, think about the last time you saw your doctor, and remember the 43,000 people who die in overdoses every year.

Works Cited:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/homicide.htm
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/pdf/2015-07-vitalsigns.pdf
  3. https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/257738.pdf
  4. https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
  5. http://www.brucekalexander.com/articles-speeches/rat-park/148-addiction-the-view-from-rat-park

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