In Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America (Amazon,) Beth Macy paints a pretty grim picture of how high rates of persistent unemployment, lack of opportunities and drug companies looking for profit sparked a heroin addiction wildfire.
The scary part is that the heroin epidemic did not need a grand conspiracy or a big drug kingpin making moves. It started at the margins – doctors prescribing opioids for pain, kids passing around pills for thrills in parties, etc. But for most, the first high was all it took. Most of an addicts life is then spent seeking the feeling of the first high. Early stage addicts also ended up being the best recruits for the next set of junkies. The book outlines the rise of the “user-dealer” — junkies who fund their addition by dealing dope. This frustrated the typical law enforcement response of jailing dealers – most of them were not dealing for the money per se, but because they needed the next fix.
Addiction should be treated like a chronic disease. However, our society treats it like a moral failing. This is unfortunate because it prevents a policy response based on science.
Recommendation: read the book!