Help with a blind spot

US Drug overdose deaths top 100,000 per year

I don’t get it.

That’s over 5 times the number of annual firearm homicides, yet no one seems upset about it.

Most are fentanyl overdoses, not intentional or even that reckless, they are mostly quality control deaths. Fentanyl tablets are highly diluted and prepared from powders, which are notoriously hard to mix evenly. 2mg is a lethal dose, and a typical tablet weighs about 0,5 grams. If the intended dose is 1mg, that is a 50 to 1 dilution. So, if the powders are poorly mixed, it is very easy to get a tablet with a lethal dose.

Technicalities aside, the stuff comes from China, is processed in Mexico, and comes over the border in various ways. A lot solutions have been offered, including an embargo of China, sending the military into Mexico to obliterate the cartels, to ending drug prohibition. (I lean that way. prohibition has never worked and US drug makers know how to do quality control.)

But that’s not my question, what I want to know is where this insatiable demand for drugs comes from? You have to figure that if 100K are dying every year, there have to be 10s, maybe hundreds of millions of non-lethal uses each year.

I have no insight, I’ll drink a finger of bourbon in the evening a few times a week, but I’ve never been drunk, never tried a recreational drug, hell, I’ve never even smoked a cigarette. Ever since I discovered girls, I’ve never seen a reason to alter reality.

So, if anyone has insights into why young people need to use drugs to escape what objectively is a pretty damned good reality, please tell me why. What are they trying to find?

65 thoughts on “Help with a blind spot

  1. “So, if anyone has insights into why young people need to use drugs to escape what objectively is a pretty damned good reality, please tell me why.”

    Your premise is wrong. The economic reality that new adults face today is radically worse that what you and I found when we reached adulthood. What is missing for most is real opportunity. Where we had a lot of opportunities to choose from, they fight each other for unpaid internships and gig work. And that is for college graduates from leading universities. For most it is even worse. Want to get into a trade, then come up with money you and your parents don’t have or go into debt that you can never get out from under.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Then explain why there was rampant drug abuse and rampant deaths, from coke and heroin especially, when we were their age? The appetite hasn’t changed, only the availability of more lethal drugs no matter the economic conditions. Your premise is wrong.


    2. I think many young people have been led to perceive such hard times, but I disagree about the reality.

      There is a great deal of effort the convince young people they have it hard “we’re going to die of climate change” and such foolishness but opportunity remains.


          1. YOUR nonsense is noted. The three words I used are part and parcel of why there is a drug problem in this country. Opioids get people hooked. Then those hooked turn to street drugs for alleviation of “pain”. That is why pharmaceutical companies (and drgg stores/pharmacies) are paying BIG BUX to states for their role in the epidemic.

            Your problem is you would have to denigrate your favorite thing in the world, that which solves all problems, the MARKET. And you just can’t let your little Libertarian heart go there.


          2. An actual free market, without government subsidies for addiction, would deal quite effectively with addiction.

            Don’t forget that our “social safety net” heavily subsidizes addiction.


          3. RE: “The three words I used are part and parcel of why there is a drug problem in this country.”

            Part, maybe. Not parcel.

            To be parcel all the doctors writing prescriptions for opioids would have to be unethical violators of their Hippocratic oaths. That’s a prospect hard to imagine, even with the Covid-19 fiasco still large in our review mirrors.

            Besides, Dr. Tabor’s question concerns a very different topic: Why do drug users use drugs?


          4. “Why do drug users use drugs?”

            I addressed how SOME drug users end up using illicit drugs. If you want to paint ALL rug users with a brad brush, Home Depot sells a 6 1/2 inch masonry brush for under $9.


          5. Actually, I am more interested in why young people who are casual drug users rather than long term addicts are increasingly using drugs, with lethal result.

            These deaths are largely high school and college age kids.


      1. “I think many young people have been led to perceive such hard times, but I disagree about the reality.”

        On what basis do you disagree?

        My daughter is a graduate of Dartmouth. A quality school with a sterling reputation. It was YEARS before a majority of her classmates found work that could be construed as the beginning of any kind of career. Her first job which she got by beating dozens of other applicants was an UNPAID internship. When I graduated from Dartmouth I had the immediate choice of dozens of well-paid entry level positions. Times have changed for the worse for young people.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Hard times was when you left school at 14 to work in a coal mine till you died like your father and grandfather.

          Time change. Degrees that had value 40 years ago may not today. There are choices that provide a good living.

          Does Dartmouth offer a degree in welding?


          1. “Does Dartmouth offer a degree in welding?”
            No. And does not offer dentistry either.

            So, the problem facing EVERYBODY is because EVERYBODY made bad choices. Yeah, right.

            And, I note your typical “conservative” disparagement of the well-educated. I will not speculate what aspect of your character is behind that – just that it is typical of your sort.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. I started out in Marine Biology intending a career in academia and research.

            There were 8 students in the Marine Biology curriculum in my first year, Then Jaque Cousteau had TV specials on the oceans and the next year there were 200 in the curriculum.

            Then I noted that the head of the Marine Biology Dept fished from a 14 ft aluminum boat and my dentist fished from a 35 ft Bertram.

            So, I followed the market and chose a different path.

            You didn’t mention your daughter’s field, or yours, but some fields are in demand and some are not.

            Getting a degree is investing your life, choose wisely.


          3. “So, I followed the market and chose a different path.”

            If everyone used that logic, who would collect our trash or become researchers. We’d just have lawyers, doctors and dentists. 😇

            We place a higher value on the celebrity plastic surgeon than we do on his teacher, but one could not exist without the other.

            I would venture the opinion that today, the marine biologist is more important than another dentist. The problems with fisheries (major food source for much of the world), ocean debris,
            temperatures, chemicals, etc. need attention now. Again, another topic.

            Liked by 2 people

          4. A marine biologist may have value, but if the field is saturated, he won’t draw much pay.

            An education is an investment in yourself, it is foolish to waste it on something the market will not support.

            You may feel passionate about your field of interest, but a degree in cat gender studies is not going to support your family.


          5. Your skillset is a product you offer in the employment marketplace. If you choose to offer a product not in demand or for which demand is saturated, you will not get a high price, if you can sell it at all.


          6. “Your skillset is a product you offer in the employment marketplace.”

            I majored in Philosophy. When I graduated I had numerous opportunities to enter into a well-paying job at the first rung of an upwardly mobile career. That would not be true today. Which was my point when I said that “the economic reality that new adults face today is radically worse that what you and I found when we reached adulthood.”

            Liked by 1 person

          7. “Yet today there are many degrees and certifications that will lead to a good career.”
            Sure, but

            (a) Not enough for everyone. Not even close.
            (b) If you have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend.
            (c) Or you do not mind being saddled with crippling debt for most of your life.

            Liked by 1 person

          8. My daughter makes more than I ever did as a dentist. She finished college with a degree that provided little opportunity, and instead took a job in an accounting firm doing entry level work, She impressed her employer with her work ethic and took advantage of training opportunities offered and now has certifications that make her employer compete with headhunters to keep her.

            My son-in-law does almost as well having taken advantage of apprenticeship programs offered by the shipyard and putting in the effort,

            Neither has any college debt, their educations in the fields they work in were provided by employers who invested in them based on effort and merit.

            There are scores of local companies that offer training from shipyards to HVAC. We live in a time of labor shortage, so employers will train anyone who will show up on time and show some effort.

            You may not be able to walk off the stage at graduation and be handed the keys to the kingdom, but there are plenty of opportunities available to those who show up and work hard.


          9. “My daughter makes more than I ever did as a dentist…”

            And my son makes far more than I ever did by writing speeches. So what?

            The “conservative” philosophy” based on the idea that “I got mine now you get yours” is not a solution to the economic and social problems we are facing.

            Liked by 1 person

          10. No, but learning that flexibility and hard work are important in rapidly changing markets is important.

            When you find out that your degree in cat gender studies isn’t going to get you the career you want, do something else, don’t sit around and whine about your own bad market research.


          11. “. . . don’t sit around and whine”

            And, who do you think is doing that?

            You seem to be unaware that the median IQ is 100. That many millions of people are not healthy or not handsome or not pretty. Or can’t read. A society and an economy built on your social Darwinist ‘druthers will fall apart quickly.

            Liked by 1 person

          12. If you can’t read, learn to read,

            It doesn’t take an IQ over 100 to fix HVAC systems, and when the heat isn’t working, no one cares if the guy who gets it working is handsome.


          13. “If you can’t read, learn to read . . .”

            Wow! You are unbelievably out of touch with reality. You are just doubling down on “I got mine, you get yours.” It is a simple fact that people of lower than median ability, who are unhealthy and/or who are unattractive do not have the same magic bootstraps that you think solve all problems.

            For what it is worth, I think you greatly underestimate the level of intelligence that it takes to be successful as an HVAC technician. One of my systems failed recently and the guy who fixed it needed a very demanding skill set that overlapped wiring, circuit boards, schematics, gas delivery safety and electronics.

            Liked by 1 person

          14. It isn’t just HVAC, but you know that. I know a guy who has a bigger boat than mine who pumps out septic tanks.

            There is opportunity for everyone.

            Sure, some will succeed more than others, but everyone canmake a living.


          15. I know you are trying to make point about boat sizes and income.

            But it is not unusual to measure success solely by wealth accumulation.. keeping up with the Joneses, the American way. Running your own successful and profitable business is very tough and requires skill sets and a series of personality traits to do in a complex economy. That is why we have a few million business owners and 150 million employees (estimates from memory).

            This mindset is what gets families in trouble. Less so perhaps in the future. The “millennial minimalism” is a real thing. So there is that.

            Liked by 2 people

          16. “Markets change.”

            Indeed they do. Sometimes so rapidly that people can’t keep up.

            I recall that we had a nursing shortage a decade or two ago, so 4 year nursing schools were filling. Advanced degrees added another couple of years.

            By the time they spent big bucks and graduated, the demand fizzled and, like law graduates, had to make do as bartenders and baristas. Now we have another shortage.

            We only live but so long and changing economic needs out race skill sets that take years to develop. And just the other day we discussed AI and it’s probable impact on employment.

            Ironically, this reality is what tanked Hillary Clinton in 2016. Her program to retrain coal miners who were losing their jobs was reframed to her causing the job losses. They mostly were the result of automation in the industry, open pit mining and demand decreases. But the right mantra was to send them back into the mines as soon as Trump was elected. So out of work miners were still out of work and without the reality check of new careers. And years passing doesn’t help the 50 year old miner. Yes this is tangential, but illustrative of how fast changes in labor demand are an issue of greater importance as we move on into AI.

            Markets change, indeed.

            Liked by 2 people

          17. Or walked 5 miles to school uphill both ways in the snow with no shoes.

            “Hard times” are relative. If you live in a shack with no heat, you have hard times over the the neighbor with a stove.

            The old Chinese saying (seems all the old sayings are Chinese) that says:

            When there is a lot of food, there are a lot of problems. When there is no food, there is only one problem.

            Wealthy industrial countries have lots of problems. Doing well requires a myriad of social, technical, physical and financial skills. Stress is quite likely the biggest killer we have. Every generation has been told how easy they have it compared to “my day” or grandad’s day. Yet, that is the American way. Your kids should do better than you, even though there is no precedence in history for that. It seems we have hit reality finally. And the sad news is that our braggadocio concerning upward mobility is at best a fantasy. Many other nations do better at providing the means and the opportunities to rise above your status than we do, or probably ever did.

            The irony is we praise long hours, hard work, little sleep. We also praise the importance of family life and raising children. Hard to do both. Yet such things as affordable child care, paid leave for childbirth, great affordable healthcare are rejected as un-American work ethics. Stress rears its ugly head again.

            Of course your example was telling of a hard life. So was slavery. The Depression. That does not mean we should aspire to those to prove toughness.

            Liked by 2 people

          18. Not the point.

            People in those hard times were still more optimistic than many young people today, and that should worry you.

            We are telling our youth horror stories from grade school on. We tell them the world is going to end unless we do things we clearly aren’t going to do. Every weather event is a sign of the apocalypse.

            We show them murder scenes on the news every night and have them practice for school shootings which are about as likely as meteor strikes.

            We terrify them every day with imagined or at least very unlikely boogeymen

            It’s not REAL hardship that they are frightened by, its the boogeymen we build to scare them to manipulate their parents.


          19. “We show them murder scenes on the news every night and have them practice for school shootings which are about as likely as meteor strikes.”

            Growing up in a large city, we had crime plastered all over the media also. At least a dozen daily papers, morning and evening editions too, often had the shots of bodies and detectives on the front pages of the tabloids.

            Duck and cover drills? No stress there.

            Every generation has its own issues and you can bet that what we see now in the open was just kept quiet or underground back in the good old days. Murder rates during the early part of last century were high. Gang warfare, bank robbery, murders, domestic abuse, lynchings attended by town folk (and their kids too), union battles with hired thugs, drug use disguised as “medicinal”. If the internet had been invented 100 years ago, the probable effects would be the same. But news was slower and many did not even have electricity, phones or even indoor plumbing. (Indoor plumbing is important because that is when the newspaper can be perused😇)

            The post WW2 boom for us was an anomaly that we based our national psyche for the next 50 years. Affordable higher education, building booms, (infrastructure and housing), no competition around the globe. If you were White, the boosts were amazing and I would wager that if Blacks got housing, jobs and education at the same rate, we would have much fewer racial issues today. But that is another story too. One that few want to hear today.

            Today is no better or no worse than the past. We just have more people doing the same thing and we learn about it in almost real time.


            Liked by 2 people

          20. “. . . school shootings which are about as likely as meteor strikes.”

            Uh, there were 51 school shootings in America in 2022. There were zero meteor strikes resulting in injury or death. In 2022 or EVER. School shootings are a real thing thanks to the ubiquity of deadly weapons in this country.

            Like all “conservatives” you look at the past through rose colored glasses. No bogeymen for children to fear in the good old days? Really? I remember “duck and cover” drills when I was in grade school? I’ll bet you do too.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. RE: “So, if anyone has insights into why young people need to use drugs to escape what objectively is a pretty damned good reality, please tell me why. What are they trying to find?”

    I was a heavy user in my youth, but I don’t think I can explain it at all. You start with curiosity. Then use becomes a habit, even a lifestyle. Eventually you realize that you are living an “unreality,” and you want to get back to normal.

    None of the drugs I ever tried lived up to its hype. None were beneficial in any way. There’s not a one I ever want to try again.

    My best guess about fentanyl is that people try it because they can. No active or persuadable incentive is involved. That’s why — despite the compromise of civil liberties — some form of prohibition seems to make sense.


    1. Humans and other animals for that matter have been ingesting drugs and alcohol for millions of years.

      Life is hard and some mild sedation/stimulation is a welcome respite for some. Cocoa leaves in Peru, Bolivia etc. Khat in Thailand, etc. The problem gets worse when concentrating the chemicals to the point of serious incapacitation. Add in the genetic differences among peoples regarding the ability to tolerate and detoxify certain chemicals.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Cocoa leaves were chewed by Bolivian Indians for probably millennia. Living at and laboring at high altitudes is hard and a bit painful. Cocoa takes the edge off.

          Westerners have decided that derivatives must be more powerful to addict than sell to the addict. Capitalism in a pure form. Vastly increase the value of a raw material. Then create a market and let prices be determined by the risk of production, distribution and the demand of the customers.

          Now, since it is obvious that a population of zoned out citizens is not a good thing in a competitive world, the individual right to obliviousness via drugs contrasts with the collective need for sober workers.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Yes for chewing cocoa leaves, no for crack cocaine.

            There is a huge difference.

            I was saying the drug business is pretty straightforward capitalism. Private ownership, creating value at each step of production, marketing, establishing brand loyalty, creating demand…it’s just perfect. That is not the same as saying they are victims of capitalism in general…just that the illicit drug business is a capitalist business.

            Oh, very little regulatory interference from FDA or the means of production. Few taxes.

            Sure, pesky cops, but they can be hired as security, so problem solved.

            Liked by 2 people

  3. OK, let’s say there is at least a perception that life is tough. A false one, but let’s say real in their minds.

    Still, why drugs?

    If you’re a 20 year old guy, there are also 20 year old girls to distract you.

    My brain is who I am. I don’t see the appeal in distorting reality. Seeking distraction and pleasure sure, but reality can be really nice.

    Is it just laziness? Are other forms of pleasure and distraction just too much work?


    1. Why drugs? Drugs have been a part of humanity since the first fermented fruit was eaten.

      Alcohol, by far the most destructive drug we have, is so culturally embedded it is only in recent decades that we even started ease up on the comedy of drunks. You don’t see any Foster Brooks types today.

      Booze is by far the best gateway drug we have and because we market it, glamorize it, sell it by the container load, it is ubiquitous.

      That being said, many people cannot handle booze due to probable genetic difference with regards to handling its toxicity. So early drinking by children can easily create a dependency that some will never control.

      The explosion of hard drug addiction today is a pretty direct result of Big Pharma, friendly legislators and drug distributors pushing opioids. Tightening the availability of prescription painkillers made street drugs easier and cheaper. Capitalism’s dark side.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You’re in too big a rush to blame capitalism.

        I’d blame the opposite, socialism, in the form of our welfare system.

        For most of the existence our families were strong because we needed them.

        A man who was an addict of or a drunk was not husband material and a drunk or addicted woman would never find a husband. that was a strong disincentive to addiction, getting laid trumped getting high.

        But when welfare made family life unnecessary, and getting laid was separated from being a reliable spouse, then those inhibitions to addiction were lost.


        1. “You’re in too big a rush to blame capitalism.“

          Who said I blamed capitalism? I observed that the illicit drug market is pure capitalism. It has the bare bones characteristics of ownership, increase in value of resources every step of the way, marketing, brand loyalty, customer service, pricing based on risk and supply, great ROI.
          Admittedly, that is a flippant definition, but still accurate.

          The causes of our OS epidemic are myriad, but opioids without any restraints plus false claims by Big Pharma regarding addiction and marketing to doctors are big factors. That is crony capitalism since any restraints by government were ignored or watered down in favor of the heavy lobbying by Pharma to keep distributing the opioids like Pez candy.

          Welfare is a whole ‘nuther topic.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. The illicit drug market is entirely a government construct.

            Opioids are cheap. You could maintain a heroin addict for a dollar a day. The extremes of the illicit market are the result of prohibition.

            If you want to destroy the cartels, make them compete with WalMart.


          2. Yes and no. Capitalism doesn’t care where costs derive from. If everyone has the same risk in procurement, manufacturing and distribution, it is like a fixed overhead. So within the illicit drug market, capitalism reigns supreme.

            I have agreed that the costs, profits and power of the cartels is because of illegality. But economic realities of product development and sales follow the free market mantra. True enforcement of competition may be a bit bloody, but courts are not going to settle gang differences, so they have their own DOJ so to speak.

            Liked by 2 people

          3. But that is only because of the risk involved in supplying a prohibited market. absent that risk created by law enforcement and unlawful territorial monopolies, those profit margins could not be sustained.

            WalMart could supply safe, consistent strength fentanyl for a tiny fraction of street prices and the overdose and cartel problems would be over in a week.


          4. Fentynsl is usually added to other drugs to increase potency.

            Walmart could sell heroin, cocaine of pre-determined quality without lacing them.

            Addicts don’t really need street drugs to get high, they need them to fell less terrible. The original high was the “hook”.

            We need to consider treating our drug problem as a healthcare issue, not a criminal one. Just like booze and butts.

            Liked by 2 people

    2. RE: “My brain is who I am.”

      I can’t resist pointing out that if you stub your toe hard enough, your brain will be a little less of who you are. That is to say, many distortions of reality are entirely natural and organic.

      RE: “Are other forms of pleasure and distraction just too much work?”

      I’d emphasize that the pleasure and distraction experiences drugs produce don’t require any work at all. The trap of initial addiction is probably related to this in some way.


      1. Right. The opioid pain meds prescribed by doctors and marketed by pharmaceutical companies had NOTHING to do with addictions.

        I would posit that most overdoses are occurring in people who were prescribed pain meds that hooked them then just your average street junkie.


        1. Surely you could do a little research before “positing” about things you don’t know anything about, especially things that are off topic.


        2. Odd thing,

          The rate of addiction in 1920, when opioids and cocaine were OTC products, was 1.2%

          In 1956, the beginning of the Drug War, it was 1.2%

          Now it is 1.3%

          Market forces and prohibition have had no effect on addiction.

          But the overdose crisis isn’t among addicts, it is casual users who are dying by 100’s of thousands each year.


  4. Drug use long predates the 60’s. During the 1800’s, cocaine, laudanum, heroin, morphine as well as alcohol were mostly legal, easy to get and even prescribed.

    Colonial era was rampant with booze since the water was not fit to drink.

    It is true that drugs today are more powerful for a variety of reasons.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My commeng disappeared so here goes again.

    Just like the 60s/70s sex, drugs and rock and roll era young people tend to be more socially idealistic and look for ways to be happy and find “lnner peace” through instant gratification. This equates to partying with friends as a social escape. Today’s rap and EMO glorify drug use and anti-establishment among other things. Peer pressure convinces young people drugs are cool and no big deal but they are far more lethal now however, just like we did, kids trust their friends instead of adults. Most grow out of it but some get hooked. It’s not the economy, big pharma, or the boogy man, it’s part of growing up with lethal drugs pouring across the border and the current admin could care less. It’s not rocket science…


    1. I think you are 100% correct that social/cultural factors play a major role in encouraging children to experiment with damaging drugs. It is a crying shame that our society/culture today doesn’t actively discourage drug use by children.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. …” lethal drugs pouring across the border”…

      The majority of which are coming through border check points, not the “open border” on the backs of migrants, which is actually a myth. But you believe it, so it must be true.

      And it is harder than rocket science. It is not a NEW problem or a Biden caused problem. It has been happening for decades. But you just HAVE to blame Biden. Similar mounts of drugs were pouring over the border prior to the Biden presidency. An inconvenient truth for the Right, but it is what it is.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, let’s remember that the border patrol agents who should be manning those checkpoints are busy filling out forms to process illegal immigrants instead.

        But I don’t disagree that trying to screen the border for drugs is a losing proposition. Addressing demand is the solution.


        1. …”illegal immigrants”…

          Not all of them are Illegal immigrants. Some are asylum seekers and refugees. But you don’t believe there is a difference. If they come to the border, turn themselves in requesting asylum, they are, to you, illegal. Some may not meet the standards for asylum. But you cannot declare ALL to be ineligible. The legal obligation is to screen them.

          There have been some high profile confiscations over the years at border crossings. But I agree that addressing demand is the solution. Too bad none of us in this forum, nor those in Congress, can agree on either situation.


          1. In 2018, only 16% of asylum seekers were found to have valid claims, But with the glut of claims under Biden’s fast track program, it is now closer to 99% with no valid claim to asylum. They are just economic migrants who have been invited to abuse the asylum process to get in the door.


            What we should be doing is finding a better way to admit guest workers.


          2. “What we should be doing is finding a better way to admit guest workers.”

            No disagreement. Why don’t you tell your friends in the GOP to work on THAT instead of investigating Hunter Biden’s “big buy” pics?

            Oh, wait. No time to fix immigration issues. We HAVE to “own the libs” to stay in power.😇 (but only a little)


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