New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has claimed that more people die in the city from overdoses, most involving an opioid, than from car accidents and homicides combined. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that more than 27 million US citizens abuse opioids, with almost 50 percent of deaths by overdose in 2015 linked to consumption of painkillers.
Argentinian journalist Nicolás Ayala, who conducted an in-depth analysis of the heroin epidemic in the US, told Sputnik that, just like any other social phenomenon, this problem has to be looked at from different perspectives. However, he admitted that the pharmaceutical industry played a fundamental role in igniting the epidemic in the 1990s.
"Back then, this sector of industry was regulated by virtually no one. They were promoting the ‘revolution of pain.' When someone twisted an ankle and went to a hospital, he was prescribed lots of pharmaceutical opioids, which caused addiction."
"There was a whole generation addicted to pills and suddenly those pills were taken away. That resulted in the emerging of a black market on the city streets, where you could find something cheaper; for example, heroin."
In October 2017, US President Donald Trump declared a health emergency over opioids.
"Trump sidestepped declaring a national emergency over the opioid crisis that would give him access to a federal fund of $23 billion. Instead, he declared a public health emergency and gained access to a small $53,000 fund. He signed the document to look good on camera, nothing more," Ayala said.
"As long as corporations continue to dictate laws, deaths will not stop. Political parties retain power due to funding. This is a formula for catastrophe," the journalist asserted.
The nationwide crisis led to 50,000 deaths from drug abuse annually and a great economic cost — $500 million per year — according to the New York mayor. Notably, in the 1980s, most heroin addicts were black and Latin American urban residents. Today, the victims of the epidemic are mostly white and rural.
"This fact made the problem a centerpiece in the political agenda. When it wasn't about white people, there was no discussion about solving the problem on a national level," Ayala pointed out.
Research by the CDC has found that doctors are more inclined to prescribe opioids to white people than to Latinos or blacks.
"It is all about race-related prejudice. They believe that [white people] will take drugs medicinally, while [people of color] will sell them on black market. It's like a reverse racism, when white people suffer because of discrimination against other races," the journalist concluded.