How much does heroin cost in Texas

Drugs: The forgotten plague of the United States: the opioid epidemic

A motionless man on the terminal forecourt with the syringe still in his veins in Tulsa, Oklahoma; in Amarillo, Texas, a dealer that gives smokers a choice of codeine or fentanyl among passengers waiting to connect; at the entrance to the waiting room in Omaha, Nebraska, a garbage can filled with disposable needles. Such fates are often more visible in train stations than in other places: Anyone who traveled by bus through the American continent away from the dazzling metropolises on the east and west coast in the past decade saw the greatest health crisis - up to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic - the USA unmistakable. But the United States has been suffering from this crisis for decades. The effects of the current global epidemic made in China may have long pushed the opiate epidemic out of the headlines; that's not why it disappeared.

On the contrary. Rather, there are signs today that the measures taken in the USA to combat the coronavirus - extensive restrictions on public life, capacity deficits in the already comparatively poorly trained general health care system, reduction, if not the abolition of social care measures - are having fatal consequences pull yourself. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the national health agency based in Atlanta, Georgia, around 84,000 citizens died from a drug overdose between the summer of 2019 and 2020; the overwhelming majority of them on substances like heroin, oxycodone, morphine, or fentanyl, so-called opiates. A record as sad as it is lonely. Never before have so many Americans lost their lives this way within twelve months.

The human tragedies behind the figures have long left their mark on the economy. Exactly how much its drug problem is costing the US is difficult to say due to its complexity, but estimates by renowned economists are now at up to a trillion dollars (in digits: 1,000,000,000,000), which has increased since it erupted in the early 1990s have amassed.

Political promises
with no effective consequences

Despite this drama, effective political responses to the permanent crisis are still a long time coming. Not that there is a lack of suggestion. As the Bloomberg news agency recently reported, concrete recommendations have been on the table for years to get the epidemic under control. The Government Accountability Office, which belongs to the federal government but operates largely independently, a kind of mixture of audit office and ethics watchdog (motto: "responsibility, integrity, reliability"), sharply criticized the conduct of past administrations. The tenor of his report published in March last year on the subject: Both under the administration of President Barack Obama (2009-2017) and his deputy, the current head of state Joe Biden, and under the aegis of their successors Donald Trump and Mike Pence (2017-2021) only very few of his concrete proposals for combating the opiate epidemic have been taken up. In other words, Democrats and Republicans alike would not have ignored the problem for far too long.

An astonishing finding, given that the drug crisis and the public health crisis that led to it played an important role in the mobilization of rural voters in the 2016 election campaign. In the usual populist manner, Trump promised the people at the time that if they only give him their vote, he would do everything possible to get the "opiate plague" under control. The fact that Trump's then competitor Hillary Clinton, alarmed by the skyrocketing deaths and suicides of predominantly white men in the South, Northeast and Midwest, actually presented a detailed and holistic plan for combating the crisis was lost in the campaign din .

Having arrived in office, Trump hardly cared about the subject of drugs. After the ex-reality TV star had formally declared the epidemic a "national emergency", he initially left its treatment to a toothless and quickly disbanded special commission under the leadership of his party friend Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey. In the end, he handed the related portfolio over to his advisor, Kellyanne Conway. In the meantime, his administration, convinced of its own intellectual superiority and disregarding all the expertise of experts, reduced the budget of the Office of National Drug Policy (ONDP), which is traditionally under the influence of the White House, to almost zero.

The hopes of those people who suffer directly and indirectly from the consequences of the crisis were and are accordingly high that Trump's successor not only recognizes the problem this time, but actually actively combats it. These hopes are fed less from the usual warm words and campaign promises of the politician Joe Biden than from his very personal biography. If one ignores the well-documented, long-standing alcohol abuse of his predecessor George W. Bush during his pre-political career, the 78-year-old Biden is the first president in a long time to have firsthand experience of the consequences of drug use in his own life Family can report.

US President Biden knows the problem from his family

For the past decade, his son Hunter was regularly hooked on the crack pipe. In 2014, the now 51-year-old was flown straight out of the Navy Reserve because a blood test had shown that he was consuming cocaine. He almost died in 2016 when a dealer held a gun to his head while trying to buy crack in Los Angeles. A year later, after he crashed a rental car in Arizona, police found a cracked whistle in the glove compartment. Today Hunter Biden claims to be clean; not least out of responsibility for his father's political career, who meanwhile never hid his son's problems. "I can understand the trauma that the relatives of drug addicts go through. I am one of them," Joe Biden tells anyone who wants to hear it to this day. How concrete his plans to fight the Scourge will really go is still largely in the stars. During the election campaign, the former Vice President Barack Obamas had promised an extensive package of measures that primarily focused on prevention, education and extensive medical and psychological care for drug addicts. According to his plans, the whole thing will cost 125 billion dollars, spread over a decade and financed by taxes that are to be collected from drug manufacturers, many of whom are partly responsible for the crisis.

Biden now wants support instead of "Law and Order"

Even if the plan does not go far enough for many in his own party, Biden's critics also admit that the paradigm shift alone will no longer portray drug users as mere criminals who are the sole responsibility of the police, but as victims of socio-economic and social circumstances , means one step forward. Not least because in the past, especially during the crack epidemic of the late eighties and nineties, Biden had not only made a name for himself as a "law and order" politician who believed that this would simply get the drug problem under control by imprisoning as many people as possible.

The consequences of this misguided philosophy are reflected to this day, among other things, in the fact that in absolute figures as in the per capita ratio in no other country as many people are behind bars as in the USA. In 2020, around 2.3 million Americans were in prison, according to official statistics. Far disproportionately represented in relation to their share of the population: African American and Latinos.

What these figures also confirm are the pervasive structural inequalities of American society itself. Dealing with the drug problem illustrates the balance of power in the country like hardly any other topic. Until well into the 1990s, when the Republicans successfully drove then President Bill Clinton along with increasingly extreme demands on the punishment of drug users and traffickers. This was reflected in the "Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act" passed in 1994. For representatives of the liberal half of the empire, it was considered political suicide to question the meaning behind it. Another dynamic that could hardly be underestimated was the public perception of the problem. For decades, the vast majority of Americans perceived the subject of drug abuse almost exclusively as an urban, i.e. minority, phenomenon.

Crisis has arrived in the middle of white society

Countless historical documentaries and television games on streaming platforms such as Netflix, HBO max or Amazon Prime testify to how deeply the image of junkies living in the ruins of modern civilization, smoking crack or sniffing angel dust has become engraved in the collective memory. As we know today, the opiate epidemic had long since reached the suburbs and rural regions - and with it the heart of the white majority society. Nevertheless, it was almost another decade before this fact was generally accepted.

It was not until the end of the second term of office of George W. Bush (whose administration, with its campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, raised numerous members of a new generation of traumatized soldiers who, when it came to drug use, raised their predecessors, who had left their souls in Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos, In no way inferior or inferior) it became clear to most of the people's representatives that the problem could no longer be ignored. Even in popular culture, the subject was slowly but surely proving to be a street sweeper. In 2008, the first episode of "Breaking Bad" hit television screens in the United States. It is not for nothing that the now legendary series about a middle school teacher who, with all the consequences that goes with it, becomes a drug lord, was set in the deepest American province: in Albuquerque, the largest city in New Mexico. Even if Walter White's core business was not the manufacture and sale of today's ubiquitous opiates - crystal meth is a synthetic drug - the principle remained the same. The meth wave of the noughties was followed by a drop in the price of heroin, which made the drug more than affordable for broad sections of the population.

The rest was done by pharmaceutical companies and the de facto agent doctors across the country who prescribed pain medication to their patients for years as if there was no tomorrow. As a result, there is no longer a de facto place or social class in today's USA where opiate abuse in any form is not widespread in one way or another. In this respect, the drastic manifestations of the opiate epidemic described at the beginning only give a limited picture of their extent. As is well known, only the poorest of the poor travel by bus through the country in America.