by Jen Jenkins, MCN Market Analyst
Many Americans have developed an expectation for something that on the surface appears harmless but in reality has proven rather dangerous: the quick fix. This expectation falls into a variety of categories but the dangers here tend to lurk around seemingly magical solutions that directly involve our health.
During the 1990’s there was a surge in pain medication being prescribed freely as an easy fix for chronic pain sufferers over the use of other types of rehabilitation. Prescribers were outspoken about their belief that these drugs were not addicting when used in these scenarios and pain medication was not only being freely prescribed but done so in enormous excess. Between 1999 and 2010 the US saw sales quadruple for opioids such as Percocet, Vicodin and OxyContin. These names probably sound familiar as they have readily become household names, yet we are only more recently being warned about the dangers of using these drugs.
On the other hand, heroin is widely known to be illegal and highly addictive. Fatal heroin overdoses in this country have almost tripled in the past three years, claiming the lives of more than 8,250 people per year. As horrifying as that is, it may not be all that surprising since the dangers of heroin are so well known. In a shocking comparison, around double that number of people are dying every year from prescription opioid painkillers, which are molecularly similar to heroin. If that statistic is news to anyone it’s probably because overdoses due to prescription medications are far less scrutinized and rarely publicized. The victims of these overdoses are overwhelmingly white, financially well-off, and young; a very different demographic from what we have come to know in relation to other types of drug abuse.
This article in The New York Times provides a snapshot of the new heroin landscape and why it is more dangerous than ever before. Use of this addictive drug had been on decline since the 1980’s but was revitalized thanks to prescription opioid addicts who are more readily turning to heroin as a less expensive and more accessible alternative for a similar high. The article goes on to look at how this change of demographic has also brought about a new kind drug dealer, in particular highlighting the business practices of the group of traffickers dubbed “The Xalisco Boys.”
Although low-profile and anti-violent, The Xalisco Boys are drug dealers to fear because they are going after their customers instead of the old standby of waiting for customers to come to them. They also rely on marketing instead of perpetuating street crime and have devised a system resembling pizza delivery for selling heroin across the United States. Interestingly, they even keep business hours between 7am and 7pm to instill a “safe” sort of atmosphere along with reliable delivery and balloons of heroin that have been properly dosed out by weight and potency. Free samples given out at methadone clinics, discount pricing, and free hits delivered to customers showing signs of quitting are cited all examples of their entrepreneurial take on drug sales.
So what do we do in this ever-changing landscape? Do we look for resolution on the street or in our clinics and hospitals? Especially now that “street crime is no longer the clearest barometer of our drug problem; corpses are.”