DEA wants to imprison 8% of West Virginians

Chron: "Scott Masumoto of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration cited state health statistics that more than 152,000 West Virginians have an addiction to prescription medication — more than 8 percent of the population. But Masumoto said the price of these pills can be $80 or more apiece, making it difficult for teenagers to sustain their addictions, so they are moving to "cheaper" alternatives such as heroin." (Via Sanho Tree)


      1.  People with addictions aren’t bad people.  Take a look at the success some countries, like Portugal, are having by decriminalizing all drugs and treating the problem like the public health issue it is (rather than crime and punishment cops and robbers issue that it isn’t).  The people in the DEA have been enjoying a boatload of power and privilege and wealth they don’t deserve and haven’t ever earned, and they will fight to the last to keep it rather than lose their power to evidence-based and effective solutions that can only be implemented by eliminating the crime and punishment method of dealing with public health issues.  And the people who support the DEA in this are useful idiots who have been brainwashed to believe in the cops and robbers fairytale the Drug War czars have been promoting since the early eighties.

      1. Or, you know, “Heroin Looking Pretty Good to W. Virginian Pill Poppers.” Something that the article is about.

        1. What part of…

          Goodwin said an entire unit within his office is devoted almost exclusively to fighting prescription drug abuse. He said over the past two years, his office prosecuted more than 200 pill dealers.

          …are you having a hard time understanding?

          1.  Prosecuting 200 dealers in two years does not equate to wanting to imprison 8% of the state population. What part of that are you having a hard time understanding?

    1. “Authorities involved in efforts to crack down on illegal sales of prescription pills in West Virginia said Thursday they are seeing an alarming increase in heroin trafficking as users seek out less expensive drugs.”

      Ok, so it doesn’t explicitly say they’re going to arrest more people, but that’s generally what cracking down on illegal activity entails.

      1. Is heroin really cheaper, or do people just figure “since they carry the same penalty why not go for the better drug?”

          1. I get 240 Vicodin for ten bucks. With insurance, of course. I guess that means that I really pay $676 for 240 Vicodin. That doesn’t sound nearly so good.

          2. If you’re choosing between pills and heroin, insurance is likely well in the rear-view mirror. What’s the street price of those Vikes?

          3. Heroin addicts don’t all live in refrigerator boxes, you know. Many of them have jobs and houses and insurance policies. And modeling contracts.

    2. Hint: the “E” stands for “Enforcement.”

      Enforcing current law means putting a buttload of people in jail.

      1.  And treating a public health issue like a crime and punishment issue has resulted in the US imprisoning a larger part of it’s own populace than any other 1st world country.  We have to stop treating addiction like a crime and stop putting a “buttload” of addicts in jail, because it has proven not to work and to make the situation worse.  We have to start treating addiction like the public health issue that it is, and recognize addiction not as a stubborn refusal to “obey laws” or a moral failing that people can “just stop doing” (as the DEA fairy tale wants us to believe, contrary to facts), but as a health problem that needs open access to medical help to beat.

        We are putting addicts in jail, and that is not helping.  We are expecting the need or desire to obey the law to be able to overcome a physical, chemical addiction, and that is not helping.  We need to do something else.  What else?  Look to Portugal–they’ve had amazing results.

    1. Australia gets it from S.E. Asia.  Europe’s supply is from Afghanistan/Pakistan (and prices have dropped considerably since we started picking on the Taliban).

      The US supply was from these sources, but in the 90s, the Mexican and Colombian cartels (already supplying the marijuana and cocaine) took an interest and were easily able to dominate the market.

      1. Ah, so it comes into the US through Mexico – they’re not growing a lot of poppies in Latin America are they?

        1. Yes, they are.  Here’s a map of the world’s poppy growing areas from wikipedia –

          They’re quite easy to grow – I even have them in my garden here in England, where they’re legal because the opiate yield is poor in this climate.  (But retired English couples who’ve moved to Spain and innocently cultivated them have found themselves in trouble before!)

          [Edit…just found this] BBC video report discussing the cultivation of heroine (sic) poppies in Mexico –

          1. Don’t assume the laws are sane, just because growing them is commonplace and perfectly harmless.

            I have a few of them in my garden in Canada too, as do tens of thousands of gardeners.  In springtime, every hardware store, garden shop, and grocery store has packets of opium poppy seeds in their seed racks.  Come summer, any walk of more than ten minutes from my house will take me past several houses with opium poppies in the flower beds.

            And yet, for the crime of growing them, the penalty is a maximum of life imprisonment, and a minimum of two years (three if you live in a rented home – don’t ask).  There are absolutely no exceptions in Canadian law for having no intention of producing opium – the plant itself is illegal, just like coca and cannabis.

          2. Same in the US. People think it’s legal because it’s not actively prosecuted, but if the DEA wanted to, they could bust a lot of grey-haired gardeners and throw them in the pokey.

    2. The real reason the DEA is so gung-ho about border fences isn’t to keep the drugs or Mexicans from getting in, it’s so they can finally reach their ultimate goal of imprisoning 100% of Americans.

      1. Ha, too bad I already imprisoned 100% of the world with my cage in my backward. You’re all on the inside…

        If you come by Cambridge some time, I’ll let you in out for a few minutes.

  1. We have failed to reduce illegal drug use. In fact, it has risen. However, we have imprisoned lots of people and there’s money in that! How do we try to spin this so we don’t look like a racket though? Oh I know! People are only using more illegal drugs because not enough drugs are illegal! 

  2. From the article:  “It has to start with grade-school kids. There has not been a negative or dirty stigma with prescription drugs because it’s in all of our families,” he said. “Until we get that ingrained and educated into our kids … we need to focus on the education of our youngsters.”

    Is there any problem that dirty stigma CAN’T solve?

    1. … because it’s in ALL of our families. So, stigmatize EVERYONE? 

      I bet if you got this guy stoned the first thing he’d ask is something like “If you turn your stomach inside out, will it digest itself?”

    1. “Now, these here ‘Bitcoins’… they don’t have a dead white guy’s face on ’em. You sure I can buy stuff with ’em?”

      1.  To which the only honest answer is “No, there is a good chance you will not be able to buy anything with them.”

        Although I was talking with someone about this last night and was wondering if it might be worthwhile to start a computer cafe that also serves as a kind of western union for bitcoin transfers.  Make money on the coffee while the people wait for their transfers to go through.

  3. Narcotics distribution has to be one of the most successful businesses of all time.  I bet that anywhere in the world you could get a gram of Coke quicker than a can of Coke.

    1. Coca-Cola was maybe a bad example because of how successful they’ve been in marketing and becoming ubiquitous. But here’s a trip: most high school kids will tell you it’s way easier for them to get scheduled drugs than alcohol.

      1.  Yep, that was my point.  Coke(s) is everywhere.

        Even Bali.  I read an article yesterday saying it’s a transit point for coke into Australia.  Lots of money to be made, so to hell with the death penalty.

        I’ve been to Bali a couple of times.  Getting a decent cold can of Coke isn’t easy.

  4. $80 a piece…someone needs to work on their copay.

    (I think drug companies have finally found a market that will pay full price for their goods. Err, wait.)

  5. I find the coverage and comments on the drug problem here on boingboing to be too glib; speaking from personally having family members addicted to prescription medication as well as a cousin die from them I would say people’s comments and tone are just plain stupid and insensitive. Drug addiction is a serious problem…period.

    The article is pointing out that overdoses and deaths are increasing as people move from prescription medication to traditional drugs like heroin. While I would be the first to agree that incarceration of addicts is not the solution, from the article is sounds like the police are taking the appropriate action, prosecuting pill dealers, not users. I have no problem with prosecuting people who exploit other’s illness for personal gain. It sounds like others are pushing for more medical care and treatment for actual users and addicts. With 8% addicted this is clearly a health epidemic, more treatment is needed, AND public education that leads to  stigmatizing illicit narcotic use. 

    Too many boingboing’ers seem to want to clump all drug use as being harmless, there is a huge difference between alcohol and marijuana use and the other ‘harder’ drugs like heroin and prescription medication. Go to a treatment facility or try and heal a family member and you will drop that ignorance in a heartbeat… 

    1.  Gotta agree with you. I became addicted to morphine because my asshat Doctor’s Assistant had me prescribed with Ocy-Contin, Vicodin AND morphine – all at the same time. I had a severely ruptured disc, as in the spinal cord was protruding out of the spinal column and the Doctor wouldn’t clear me for surgery until I got a heart flutter taken care of. Not a heart MURMUR, a heart flutter which is nothing. So there I was taking all these high powered pain killers for six straight months. Getting off that crap took MORE than six months afterwards.

      1. That’s how A LOT of people run into trouble, over prescribed medication without real concern or explanation of the consequences. Same with my family; doctors just handed out medications without blinking that would cause about as many problems as they solved.

    2. As someone who needs opiates to get out of bed, I’m not too thrilled about tighter restrictions.  Restrictions on physicians created and policed by politicians and cops.

      1.  Alas, we have physicians who sell prescriptions on the side leading to addiction and overdose, while chronic pain is woefully under-medicated, even in terminal patients.
        The shady physicians make millions while others are constantly harrassed by state and federal law enforcement for “over-prescribing” to the terminally ill.
        Unfortunately, it’s so much easier and cheaper to set down arbitrary rules than carefully examine each situation case-by-case, even when those rules don’t work very well.

        1. I’m going to stick with the idea that shady politicians, DAs and cops outnumber shady physicians by a hundred to one.

    3. Is there really such a big difference between alcohol and opioids?  For people with uncontrolled addictions, both drugs can destroy careers, families, lives.  People often OD, fatally, on both of these drugs.

      I can’t speak for all Boingers, but my own perspective is less that “all drugs are good”, and more that prohibition and incarceration do more harm than good.

      1. Yes you are right, there isn’t a simple answer, and as far as the article goes, it seems the drug enforcement officials have a more nuanced view than the boingers do.

          1. Goodwin and Masumoto were among numerous state, federal and local officials who provided updates on efforts to fight prescription drug abuse at meetings in Huntington and Charleston.
            …Other speakers urged expanding training for health professionals and creating long-term care facilities with thousands of beds for drug addicts. They also urged continued federal funding for the cleanup of illegal methamphetamine operations, expanding access to the powerful drug naloxone that can stop the effects of drug overdoses, and using cost-effective treatments for drug-addicted infants.

            Reading something in the article I don’t think was there.

    4. Blind man and the elephant problem.
      Recreational users feel the pleasures.
      Cops see the attendant violence and crime.
      Treatment specialists see the pain and squalor.
      Researchers like myself are set out a little further from the situation, and can see a somewhat broader picture; but still have our blind spots.

      1.  I am none of the above, though I’ve been a couple of those in the past.  Drugs can be a problem – even marijuana – but prohibition does not help address the problems they create.

      2.  The big blind spot I see is the cultural bias most of us have that shows up in your second sentence; it should have read “Recreational users feel the pleasures and suffer the consequences.” 

        Other than the legal issue, our society views drug/alcohol use as without negatives… it’s just “recreational.” Depending on amount, substance type and duration of use, serious health issues come in to play that just aren’t part of our cultural portrayal of drug use, which is why the stigma component is sadly so necessary.

    5. While I would be the first to agree that incarceration of addicts is not the solution…

      Yes. Most (virtually all) here would agree.

      …from the article is sounds like the police are taking the appropriate action, prosecuting pill dealers, not users.

      Not so. WV has the fastest growing prison population (per capita) in the US, despite the fact that there is very little violent crime there. They’re busting lots of users.

      I think what offends people most is that — as you say — drug addiction can be a serious problem, but that makes it even more important to try to deal with it with effective strategies. Incarceration isn’t such a strategy. It even says so right in the article; they’re incarcerating more and more people, yet use continues to rise.

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