Last year, more than 50,000 people died from a drug overdose. That’s significantly more than deaths from guns and car accidents. Which is terrifying because those numbers only seem to be increasing. According to the CDC, since 2000, the rate of deaths from drug overdoses has increased 137% (with a 200% increase in deaths related to opioids, including pain relievers and Heroin).
These are troubling numbers, and statistics that Anthony Bourdain refuses to ignore. He’s long been open about his own struggles with addiction, and, in a recent interview with GQ, blames the pharmaceutical companies for the rising numbers of opioid addicts.
Look, large corporations track their sales very carefully. If you’re pumping in millions of highly addictive narcotic pills to one tiny little town, or one tiny little state, you know what you’re doing. There’s no question, okay. In what way are they different from some corner boy in Baltimore slinging dope? I have a little more sympathy for the corner boy than I do for some billionaire, who’s already doing quite well, knowingly selling narcotics far and above any reasonable or acceptable level of need.
The CDC statistics match his assessment of prescription drugs being a huge problem for Americans. They’ve found 1 in every 4 Americans (who is prescribed an opioid for noncancer related pain) becomes addicted. That’s nearly 2 million Americans who abused or became addicted to prescription opioids in 2014. It’s a staggering amount of people. And pharmaceutical companies are making it easy to attain these highly dangerous drugs. For many of us, we assume the doctor’s office is a safe place to get the medicine we need. And yet, millions of Americans are being prescribed medication that is risky and addictive.
Bourdain hopes that pharmaceutical companies will be held accountable for the damage they’ve done to people all over the country. And that with small town America being infected with mass amounts of addiction, we can finally start normalizing treatment and medical help for those with addiction rather than demonizing them.
Now that the white captain of the football team and his cheerleader girlfriend in small- town America are hooked on dope, maybe we’ll now stop demonizing heroin as a criminal problem, and start dealing with it as the medical and public health problem that it is, and should be.