The American opioid epidemic claimed 63,600 lives in 2016 alone. While the public policy challenge is daunting, the problem isn’t that we lack any effective treatment options. The data shows that we could save many lives by expanding medication-assisted treatments and adopting harm reduction policies like needle exchange programs. Yet neither of these policies has been widely embraced.
Why? Because these treatments are seen as indulging an addict’s weakness rather than “curing” it. Methadone and buprenorphine, the most effective medication-assisted treatments, are “crutches,” in the words of felony treatment court judge Frank Gulotta Jr.; they are “just substituting one opioid for another,” according to former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.
And as county Commissioner Rodney Fish voted to block a needle exchange program in Lawrence County, Indiana, he quoted the Bible: “If my people ... shall humble themselves … and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin.”
[For more on this story by Brendan de Kenessey, go to https://www.vox.com/the-big-id...-crutches-philosophy]