The Opioid Epidemic

by Tim Jones4/17/17
And the Fear of Missing Out on all of the Fun. What Happens When Our Image-World Says Life Should be Pain-Free  •  Lately there’s been a great deal of media coverage of the opioid crisis that is going on in the country.  I’ve been seeing these stories not just on the national newscasts but local ones as well. And the thing I keep hearing just as we do when there are reports on alcoholism and drug abuse is that these ‘addictions’ are diseases. This seems to be one of the most egregious examples of political correctness that disguises the real problem in the fog of a euphemism. Cancer is a disease, addiction is a spiritual problem. It is what happens when a society’s primary values are entertainment and pleasure rooted in materialism. And it represents the culmination of what secularism and liberalism have accomplished in its efforts to tear down all restraints to individual conscience by trying to destroy Christianity and biblical morality.

Conservatives believe that pain, suffering and the inherent ‘badness’ within every individual has always existed and that it will be so as long as humans walk the earth. If this weren’t the case, God would not have needed to send his only begotten son to be crucified and resurrected in order to expiate the sins of humanity.

Secularism and liberalism (they are basically interchangeable ideologies) try to rid the inherent ‘badness’ in all of us and the associated guilt of doing bad things by assuaging one’s conscience before and after the act of immoral behavior. So far these ideologies have been extremely successful not just in marginalizing Christian morality by getting society to accept wrongful behavior that used to be taboo such as the recreational use of drugs that long ago began with marijuana. (This is also the case with both abortion and homosexuality.)

Everyday people are bombarded on television and online with advertisements promoting the ‘good life’ – whether it’s a shiny new car, a sunny day on the beach or on a cruise liner somewhere in the Caribbean or partying watching the Super Bowl while imbibing lite beer and scarfing down chips. The messages are always clear: life is meant to be fun! And no pain or suffering allowed because it’s everyone’s right to be happy and free of pain and suffering. Work has come to mean drudgery where people live for weekends, another message that is constantly promoted via ‘feel good’ news stories and ads promoting “the good life” in a thousand different versions, always taking place outside the workplace.

From Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies by Ryszard Legutko:

In today’s world entertainment is not just a pastime or a style, but a substance that permeates everything: schools and universities, upbringing of children, intellectual life, art, morality, and religion. It has become dear to the hearts of students, professors entrepreneurs, journalists, engineers, scientists, writers, even priests.”

Legutko goes on to say:

“The modern sense of entertainment increasingly resembles what Pascal long ago called divertissement, that is, an activity – as he wrote in Thoughts – that separates us from the seriousness of existence and fills this existence with false content … By escaping the questions of the ultimate meaning of our own lives, or of human life in general, our minds slowly get used to that fictitious reality, which we take for the real one, and are lured by its attractions.”

One can easily see how so many Americans who may have had a medical issue that required a pain killer prescription or the unemployed who are bored and alienated, succumb to the non-stop messages that life is meant to be fun and entertaining while the eradication of pain and suffering is the latest human right, then get hooked one or another of the various forms of opioids because they don’t want to be left behind and fear that they’re missing out on “the good life” that everyone else seems to be experiencing.

Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, in his 1978 tour de force commencement address at Harvard, A World Split Apart, described clearly what was happening regarding the triumph of materialism over spiritualism that’s lead to the spiritual poverty of secular humanism:

“Every citizen has been granted the desired freedom and material goods in such quantity and of such quality as to guarantee in theory the achievement of happiness — in the morally inferior sense of the word which has come into being during those same decades. In the process, however, one psychological detail has been overlooked: the constant desire to have still more things and a still better life and the struggle to attain them imprint many Western faces with worry and even depression, though it is customary to conceal such feelings. Active and tense competition fills all human thoughts without opening a way to free spiritual development.

Humanism without its Christian heritage cannot resist such competition … If humanism were right in declaring that man is born only to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot be unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most of them.”

It’s easy to see how so many who are not achieving happiness leads to a ‘fear of missing out’, or to use the colloquial acronym, FOMO. So what to do when one is missing out on the happiness and pleasure that society tells them they should be experiencing? – create it artificially through opioid consumption, the ultimate ‘feel good’ experience.

Christopher Caldwell, national editor for the Weekly Standard, recently posted an article on FirstThings, American Carnage: The New Landscape of Opioid Addiction, where he goes into superb detail on how the origins of the opioid epidemic and its underlying reasons led to the crisis that it is today. One of the primary reasons is the acceptance of something that was once considered socially unacceptable and easily initiated since its use is a reflection of secular humanism in general:

“ …a person who would never have become a heroin addict in the old days of the opioid taboo could now become the equivalent of one, in a more antiseptic way. But a shocking number of people wound up with a classic heroin problem anyway. Relaxed taboos and ready supply created a much wider appetite for opioids.

“Addiction plays on our strengths, not just our failings. It simplifies things. It relieves us of certain responsibilities. It gives life a meaning. It is a ‘perversely clever copy of that transcendent peace of God.’”

Finally,

“The deeper problem, however, is at once metaphysical and practical, and we’re going to have a very hard time confronting it. We in the sober world have, for about half a century, been renouncing our allegiance to anything that forbids or commands. Perhaps this is why, as this drug epidemic has spread, our efforts have been so unavailing and we have struggled even to describe it. Addicts, in their own short-circuited, reductive, and destructive way, are armed with a sense of purpose. We aren’t. It is not a coincidence that the claims of political correctness have found their way into the culture of addiction treatment just now. This sometimes appears to be the only grounds for compulsion that the non-addicted part of our culture has left.”

According to this New York Times article, Inside a Killer Drug Epidemic, A Look At America’s Opioid Crisis, there were 33,000 lethal casualties in 2015 from overdosing. That works out to just over 90 per day. It’s about time this addiction and all other addictions are recognized not as a disease but as a spiritual problem, one whose genesis is in the spiritual poverty of secularism. If the focus on finding a solution remains in curing addiction as a disease, don’t expect the problem to be alleviated any time soon and that it will continue to get worse for a very long time. You can’t expect to solve a problem when the problem is baked into the solution. • (1288 views)

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23 Responses to The Opioid Epidemic

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    One has to be careful about the problem of pain. Daily Caller columnist Jim Treacher, who faced a great deal of chronic pain after being severely injured by an official State Department car, once commented regarding some previous pain-medicine addiction case by pointing out that no one who doesn’t face such pain can understand what it’s like.

    I’ve been fortunate in that respect, until old age (and leg ulcers) hit me; the worst pain I ever experienced (so bad I couldn’t scream) was a brief thing resulting from (I hope) the stupidest thing I ever did. But a friend of mine (the same one who had the interesting incident with the chair I mentioned earlier) has a kidney stone problem, and no doubt has faced some very bad pain at times.

    Much depends on how much pain one is suffering. Much also depends on having the will to make sure one doesn’t get addicted. This hasn’t been a problem for me, but (as I said) I’ve been fairly lucky until recently (and now I have to be careful due to my cardiovascular situation).

    • Tim Jones says:

      Your comment is a good and valid one, especially regarding having the will to make sure one doesn’t get addicted. Years ago I punctured and collapsed a lung in a freak accident and I don’t think I experienced as much pain ever in my life. And when the doctor went to perform what’s called a pneumothorax, a procedure to basically get the lung to reinflate itself, I don’t know which was worse, the pain when I punctured it or the thin tube he stuck right through my chest into my lung. I believe they offered me some oxycontin or some other kind of opioid of that kind but I turned them down for fear, maybe irrationally, that I would like it too much and get addicted. But I’m thinking we’re the exception rather than the rule these days.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Cancer is a disease, addiction is a spiritual problem.

    Well, I couldn’t agree more, Mr. Jones. (I’ve been watching too much Columbo. He calls even suspected murderers “sir” or “ma’am,”
    not that you are either one of these, Mr. Jones.)

    I also agree that, for better or for worse, we are a materialist society whose proposition for living might just as well be, “I exist, therefore I shall be entertained.”

    I think regarding the whole issue of redefining behaviors as “disease vs. moral weakness” is that the ostensible motive to de-moralize these things is to take the shame out of them so that people will receive treatment. Mr. Kung and others would no doubt say that a healthy sense of shame might have avoided these bad behaviors in the first place. And I would agree. But “society” has chosen to de-moralize many bad behaviors as “diseases.”

    That is the rationalization. And there may be times when it is justified. (StubbornThings is known for taking things on a case-by-case basis and having the flexibility to think rather than stick to one-size-fits-all rules.) But I think the real Zeitgeist behind “disease vs. moral weakness” is the “I’m okay, you’re okay” materialist/atheist philosophy. If the point of life is an entertainment-based hedonism, what room is there for moral restrictions? The unspoken liberal deal is “I’ll support your shortcomings if you’ll support mine.”

    After all, who are we to judge? Even Jesus seems to come down on the side of liberals. (The “go and sin no more” is conveniently left out.) And as an alternative to breaking someone on the wheel or other tortures for otherwise minor infractions, it’s not necessarily a horrible thing to de-escalate punishments regarding moral failings. What we can divine from this whole “disease vs. moral weakness” issue is that human beings still have a problem with proportionality. We can either shame too much or shame too little. We seem to have lost the capacity for nimble thinking and wisdom.

    And as you point out, there is definitely an atheistic, anti-Christian vibe to this de-escalation of shame and moral culpability. Again, not all of it is bad. I don’t consider it a bad thing that some mental health issues are de-shamed. Nor do I think it’s bad that we are kind to handicapped children instead of ridiculing them. But we have taken this so far, we now not only de-shame bad behavior we glorify it. Are you a bad and irresponsible parent? No problem. Single motherhood, in particular, is now thought of as “courageous,” the same with perfectly normal (at least anatomically) men who decide they are girls and will compete in girls sports. They are now “courageous.”

    I’ll read and digest more of what you wrote. But my initial thoughts are consistent with my idea that this society is culturally insane. And that doesn’t mean that people aren’t capable of holding down jobs or feeding their pets. But as for their moral, intellectual, and philosophical health, most people these days are at least a little crazy.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I believe I have previously pointed out that, broadly speaking, the West is a “guilt” society and the East is a “shame” society as regards our moral choices.

      Well, by doing their best to kill the Judeo-Christian ethic, the atheists have done a good job of erasing guilt from personal behavior. They are doing the same thing on shame.

      The only time guilt or shame come into play for the left is when a person does not agree with them.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I’m guilty, Mr. Kung, of confusing guilt and shame. I feel guilty about that. Or shameful. I’m not sure.

        But whatever we call it, without a doubt the idea that one “ought not” has been replaced with the imperative that one not only ought not “ought not” but be as outrageously non-conformist (aka “scuzzy”) as possible. Weirdness is now becoming a virtue.

        This, of course, creates a quandary for the Left. “Just do it” has no limits. If a boy wants to compete as woman just because he wants to, how do you say no? The non-conformist behavior of always downgrading men meets perhaps the biggest non-conformist behavior of them all: men pretending to be women. For now, white women who identify as black are still not accepted. But what reason is there not to?

        No human being can live a life without ingrained ideas that become habits. There is just not the time to evaluate and reason-out every problem like a puzzle, although there are plenty of times we should do just that if we seek to live an honest life. The problem we have with the often haphazard and contradictory rules of the atheistic/materialist/entertainment-based/Leftist society is that people really don’t know what or how to think until they are told.

        To some degree, what other people are doing around has always been the main cue as to proper behavior, for better or for worse. But there is just so little consistency to this modernist behavior, no one really knows how to act. They don’t always know what is “correct.” That’s one reason apologies after-the-fact (even by liberal bastions) are common. There is no way to internalize the “though shalt nots” of the Left to prepare you for handling even moderately novel situations if only because of the weak and often contradictory foundations. This creates an atmosphere of fear. We mask this fear and confusion by being superficially “nice” and “accepting” until we learn which way the tree falls.

        Through this, man becomes an animal incapable of individual moral thought. He becomes an echo chamber for someone else’s agenda. And this is likely to only exacerbate the normal hardships any human being faces. What can harm man most of all is his lack of control. Having the most meaningful things in our lives — our values and beliefs — subject to arbitrary and capricious forces is a recipe for dope as an outlet. And thankfully for the Left, the Libertarian useful idiots are right there to support this addiction cycle as they push for the legalization of all drugs.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I’m guilty, Mr. Kung, of confusing guilt and shame. I feel guilty about that. Or shameful. I’m not sure.

          Let my ease your mind.

          Guilt arises from the inner knowledge that one is transgressing a moral code which one knows to be correct. It matters not whether others knows that one has transgressed. It is purely internal. The shame is still there regardless whether others know of one’s sin or not.

          Shame arises from one’s emotions when others are aware that one has transgressed commonly accepted mores, i.e. one’s unacceptable behavior becomes public. Shame is caused by external forces. One is caught in the act, so to speak.

          That is not to say that both emotions cannot be mixed, but at root, one arises due to personal belief and the other due to public knowledge.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Oh, okay. Guilt is what is internally felt. Shame is what is vectored toward you externally…which then may or may not produce feelings of guilt. (“Have you no shame?” is what that means, I suppose.)

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I believe it was Aleister Crowley, around a century ago (though the basic idea is hardly original with him) who proclaimed, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” An interesting take on Crowley is Count Manzeppi from The Wild, Wild West (played by Victor Buono), who basically can be described as the guy Crowley wanted to be.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Mark Rogers, in his Blood of the Lamb allegory of Jesus Christ, had a very interesting take on the “Go, and sin no more” — pointing out the importance of that last part. (Rogers was strongly conservative politically.)

  3. Tim Jones says:

    “But my initial thoughts are consistent with my idea that this society is culturally insane. And that doesn’t mean that people aren’t capable of holding down jobs or feeding their pets. But as for their moral, intellectual, and philosophical health, most people these days are at least a little crazy.”

    well put and couldn’t agree more

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    x

    “Addiction plays on our strengths, not just our failings. It simplifies things. It relieves us of certain responsibilities. It gives life a meaning. It is a ‘perversely clever copy of that transcendent peace of God.’”

    That is an interesting quote from Christopher Caldwell. My own thought is that these things cannot be easily formulaized or explained. But I think it’s clear we’re seeing a general trend toward an escalation of expectations of happiness, wealth, and excitement.

    StubbornThings is by no means a Buddhist site. We (that’s a royal “we”) view Buddhism as a crude toolbox from which certain tools can be borrowed with the awareness of not trying to use a screwdriver as a hammer or examine your navel too closely. But (consistent with the Christian outlook) we should learn to expect and accept a certain amount of suffering. We should, in a paraphrase of Pascal, try to be at peace with sitting alone in room quietly without the constant thrill of text messaging. Such things are an antidote (or at least a push-back) to becoming despondent to the point of suicide or addiction (both are related) because of expectations that are too unrealistic.

    And we live in an age where we are bombarded 24/7 with images of The Good Life. It is human nature to be competitive and to measure ourselves by what others have. To a certain extent, this this good. But what we are often measuring against is a totally fabricated image. As Mr. Kung has noted, our advertising is specifically designed to give us a sense of needing something. Another way of saying that is that all good advertising makes our life seem inadequate as it exists now.

    I would even be careful about seeking peace with God. I’m not sure God has designed a world that is particularly conducive to peace. But certainly that way our society is currently structured is favorable to the opposite.

  5. Steve Lancaster says:

    During the 70s there was a similar upsurge in the misuse/abuse of prescription drugs. Supposed to be attributable to narcotics given to returning vets from Nam. Regulations flew at random, random ducked, and the regulations hit everyone else-prices went up and somehow the media discovered it suddenly was not the problem they had made it.

    We can debate the morality of drug use, but like it or not drugs are a reality of society, even in repressive states like N Korea.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      In my opinion, Steve, no American should be too willing to relegate himself to an underclass. And that’s what drugs do. Becoming a drug culture of slobbering, mind-addled zombies might be good enough for Amsterdam but it’s not good enough for America and Americans.

      We used to be the land people would escape to when their own homelands proved oppressive or lacking in opportunity. Now we Americans, being oppressed in many ways now, are making excuses for taking drugs as a way out instead of fighting the good fight.

      Let’s fight the good fight. Escaping inward is not the manly option.

      • Steve Lancaster says:

        I agree 100%, however, I suspect that there is propaganda involved and government, being the beast that it is, will discover more regulation/laws are necessary. Laws and regulations will grow and the reporting of the problem will be relegated to back pages and forgotten.

        The very real fallout will be that people who really need the drugs will have more trouble getting them and addicts will stay the same percentage of population it has always been, but every one will pay more.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          This is the quandary we face, Steve. Andrew McCarthy has a recent article titled If the Government Cannot Be Trusted, Can It Protect the Nation?

          The answer at the moment is that the present government cannot be trusted to solve the drug problem. The government *is* a sort of runaway drug addict…on our money and its own power.

          But note that what I said above did not narrow down the problem via the Libertarian lens which seems to be, “If government can’t stop it then it must be okie-dokie to do it.”

          What I would say in regards to fixing it is to first decide amongst ourselves that not doing drugs and finding other options to deal with life’s difficulties is the word we should spread to others, particularly young people. We need to be the adults in the room.

          • Steve Lancaster says:

            First it is necessary to persuade the 20-30% of Americans who use and misuse these drugs to stop. If there is no market there will not be providers.

            Morphine and its side products were readily available in the late 19th century even in soft drinks (Coke). Addiction was a known concern among doctors. I don’t have the numbers, and I doubt there are reliable stats anyway, but my gut feeling is the per capita drug use was about the same percentage of population.

            That is not to say its not a real concern, or that we should just write off drug users, but we should realize that its more of a human problem and not a culture problem. Any culture that claims they don’t have a drug problem, is living in a fantasy world.

            You will find several episodes of Babylon 5 deals with the same problems I think in season 4. Then there are the Dune novels. Frank Herbert suggests a galactic culture dependent on a drug from a singular source that prolongs life and is addictive, a Hobson’s choice if there ever was one.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              You will no doubt recall Sherlock Holmes’s use of cocaine and morphine when he lacked any other stimulation (i.e., a nice mystery to solve). There was no indication that he became addicted and eventually he stopped using them (no doubt because of his busier schedule). Explaining this was the point of Nicholas Meyer’s The Seven Percent Solution.

              Melange wasn’t addictive in very small quantities (something like 3 grams a day per kilogram of body weight, as I recall). Not only did it help prolong life, but in larger quantities it was helpful in predicting the future.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Speaking of sci-fi drugs that will prolong life, the 9th episode of season one of “Babylon 5” (that’s a lot of numbers there) was about basically the galaxy’s equivalent of Josef Mengele times one billion. This war criminal is spotted on Babylon 5 and one contingent (the non-aligned planets) want her tried. The other main races (all with questionable motives) vote “no” accept for the humans. But then the human already have a deal with her to let her develop her never-aging, all-disease-curing, drug. She’s supposedly doing this to save the reputation of her race which has been wiped out except for her.

              The catch in the story is that (surprise) she has ulterior motives. It turns out that a key ingredient of the drug has to come from killing someone. So for every one person to gain immortally, one person must die. This drug is actually her revenge on her foes as she foresees a chaos of endless rampant killing.

              One of the advanced and mysteries races (the Vorlon) put the kibosh on this at the end (killing the evil alien chick) stating the these races were not yet ready for immortality.

              I think drugs should be illegal. But just as important is teaching people about alternatives to drugs and supporting them in this effort. But then there is probably no cure for escapism. Still, it’s a noble cause to welcome another human being into the world of normalcy and help them to cope without escapism. As hard as things often are, drugs are truly a dead-end. The price for their short-term relief is a literal death of who you are.

              I’m in no position to write laws. But surely I can light at least one small candle with the idea that we have a sacred duty to steer our fellow man away from destructive behavior through personal persuasion if nothing else. Instead of evading our responsibility and normalizing what should not be normalized, we need to clear the fog away and realize just how destructive drugs are. There is another life for each person to live that does not include these things. It may not be the perfect or easy life. But it will be a real life. You will not be lost in a fog. And when good fortune or opportunities do arise, one will then be in a better position to latch onto them and thus be nourished by the good instead of forever poisoned to it.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                This theme — some must be killed that others may live — shows up on rate occasions. I recall it being used as a them on one of the horror anthology series — a periodic rejuvenation that required killing somebody else. Dean Koontz used it in one of his novels; in this case, it had to do with organ “donations” from China.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                While searching for the book by Koontz, Timothy, I found a description of a similar one by Matt Warner: The Organ Donor.. I found a paperback version at Amazon.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                I did a bit of checking, and the Koontz book is Your Heart Belongs to Me.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Here’s the Kindle version of Your Heart Belongs to Me. The fans-of-Koontz who review it here seem to think it is from his schlepped-out period.

                The interesting thing about that book by Warner is that it’s actually a horror story. One of the people whose organs were taken was not dead and he wants them back. I’m not sure what kind of creature he is but I imagine he kills a few people while he re-accommodates his organs.

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