The Crisis of Opioid Addiction in the United States as a Symptom of State Collapse
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Photo: Spencer Platt

The Crisis of Opioid Addiction in the United States as a Symptom of State Collapse


Every country or nation-state as it begins its decline or collapse, either as a result of economic disaster or through defeat in war, reveals other destructive indicators through other means — drug addiction among the masses and leadership being one of them.  Many historians when attempting to gauge or write about the decline and eventual ending of an empire, for instance, will study the various social behaviors that took place among the population of a dying nation, as it reached its end.

For example: Among the ancient Athenians it was the sheer decadence among the elite of the Greek empire which included the building of needlessly opulent mansions, the acquisition of slaves to do their bidding for even the most mundane things in daily life such as dressing oneself, or indulging in depraved sexual relationships becoming part of the norm before and after the death of Pericles. The Greek poets and playwrights wrote about such social horrors, and the greatest of them all, Thucydides, describes in detail the social decline and cultural harshness that took place among the Athenian leadership and the Greek populace during the Peloponnesian War.  Even China had its deep and troubling opium excesses at the beginning of the twentieth century, when British, German and American imperialism were exploiting mainland China, before the advent of Mao-Tzu-Tung’s great Socialist revolution. In Germany, a far darker infatuation with drugs would play a prominent role during the Weimar years, and not long afterward, the Nazi regime would have complete control over all of Germany.   

Currently in the United States, the world is witnessing an unparalleled usage of opioids and prescription drugs by Americans due to various social factors, including social anxiety, the loss of work or meaningful work, the breakdown of family and community connections and interaction, and poverty that leads to homelessness.  The Council on Foreign Relations observed in 2017, “The crisis has reached such a scale that beyond the risks it poses to public health, it is becoming a drag on the economy and a threat to national security. Analysts say the problem started with the over-prescription of legal pain medications, like oxycodone, but note that it has intensified in recent years with an influx of cheap heroin and synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, supplied by foreign-based drug cartels.”[i]

 For those who understand the complexities of capitalism and how everything is ultimately created for profit and not for the betterment of a healthy society, then what the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) admitted about the opioid crisis reaching such a scale it has even become a threat to American national security does not come as a surprise. Not only that, the pharmaceutical industry in the United States as well as thousands of American doctors have precipitated this drug crisis in the distribution of prescription pharmaceuticals for profit. However, CFR admits there is also the gray area where doctors feel obligated to help relieve the physical pain of their patients without understanding or realizing the consequences of such ‘help’.

“Doctors began prescribing more opioids amid a growing concern that pain was going under-treated," the CFR stated, "and also because pharmaceutical companies began marketing them more aggressively while claiming they posed little risk. Health-care providers have reported feeling pressure to prescribe opioid medications rather than alternatives, such as physical therapy or acupuncture, because patients request them and other treatments are often more costly or less accessible.”[ii] Drugs for profit have become the norm in America.

When we take into account the deaths related to opioid and other forms of drug addictions in the United States, then these statistics are staggering. The CFR noted, “In 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, opioid overdoses killed more than forty-two thousand people, or more than six times the number of U.S. military service-members killed in the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The opioid mortality rate that year contributed to the second straight yearly decline of life expectancy in the United States.The country last experienced such a decline in the 1960s.” 

In other words, the American people are at war with their addictions, the American pharmaceutical industry, as well as with the drug cartels that clandestinely and with impunity have crossed the American borders or traversed oceans from other continents to wreak havoc in their distribution of drugs for profit.  According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse's website, “Among the more than 72,000 drug overdose deaths estimated in 2017, the sharpest increase occurred among deaths related to fentanyl and fentanyl analogs (synthetic opioids) with nearly 30,000 overdose deaths.”[iii]  This "War on Drugs" among the American people will only be aggravated if they are confronted with an actual major war abroad, as it will only heighten the social and political anxiety already existing in the United States.

Let us be aware it should be understood from a historical and social perspective that a heightened usage of drugs is one of many indicators or symptoms a country goes through on the verge of irreconcilable social contradictions and disintegration. The other indications are also not being able to cope with natural disasters and mounting poverty which only increases the tensions of class warfare, thus leading to a rupture or friction among the masses wherever they may be.

Among the two main proponents of Fascism and Fascist hegemony during World War II were Germany and Italy, and so it was the people of those countries suffered by their drug intakes. Indeed, the severe usage of cocaine in Fascist Italy ,  was written about in a novel and short stories by the satiric Italian writer Dino Segre, who wrote his works in 1921 prior to Mussolini and his Fascist party coming to power. Recently, in the twenty-first century, the German author Norman Ohler has written how drug usage in pre-Nazi Germany, and eventually Nazi Germany itself, played a role in the societal destruction of the German people. 

When asked by an interviewer if there was a resemblance between the United States and  Nazi Germany --- as to when there was a deep drug proliferation among the German people and the German armed forces, and now the ongoing and troubling usage of drugs in the United States -- Normal Ohler conceded,  “It's like a mirror, and I would say, yes, it is an indicator. It's a very complex subject. On the one hand you have this strict prohibitionist ideology and on the other hand you have a modern rat-race between individuals within a society, but also between societies, and then once the war starts, obviously this modern competition gets into the highest gear possible, so the Nazis being overwhelmed by their ideology to conquer the whole world then start to use methamphetamine.”[iv]

Ohler concluded,  “And I think it's similar to what we see today … perhaps not similar … but in the United States today we see heavy opioid and methamphetamine abuse, and I think you're right, it's an indicator that a society is coping in very strange ways with the stress it has within the global society, the stress it creates itself by being a competitive capitalist system. So, yes, I think it is an indicator.”[v]  In America the seemingly endless so-called "War on Drugs" is a war not only to save ourselves but a nation as well.

Author: Luis Lázaro Tijerina