Facebook Twitter

Opinion: I could have been a casualty. We need to address the roots of the opioid crisis

While some blame border security for the opioid epidemic, the need for drug smuggling stems from the addiction that doctors, Big Pharma and politicians created

SHARE Opinion: I could have been a casualty. We need to address the roots of the opioid crisis
Stickers encourage Utahns to talk to their pharmacists about the dangers of prescription opioids.

Stickers to encourage Utahns to talk to their pharmacists about the dangers of prescription opioids and the use of naloxone are pictured in this 2017 file photo.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

I have a very personal story when it comes to the opioid epidemic. I have always been particular about what I put into my body, with the exception of when I played football in college and drank heavy whipping cream to gain weight. After my collegiate football career, I started working two jobs while attending school. While trying to balance this already hectic schedule, I was involved in a preventable accident at one of my two jobs.

Following a corrective neck surgery, the doctors told me there was nothing else they could do. They put me on fentanyl, benzodiazepines and a sleep aid — they essentially told me this was my new standard of living. Anyone familiar with these medications knows the cocktail prescribed to me is a trifecta for a potential overdose. 

I consider myself extremely lucky that I never became another statistic to the opioid crisis in America. I made the conscious decision to quit fentanyl and benzodiazepines, that were prescribed by a doctor, cold turkey. That way my son could have a father. Coming off these drugs was accompanied with horrible withdrawals, and it was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. While difficult, it is also important to emphasize that for those struggling with opioid addiction, I promise there can be an end to your addiction. It will be worth it— you will get your life back like my son got his father back.

I felt it was important to share my story because I know it is one that many people can relate to — either firsthand, or through someone they know and love. Many of our politicians are blaming border security as the culprit to the opioid crisis because — quite frankly — it’s an election year, and they know they can manipulate the issue to benefit themselves politically.

Border security aside, if there wasn’t a black market demand driven by addiction, there would be no need for potential drug-smugglers to come into America illegally in the first place. It is my goal to focus on the root of the problem. By addressing the culprits of mass opioid addiction in America, we can begin to finally eliminate the fuel for the crisis. 

The demand for fentanyl and opioids originated with three groups of people. The first was politicians who took lobbying money from pharmaceutical companies to help push legislation for opioids while suppressing any bills aimed at addressing the opioid epidemic they were in large part fueling. This falls on Democrats and Republicans alike — it’s why we need corporations out of politics and it’s why I refuse to take money from corporations. There is a reason money is considered the root of all evil — nothing positive comes from the pursuit of wealth at the expense of human lives. 

Also driven by the pursuit of wealth are the pharmaceutical companies who purposely suppressed data on the long-term effects of opioid use and the addictive nature of the opioids they were producing. This is exactly why the class action lawsuit against these pharmaceutical companies prevailed. 

The third group responsible are the physicians who took money from these pharmaceutical companies to prescribe the opioids. Doctors should never be paid for prescribing medicines. Period. They should only prescribe what the patients need; it’s one of the many problems plaguing our current health care system. 

This three-headed monster of self-serving politicians, pharmaceutical companies and physicians are what created the demand for the opioid crisis at the border in the first place.

The root cause of the issue needs to be addressed immediately through responsible legislation, as well as health care reform, so we can avoid another epidemic and crisis like the one we are currently facing.

This is a deadly crisis and we must respond accordingly. Several truths can coexist simultaneously. We do need to strengthen our borders to prevent illegal drugs from coming through. We also need immigration reform so those who want to embody Utah principles, like hard work and doing the right thing, are given the chance to find their American dream. 

Nick Mitchell is a candidate for Utah’s 2nd Congressional District. To learn more about his positions, visit NickMitchellForCongress.com.