Tunnel Vision Doesn’t Work When You’re Dealing with Drug Addiction

addict sitting in a dark alley

There are some subjects that can be successfully addressed with a narrow focus. And there are others where that just won’t work. Addiction is one of the latter.

If you just focus on one aspect of the addiction problem, you will fail to understand it. Addiction is a serious social, health, cultural, financial, justice, legislative, political and human problem. I can’t think of any stratum of life that isn’t affected by it. Everything from child abuse to rock and roll, from traffic deaths to property crimes, from success in school to success in business, every part of our lives is capable of being touched by someone’s drug use and addiction.

For example, there’s a story about how, many years ago, personnel from a major hospital used to cross the street from the hospital to a grassy strip in front of her office where they would take their lunch breaks and smoke pot. I shudder to think of the mistakes they might have made when they went back to work.

As another example, the US Department of Health and Human Services states that between one-third and two-thirds of all child maltreatment cases involve substance abuse to a greater or lesser degree.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the many problems drug and alcohol abuse have created for our sports figures, entertainers, and even many government officials.

To understand addiction, it’s necessary to go far beyond a focus on drug dealers. Or on teen drug users. Or moms who give birth to babies who are already addicted to opiates. Most people who research or write on this subject select out one aspect of the problem to contemplate. It’s understandable to do so. The greater problem is pretty overwhelming.

I have just come across a very good article on the intertwined subjects of prescription painkiller abuse and heroin addiction. This person makes a very good point that quite educated people are missing. I’ll explain.

The writer is John Buntin and his article is posted on www.governing.com, the website for a periodical that deals with state and local government issues. The title is “America’s Biggest Drug Problem isn’t Heroin, It’s Doctors.” In this article, he notes that the problem of opiate addiction really ballooned out when doctors began prescribing painkillers more freely and how this created nearly two million people who were dependent on opiates or synthetic opiates referred to as “opioids.”

Buntin describes the way “pill mills” sprang up in Florida, prompting opiate addicts and enterprising criminals to travel to Florida from all over the eastern part of the US to get pills to abuse or sell. As the problems worsened, health professionals and government agencies became so alarmed that pressure was put on drug manufacturers to create tamper-resistant formulas.

Buntin’s grasp of the situation even extends to seeing that if you simply migrate to tamper-resistant formulas as a solution to addiction, it drives people into the arms of drug cartels trafficking heroin into the US. (Chemically, there is next to no difference between painkillers and heroin.) “Indeed, law enforcement officials believe the Mexican cartels are currently pushing prices down and potency up in the hope of effectuating just such a shift,” he wrote.

You can read the entire article yourself here: http://www.governing.com/topics/health-human-services/gov-biggest-drug-problem.html. I suggest that you do. It takes in enough of the scope of the problem to be useful. And seeing as how we are all affected by this problem if only in the increased taxes we pay and restrictions placed on us by laws meant to prevent drug trafficking or abuse, it’s a good subject to understand.


Karen Hadley

For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.