You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.
- Robert Frost, "Two Tramps in Mud Time"
We're back in the middle of February here, folks. With some regularity. Now I don't mind a snow day every once in a while. I think of all the things I can get done, like read a good book, finish cleaning out that closet, or (gasp!) writing. But of course, too often, what happens is that I end up, hours later, looking up from an internet reading binge that is only occasionally informative, as in,
Do you want to see the oldest tree in the world?
Answer: hell yes!
|6,000 year old Senegal baobab tree.|
(Fun note: 6,000 years ago, there are still mammoths on Saint Paul Island, Alaska, and Wrangel Island, Russia!)
Alcohol, marijuana, mushrooms, and opium derivatives are universal and thousands of years older than any writing. Which makes sense, because living in a physical body is going to get painful sooner or later. Think of the pre-industrial world: tens of thousands of years of hard work done without benefit of machines, accidents, wars, beatings, old age, botched surgeries, unsuccessful surgeries, cancer, medieval dentistry, ancient trepanning, arthritis, osteoporosis, rotten teeth, and all the other wear and tear of daily life.
As Dr. Samuel Johnson said in the 18th century, about alcohol: "He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man."I bring all this up because Buzzfeed posted a great article April 3, which I read while watching the snow whirling past my window, called "The Opioid Crisis Isn't a Metaphor". Quite simply, it points out that - contrary to innumerable modern op-eds - people aren't drowning in opioid addiction because post-modern life in America is hell on earth. People have been drowning in addiction and alcoholism since the Epic of Gilgamesh. Life, any time, anywhere, will sooner or later get you taking serious medication.
But even then, people in pain really do not "addict" that easily. Unless they're widely available, as in West Virginia, where out-of-state drug companies shipped nearly 21 million opioid painkillers to two pharmacies in Williamson, WV, population 2,900, in 3 years (see Vox), not to mention millions more to other pharmacies in other small towns throughout the country. Let's put it this way, if that much crack or meth had arrived in Williamson, WV, in 3 years, every law enforcement authority in the country would have been all over it. But it was legal. And all the physicians urged to give them out like candy, and renew the prescriptions at the drop of a hat, for as often and long as... well, as they're asked for. And why? Because: profits.
NOTE: Meet the Sacklers, the family behind the whole opioid crisis, (Daily Mail - and Esquire), $14 billionnaires and counting, most of which came from OxyContin. (Oh, and they don't like to talk about it - they're very private people. Spread the word.)So, we have two chronic human needs - for pain relief, and to get wealthy - meeting in communities around the nation, and it's all legal. (At least at first.) Addiction and overdoses begin to skyrocket, especially as teenagers - who will do anything and everything to get high because that's what teenagers do - get their hands on them. As people sell them on the black market to make some extra cash. As people trade them around in search of better pain relief or a better high. As it all rolls up into one giant white pill shaped ball and pundits ask "Why do people do these things?" And cluck their tongues like America was such a Puritan paradise before this happened.
HA! The original Puritans banned dancing, drama, cards, gambling, and most toys, but they did drink. The Mayflower was loaded with more beer than water, and the very first Thanksgiving meal was served with beer, brandy, wine and gin. And I'll bet they used whatever they could for pain relief.
And then there's the little issue of withdrawals. As the Buzzfeed article says, "And once you’re addicted, you don’t take a hit because you’re surrounded by postindustrial despair. You do it because not taking a hit makes you feel worse than you could have ever imagined. If you go long enough without it, you’ll vomit, crap your pants, and want to die, just for starters. So of course you'll do anything to get another hit." And it's not just opioids. Untreated, alcohol D.T.s (delerium tremens) has a 15-40% death rate.
So yeah, this whole idea of drug addiction caused by post-industrial despair only cropped up when white people began to become addicts, criminals, and die in epidemic numbers.
Addiction: From Morality Play to Metaphor of Modernity in only 30 years. Depending on where it happens, and to whom...