How has the US become an opioid narco state
Published: Aug 27, 2022 12:43 PM
Packets of fentanyl mostly in powder form and methamphetamine, which US Customs and Border Protection say they seized from a truck crossing into Arizona from Mexico, is on display during a news conference at the Port of Nogales, Arizona, US on January 31 2019. Photo: VCG

Packets of fentanyl mostly in powder form and methamphetamine, which US Customs and Border Protection say they seized from a truck crossing into Arizona from Mexico, is on display during a news conference at the Port of Nogales, Arizona, US on January 31 2019. Photo: VCG

The United States is facing an epidemic and crisis that has so far not been addressed appropriately by the ruling class. Millions of Americans have lost their lives to this epidemic, and countless families have been ripped apart and changed forever because of the inaction of our ruling elites in regards to the opioid epidemic in the United States. Politicians and the hegemonic media in the US have so far either ignored the problem or attempted to shift the blame to other countries such as China or Mexico, completely absolving themselves of the responsibility they share for the destruction reaped on society by this epidemic. This is contrary to the facts of the matter. Even Bill Brownfield, former US assistant secretary of state for international narcotics, said, "I actually believe on matters of narcotics and drugs, the US and China cooperate extremely well."

Fentanyl accounted for the most drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2021, with over 71,000 deaths. Fentanyl was invented by a Belgian physician, and is the 278th most commonly prescribed medication in the United States, with more than 1 million prescriptions. US pundits and politicians point to the fact that some of the fentanyl is produced in China as the reason that China is culpable for the opioid epidemic in the United States. They would rather point the finger at another government rather than place the blame on themselves and the pharmaceutical companies that are making billions of dollars producing and prescribing highly addictive opioids.

The United States is facing this epidemic for a variety of reasons; austerity, neoliberal economics, and the basic nature of capitalism all play no small role in this epidemic that kills more than 130 people every day in the United States. Unethical doctors, pain clinics, hospitals, providers, and pill mills have partnered with pharmaceutical companies to overprescribe and push opioids on the unsuspecting American working class who are desperate for an escape from their every day economic anxiety and pressure.

The push toward prescription painkillers began in the 90's and has been exacerbated by the "unique" nature of the US "healthcare" system. In many cases, private insurance companies will only pay for a pill as opposed to alternative treatments or therapies. At a time when inflation is the highest it has been in 40 years, when income inequality is now at levels we haven't seen since the gilded age, and when 1 in 8 Americans are living in poverty, more than likely most Americans are forced to go with the one treatment method that is offered by their insurance.

At the same time that insurance companies refuse to cover any other treatments for pain; pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies, distributors, and marketing firms alike such as Purdue, McKesson, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, Walmart, Walgreeens, and Johnson and Johnson were making billions of dollars by pushing these pills. These same companies also contributed and continue to contribute millions of dollars to political parties and candidates.

If the United States wanted to get serious about facing this epidemic crisis, it wouldn't be locking up low level opioid addicts or pointing the finger at China. It would instruct the DOJ and other law enforcement to raid the homes of these corporate CEO's, corrupt doctors, and would also bring these insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies under public control. Over 2,000 municipalities across the United States have formally accused these companies of flooding their communities with these drugs. This is a vast conspiracy by very wealthy and powerful sectors of the US elite which has proved very lucrative for them, and very lethal for the rest of us.

Let us not forget that Antonio Maria Costa, former head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, has argued that in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, hundreds of billions of dollars from drug trafficking was utilized by US banks to stave off the crisis. 

At its very root, this epidemic is a problem of neoliberal capitalism. It's disproportionately affected communities that have been deindustrialized. People can't get treatment besides opioids for their pain because of the nefarious system of US health insurance, all the while billions of dollars are being made by powerful oligarchs and conglomerates. We need a government of the people that will prosecute these entities that are responsible for the deaths of millions in the United States, a government that recognizes that healthcare is a right and not a source of profit or commodification, a government that isn't in bed with, or afraid of confronting these corporations with expropriation if their murderous business practices continue.

Ultimately, the people of the United States deserve to have their rights respected, including the right to health. We need systematic change that will not allow corporations and oligarchs to push murderous policies and practices as long as there is a buck to be made. We need a better system that respects the dignity of human beings, the integrity of our health, and measures economic well-being hand in hand with the wellbeing of our communities.

The author is a political and economic analyst with a concentration in areas such as socialism of the 21st century, Chavismo, Populism, Latin America, Geopolitical Trends, Latin America, and Kirchnerismo. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn