Anthropology

Overdose deaths are the product of drug prohibition

During Prohibition, drinkers never knew what they would get when they set out to slake their thirst. Bootleggers often sold products adulterated with industrial alcohol and other toxins. Some 10,000 people were fatally poisoned before America gave up this grand experiment in suppressing vice.

Fentanyl was just the beginning. The latest additive is carfentanil, a compound 100 times more powerful than fentanyl that is used to tranquilize elephants. It’s shown up in a street drug known as “gray death,” which sells for much less than pharmaceutical opioids. Its advent is likely to boost the casualty count. These side effects are an inevitable result of treating a vice, or a medical condition, as something to be punished. Short of some form of legalization, useful steps could be taken. Drug-testing kits can detect the presence of fentanyl and other contaminants — but in many places, including Illinois, they are classified as illegal drug paraphernalia. The District of Columbia recently decided to grant an exemption letting syringe exchange programs screen drugs for the people they serve.

Original Article (Chicago Tribune):
Overdose deaths are the product of drug prohibition
Artwork Fair Use: Gary Halvorson

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