The opioid “crisis” has been inflated far beyond what the statistics justify, and is in danger of leading us to the failed policies of the past. We need to take a step back and closely re-examine this non-crisis, before we overreact with bad and destructive policy. Our “solution” could be far worse than the problem.
The abuse of opioids (both prescription drugs and illegal drugs like heroin) killed 28,000 people in 2014, leading the New York Times to describe opioids as “a leading cause of death.” That description is misleading. Opioid abuse killed 0.009% of the population that year. Is this really a crisis? No, it is not.
“Candyman” doctors who recklessly distribute opioid painkillers should be prosecuted. As people who hold medical licenses, they hold a higher responsibility for the care of their patients. But doctors as a whole are far more knowledgeable about and experienced in the proper use of prescription drugs than government bureaucrats. Doctors know the needs of their individual patients far better than government bureaucrats.
The news media has been incredibly irresponsible in reporting on this limited problem as a “crisis” and politicians have been irresponsible in jumping on a problem to “solve” with legislation. Only by educating ourselves and pushing back against this dishonest fear mongering – and lobbying our elected officials to not be swayed by it – can we stop further unnecessary government meddling in the doctor-patient relationship.
Let’s not leave cancer patients or people with chronic pain in the cold because some bureaucrat thinks he knows better than a doctor, or because a doctor is too afraid of cowboy law enforcement to give the patient the medicine he needs under the proper supervision. Government meddling in our health care is the real crisis, not opioid abuse.