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The Opioid Epidemic: Healthcare Crisis or Criminal Crisis?

This week Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $572 Million for their role in the opioid epidemic. This decision could only be the beginning of a long legal battle for many. Today’s Opioid Epidemic has impacted a large part of the country, especially in the Deep South and Midwest. There is no question that the opioid epidemic is being addressed as a healthcare crisis. The real question is should it be? There have been many drug issues in the country but none have really been treated as such. The other question is why? What makes the opioid epidemic so different?

The other infamous epidemic in this country was the crack epidemic of the 1980s. Crack impacted different areas, mainly in the inner cities throughout the nation. The response to the crack epidemic was vastly different. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s The War On Drugs under Ronald Regan and George Bush began the assault on urban communities. The Clinton Crime Bill of the 1990s was responsible for locking a generation of people in jail.

Two different drug epidemics that impacted the nation tremendously. Two different communities experiencing death, despair, and the erosion of their neighborhoods. However, we see two distinctly different responses to the issues. The question is why? One difference is our nation has somewhat changed its views on drug addiction. There is more of an understanding about how addiction works, and more of an understanding that some people are more prone to addiction than others. The other most glaring difference is the people that were impacted by these two epidemics. Crack impacted communities of color and crippled the inner cities. Opioids have hit middle America, and White America is the face of this new “Health Crisis” The question we have to ask is, Is there a difference in addiction? According to the country’s response to opioids vs crack the answer is yes. But Should there be?

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