Seth Leibsohn: Politicizing and Misunderstanding the Opioid Crisis

By Seth Leibsohn

The nation’s opioid crisis is real and it is serious. As Christopher Caldwell recently pointed out, “those who call the word ‘carnage’ an irresponsible exaggeration are wrong.” And so, too, are those playing politics with the crisis. Even beyond the politicization—or, perhaps, because of it—there is still a great deal of misunderstanding as to what is driving this crisis.

As for the first problem, the politics: Senator Claire McCaskill (D., MO) has announced that she is initiating an investigation of several opioid manufacturers, and is requesting “reams of information” from them. But note the one manufacturer she did not target and from which she did not request information—Mallinckrodt. Mallinckrodt, after all, is headquartered in Missouri, her own state. Odd, that. And it’s not as if Mallinckrodt is a bit player in the manufacture and sales of opioid drugs. Indeed, “it is one of the nation’s largest” producers, responsible for nearly 20 percent of the market share of opioid prescriptions. The companies McCaskill has targeted are responsible for a total market share of 5.25 percent combined. Odd, that. If she were serious about investigating pharmaceutical companies, she most certainly would be investigating the one based in her own home state which also happens to be the one responsible for most opioid sales in America.

But all of this is not even the beginning of the beginning in addressing America’s opioid crisis. For when political leaders like Senator McCaskill are not playing politics with the issue, they are too often misunderstanding it. Some of that is not their fault.

Part of the problem in addressing the opioid crisis is that the terminology can be confusing or misleading. People hear “opioid” or “prescription opioid” or “fentanyl” and begin to lump the problems all together as a crisis driven by legitimately prescribed drugs. No doubt, that is a part of the problem, but it is nowhere near the biggest part of it. Take a look at the best statistics available (taken from the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the CDC):

  • In 2015, there were 33,091 opioid overdose deaths.
  • Heroin deaths constituted 12,990 of those deaths.
  • Synthetic opioids (mostly illegal fentanyl) constitute another 9,580 deaths.

Because opioid deaths usually involve the use of more than one drug, percentages and raw numbers will not neatly add up to 100% or the 33,091 deaths. As the White House Website puts it: “A portion of the overdose deaths involved both illicit opioids and prescription opioids.” But what we can see from the above is that over 68 percent of the problem is from the use of illegal drugs.  Or, as the CDC put it in December of 2016: “[T]he increase in opioid overdose death rates is driven in large part by illicit opioids, like heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a synthetic opioid.”

As for the prescribed opioids, the majority of overdose deaths from those come from the diversion and illegal distribution of them. As the CDC notes: “Most people who abuse prescription opioids get them for free from a friend or relative.” The people “at highest risk of overdose” “get opioids using their own prescriptions (27 percent), from friends or relatives for free (26 percent), buying from friends or relatives (23 percent), or buying from a drug dealer (15 percent).” Thus, for the population that overdoses from opioid prescriptions, 64 percent abuse them from a diverted or illegal source. In other words, the abuse of opioid prescriptions that leads to overdose deaths involving a patient acquiring a legal prescription and misusing that prescription on himself is less than 30 percent of the prescription problem and constitutes about 15 percent of the overall opioid overdose problem.

This is backed up, as well, by the most recent testimony of the Director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC, Dr. Debra Houry. Just last month, she testified to Congress stating,

Although prescription opioids were driving the increase in overdose deaths for many years, more recently, the large increase in overdose deaths has been due mainly to increases in heroin and synthetic opioid (other than methadone) overdose deaths, not prescription opioids. Importantly, the available data indicate these increases are largely due to illicitly manufactured fentanyl.

Again, the main driver of our current crisis is the use and abuse of illegal drugs, not legally prescribed drugs. Indeed, there is some common sense to this. Almost anyone who has had a surgical procedure was likely given a legal opioid like fentanyl. As one prominent anesthesiologist recently wrote: “To an anesthesiologist, fentanyl is as familiar as a Philips screwdriver is to a carpenter; it is an indispensable tool in my toolbox. It is the most commonly used painkiller during surgery. If you’ve had surgery, it is more likely than not that you have had fentanyl.” And yet the vast majority of people who have had surgical procedures do not have substance abuse or opioid abuse problems.

Yes, there is a popular reverse gateway theory regarding heroin abuse—i.e., that high percentages of heroin users started by abusing prescription opioid drugs. But that is misleading and, indeed, looks at the problem from the wrong direction.

As Dr. Robert DuPont from the Institute for Behavior and Health has put it:

[W]hile 80% of heroin users used a prescription opioid before they first used heroin, the vast majority, over 96%, of people who have used a prescription opioid non-medically [i.e., illegally] have not transitioned to using heroin.  Five years after the initial nonmedical use of a prescription opioid, only 3.6% ever used any heroin.  Among prescription opiate users, the people most vulnerable to switching to heroin are those who are also abusers of other drugs including alcohol.

In other words, the vast majority of prescription opioid patients do not transition to the use of an illegal drug like heroin.

Other data bear this out, as well. For example, according to an important article in the January 2016 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, it was found that “[A]lthough the majority of current heroin users report having used prescription opioids non-medically before they initiated heroin use, heroin use among people who use prescription opioids for non-medical reasons is rare, and the transition to heroin use appears to occur at a low rate.”

The numbers and factors detailed here are not meant to diminish or emphasize any serious or particular effort to address the variety of opioid issues contributing to the present crisis but, rather, to detail the full picture of the problem in sharp relief. Playing politics with this crisis will get us nowhere and waste a lot of time, energy, and resources. Public confusion about what is leading the epidemic and behind the majority of cases driving the crisis is another problem altogether, made worse by playing politics with it. It is time, past time, to get serious about this issue and take it on in a serious manner.

There are a great many efforts aimed at dealing with pill mills and irresponsible and rogue sales of prescription opioids. That is all to the good. But those efforts will not solve the problem or even get to the roots of the largest parts of it. A responsible and successful prevention campaign is needed and must be combined with serious drug education policies and messages along with a greater border and law enforcement effort. For concerned Americans, first and foremost, it is our duty to become educated about the issue.

Seth Leibsohn is a Contributing Editor to American Greatness and is the host of The Seth & Chris Show, heard nightly on 960am/KKNT in Phoenix. You can connect with Seth on Twitter: @SethLeibsohn

Jonathan Lines Announces Support for AG Brnovich Office to Protect 2nd Amendment

 

Candidate for AZGOP Chairman Supports Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s Repeal of Tucson Gun Ordinance

Jonathan Lines

Jonathan Lines

PHOENIX​ — Today, Jonathan Lines, a candidate for the Chairmanship of the Arizona Republican Party announced his support for Arizona’s Attorney General Mark Brnovich and the Attorney General’s Office. This week, Attorney General Brnovich filed a petition to repeal Tucson’s unlawful gun ordinance. State law prohibits the government from destroying firearms, which the City of Tucson instructed its police officers to do upon seizing firearms.

According to SB 1487, if an Attorney General finds a local government violating the constitution or state law, the Attorney General is then required to file a Petition for Special Action. Representative Mark Finchem submitted the request to have an investigation into the City of Tucson’s gun ordinance.

“I wholeheartedly support Attorney General Brnovich’s petition that asks the Arizona Supreme Court to rule on Tucson’s illegal gun ordinance,” said Lines. “As a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, I find the City of Tucson’s actions reprehensible and view it as an attack on our constitutionally protected freedom. However, this is a broader issue than an attack on the Second Amendment: this is an encroachment on our personal freedoms by the government. A bloated government — especially one that oversteps its boundaries — is dangerous to any democracy.

“I am thankful that we have strong, principled conservative leaders in our state, like Mark Brnovich, who will stand up to unlawful abuses of power and personal or political agendas.”

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The election of a new AZGOP Chairman will take place on January 28th at the Statutory Meeting and will be voted on by newly elected State Committeeman from every district or county committee.

For more information about Jonathan Lines, go to www.linesforazgop.com.

Col Wendy Rogers Releases First Campaign Ad – ‘World On Fire’

Wendy Rogers

(Flagstaff, AZ) – Tuesday, Lt Col (ret) Wendy Rogers released her first campaign ad in the Republican primary for Arizona’s First Congressional District. The ad called “World On Fire” features recent news clips showing America and our allies under attack by radical Islamic terrorists.

In the commercial, Col Rogers pledges to shut down our border, cut off sanctuary cities and stand up for the rule of law. Like the Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, Col Rogers is the strongest law and order candidate running in the race. The ad includes a still photo of Col Rogers alongside Donald Trump during a December, 2015 visit.

“Too much is as stake in this election and it’s long past due that the federal government get serious about securing our border and fighting Islamic terrorism,” Rogers said. “No other candidate in this race will fight harder to protect Americans than I,” she added.

The Thin Blue Line Between Gary Kiehne and Paul Babeu

Political analysts see Arizona’s CD-1 primary race tightening with rancher Gary Kiehne quickly closing in on Paul Babeu.

Kiehne has self-funded his current and former campaigns with over $750,000 of his own money. With so much of his personal wealth at stake, Kiehne began attacking Babeu last week.

Early Ballots will hit mailboxes on August 3 with the bulk of the votes taking place before Primary Election Day.

Pundits expect Babeu to fire back with both barrels. Why? Kiehne is highly vulnerable – especially now – because of his 2014 gaffe comparing Arizona law enforcement to Nazi SS agents. Not a winsome remark to have made considering law enforcement personnel are literally being attacked across the country.

If Babeu is to maintain his lead in the race, watch for him to remind voters that Keihne crossed the thin blue line when he showed callous disrespect toward the law enforcement community in 2014.

Guest Opinion: Recreational marijuana? The price is too high

Seth Leibsohn

Seth Leibsohn

Advocates say we need to regulate pot like alcohol in Arizona, but their measure doesn’t even do that.

If insanity is repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting different results, no word better describes the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Arizona.

Colorado and Washington, the first states to do this, have seen increases in teen use of marijuana, traffic fatalities and emergency room visits (including of toddlers) — all tied to marijuana. In Denver, home of most of the pot shops, more than one in three 11th- and 12th-graders are now regular marijuana users, an increase of 20.5 percent from two years ago, according to the latest Colorado youth survey.

Big protections for pot industry

Sheila Polk

Sheila Polk

Arizona should expect similar results, especially since this 20-page initiative is chock full of protectionism for the marijuana industry. Written by out-of-state lobbyists and Arizona marijuana-business owners, it creates two new government agencies, including a seven-member commission with three members mandated to come from the marijuana industry so they can “regulate” themselves.

This initiative gives current medical-marijuana dispensaries a virtual monopoly on retail stores and cultivation. This is not simple legalization, but increased government protecting special interests to the detriment of everyone else.

The initiative would legalize hashish as well, opening the door to high-potency marijuana candies. The marijuana of the 1970s had potency levels of less than 1 percent. Colorado’s marijuana edibles have potency levels of 60 percent.

Stiffer penalties for alcohol than pot

The proponents’ claim that this initiative regulates marijuana like alcohol is disingenuous. The alcohol industry doesn’t dream of being treated as lightly as this initiative would treat marijuana. At every opportunity to advance public safety, the initiative protects marijuana use instead:

  • Using marijuana under the proposed initiative becomes a legal right. Someone who shows up for work drunk can be disciplined or fired based on an alcohol test. But under this initiative, showing up for work impaired by marijuana would be shielded from discipline until after the commission of an act of negligence or malpractice.
  • Any driver with a blood alcohol content over 0.08 percent is legally drunk. The Arizona law would prohibit a THC limit from ever being set.
  • Penalties for a minor using a fake ID to buy marijuana would be far lower than for his friend who uses a fake ID to buy alcohol. Same for someone selling marijuana to a minor using a fake ID.

The experiment in Washington and Colorado shows how disastrous this proposal is.

  • Fatal accidents involving drivers who recently used marijuana more than doubled in Washington in the year after legalization.
  • The rate of people going to Colorado emergency rooms with marijuana-related symptoms rose 44 percent from 2012 to 2014.
  • Employers there report having to hire out of state for a sober workforce.

No amount of cash can justify this

Just as in Arizona, marijuana’s apologists in Colorado and Washington said they wanted to keep marijuana away from children. It didn’t work out that way there and it won’t be different here.

And this is why that matters: Marijuana is “addicting, has adverse effects upon the adolescent brain, is a risk for both cardio-respiratory disease and testicular cancer, and is associated with both psychiatric illness and negative social outcomes,” according to the American College of Pediatricians.

At what cost? According to the Arizona legislative budget staff, expected revenue from legalizing marijuana could put $30 million into our education system, barely 0.33 percent of what Arizona now spends.

Now balance that minimal amount against the costs of treatment, tragic loss of life from traffic fatalities, workplace accidents, or the lost potential of young brains harmed by marijuana. No amount of money can justify that.

This law would contribute nothing positive to Arizona. Instead it exacts a tremendous cost, all to benefit a handful of marijuana-industry insiders. Arizonans do not need this and will not be able to afford it. The price is too high.

Seth Leibsohn chairs Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy. Sheila Polk is the Yavapai County Attorney and vice chair of ARDP. Email them at info@ardp.org.

Frank Schmuck: Fly Your Flag And Show Your Patriotism In The Face of Terrorism

Frank SchmuckISIS now admits responsibility for the massacre in Orlando, Florida. A Radical Islamic Terrorist did this.  He could have used a sword.  He chose to use a gun.  A terrorist used fertilizer in Oklahoma City. Radical Islamic Terrorists used box cutters and airplanes in New York City, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon.  Banning implements is not the answer.

Americans need to be able to defend themselves, not have radicalized terrorists or the mentally unstable hold them hostage.  When governments make gun free zones the criminal does NOT suffer, the law-abiding citizen suffers.

ISIS does not and will not conform to a well-regulated militia. Hard working Americans can and will.

John Stuart Mill spoke this centuries ago. “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing is worth a war, is worse. . . . A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”

War is in America – New York City, San Bernardino, and now Orlando. Who’s next? Let’s stand up and defend this great nation and ALL classes of people who live here against radicalism. Don’t let “political correctness” cause the loss of life again.  Speak up. This act of terror awoke an American sleeping giant spirit. Let us not forget freedom isn’t free. When you exercise your right to vote think about those who have experience with defending your freedoms. Without safety, rules don’t matter. This enemy doesn’t play by the same rules we do. Be vigilant. Be strong. Protect one another.

Today is Flag Day. Hang your flag proudly to show your patriotism.

Frank Schmuck, Captain
Persian Gulf War Veteran
Conservative Republican Candidate
AZ State Senate LD18

Wendy Rogers to Paul Babeu: Come Clean to Pinal County

Wendy Rogers

Wendy Rogers to Paul Babeu: Come Clean to Pinal County

(Flagstaff, AZ) – Today, Col. Wendy Rogers, Republican candidate for Congress, issued the following statement calling on Sheriff Paul Babeu to make amends to the citizens of Pinal County for using his position to play politics:

“Sheriff Babeu displayed a profound lack of judgment. He showed poor faith and a callous disregard for the people of Pinal County and the 1st Congressional District.” Col Rogers said.

“Mere hours after warning the citizens of Pinal County about a grave threat to their safety from Mexican cartels on local television, Sheriff Babeu sent out a fundraising email to capitalize on the threat. Then Sheriff Babeu later admitted to a reporter that his warning was a calculated element of his campaign for Congress.”

“For an elected official, especially a member of law enforcement, to prey upon the fears of good people to advance his own political agenda is absolutely base and reprehensible. He exploits as a political football the very citizens he swore to protect. Sheriff Babeu must atone and come clean to the people of Pinal County.”

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Lt Col (ret) Wendy Rogers was one of the Air Force’s first women pilots. She and and her husband Hal are both retired career US Air Force officers. Since 1997, they’ve owned a home inspection business covering four counties spanning northern to southern Arizona. Col Rogers is a businesswoman, teacher, social worker and grandmother. She and Hal own their retirement home in the midst of where they do business in Flagstaff, Arizona.

SheriffCandidateBabeu

Fear and Fundraising in AZ01

Elected law enforcement officials are in the precarious position of approaching their job from either a half-empty or a half-full position. As we’ve seen from many a sheriff, fear is a tremendous motivator when it comes to driving an agenda. Some sheriffs might cast their office as the object to be feared. Other sheriffs cast the outside world as the source of all danger.

The latter is what we witnessed in the public arena from Sheriff Paul Babeu on Tuesday.

Babeu Press Conference

In a press conference (which turned into a political speech), Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu claimed he has “additional intelligence” that Mexican hit men or “sicarios” were heading into Arizona to assassinate rival drug cartel members. Those attacks would likely take place over Memorial Day weekend. He cited several incidents south of Pinal County and advised campers and hikers to be fully armed and prepared to protect themselves. The press conference turned political when Babeu blamed the Obama Administration for not protecting our southern border (a point we agree on).

Sicario

Members of the media immediately picked up on the sheriff’s advisory and ran with stories of impending threats and attacks to American citizens in the Arizona desert. Several media outlets didn’t quite take the bait (KTAR, KPNX)

What was barely mentioned was that hours after the warning, congressional candidate Paul Babeu sent out a fundraising letter mentioning his press conference and advisory. The timing couldn’t be more obvious: Fear is a tremendous motivator for fundraising.

Babeu even appeared on Your World with Neil Cavuto talking up the threat and danger of Mexican assassins running rampant through the Arizona desert.

Babeu Cavuto

Photo courtesy of Paul Babeu’s Twitter feed.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The timing couldn’t be more obvious: Fear is a tremendous motivator for fundraising.[/pullquote]

Some of us aren’t buying Sheriff Babeu’s ploy. Here’s why:

First, any threat of this nature would be announced from the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, Border Patrol and Arizona Department of Public Safety. When a threat is this serious and credible, it is vetted at all levels of government and is passed through multiple chains of command and communications. Governor Doug Ducey would be one of the first to know and to issue warnings through Arizona DPS. The Sheriff claims he was informed about the threat but failed to share it with other law enforcement agencies?

Second, Paul Babeu is a candidate for congress running on a single-issue – immigration and border security. Even though Pinal county does not border Mexico, illegal border crossers still make their way through his jurisdiction – just like they do in every other county in Arizona. We certainly won’t disagree that immigration and border security has become a national security issue we should take seriously, but some politicians have used the issue as a fear-for-votes political strategy. For Paul Babeu, it’s the only issue he knows and he’s using it at every opportunity for pure political gain. Multiple media appearances and fundraising letters from Babeu are evidence of this.

Finally, in law enforcement matters, every serious credible threat demands a serious credible response or action plan. According to reports, during his press conference, Sheriff Babeu made no request for assistance from the Governor’s office, Arizona DPS, Homeland Security, the National Guard, the FBI, etc. Instead, he told private citizens to arm themselves. A review of several Arizona law enforcement agency websites including the Governor’s office, shows no mention of public safety threats by sicarios in the Arizona desert.

We’re not buying it.

The truth is, we have a county sheriff running for Congress who is sensationalizing on the only issue he knows in order to grab media attention and raise money for his political campaign.

In the meantime, private citizens have been told to pack heat in the badlands of Arizona by a sheriff who apparently is finding it difficult to protect his own constituents.

This Memorial Day weekend, we recommend being vigilant of all threats – whether they’re credible or presented for pure political profit.

But most importantly, we ask that you remember and honor those, who against all fear and personal gain, paid the ultimate price through their selfless sacrifice to protect and preserve our freedoms.

Sheriff Touchy Can’t Handle Mockery of his Pansy Logo

Guest Opinion by Sam Stone

Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos is running for re-election after taking office a little over a year ago when his 79-year old boss – Clarence Dupnik – handed him the keys to the castle after 35 years at the helm. It was a apt promotion: Nanos had been reportedly running the office for his aging Sheriff for a number of years – proving conclusively that he could effectively maintain the bureaucratic bloat, insider favoritism, and mediocre results his predecessor had become known for.

Since taking office, Nanos has overseen at least one scandal: giving almost $20,000 to the niece of one of his detectives so she could buy the equipment to run for-profit cafes at their headquarters and the county jail.

He also defended the actions of deputies when they shot and killed decorated Marine veteran and father Jose Guerena – actions that resulted in a $3.4 million dollar settlement against Pima County.

All that, of course, while his Deputies get stiffed.

But none of that makes Sheriff Nanos mad. What really gets Chris Nanos mad? People mocking his pansy ass logo.

ChrisNanosFB1

After the first few, more people chimed in, including yours truly…

ChrisNanosFB2

That’s when Sheriff Touchy stepped in to regulate!

ChrisNanosFB3

I mean, good advice, I thought…

ChrisNanosFB4

And he did “like” it….

ChrisNanosFB5

But, no, Sheriff Touchy couldn’t let it go at that.

A couple of points:

  1. I think he’s referring (one sided-story) to the café. Maybe they had really, really good sandwiches. Or something.
  2. I wasn’t actually referring to his website, just his Pansy logo.
  3. If I was running his campaign, I’d probably be running for the hills right about…now…

Let’s hope Pima County voters do the same in November.

(In case you were wondering, Mark Napier, who narrowly lost to Sheriff Touchy’s boss in the last election, is vying for the office again.)

Mesa Crime That ‘Shocks The Soul’ Committed By Homosexual Illegal Alien Tranny

The AZMedia tried to bury an important fact regarding the sickening story of a 3 year old girl that was discovered duct-taped, in a garbage bag, and covered in feces after she was offered up for sex to a stranger.

In paragraph twenty (yes TWENTY), the local MSM begrudgingly admits that Francisco Javier Rios-Covarrubias is here illegally — oh, he’s also a homosexual tranny who frequently sought out anonymous gay sex.

Neighbors of Rios-Covarrubias described him as a man who liked dressing in women’s clothing. An apartment complex manager says he only lived in the community for a few months.

Rios-Covarrubias faced a Maricopa County Superior Court judge Tuesday to answer to charges of kidnapping, sexual conduct with a minor, felony child abuse and sex trafficking. The judge did not find sufficient evidence on the latter charge.

Rios-Covarrubias was denied bail because he is in the U.S. illegally, he also has been placed on an Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold.

Read the full (sickening) story here