Opioids vs. Crack: Good vs. Bad Addicts?

I am a little angry about the current opioid epidemic or crisis. Why should I be angry about that? There are people in trouble and they need help, right? A week hasn’t gone by in the past six months or so that I have not seen at least one sympathetic feature about the opioid epidemic and its poor, needy “victims.” Somehow, opioid addicts rarely seem to get arrested or even detained. And their addiction is not the addicts’ faults. It is those over-prescribing doctors and Big Pharma who are to blame.

My anger stems from the fact that when there was a crack cocaine epidemic and crisis back in the 1980s and ‘90s, a war was declared on those who fell under crack’s sway. That crisis and its victims were met with an entirely different attitude than today’s opioid crisis and addicts. Users were arrested by the thousands. Little or no counseling or other kinds of assistance were offered. No sympathy for them! Crack cocaine addicts were portrayed, not as unfortunate victims, but as depraved, lawbreaking evildoers. Yet powder cocaine users were not portrayed in the same way, and if they were arrested and tried at all, their sentences were much lighter.

What is the difference between opioid, powder cocaine, and crack addicts? To my way of thinking, not much, except that the majority of opioid addicts today are, and the majority of powder cocaine users in the 1980s and ‘90s were white, while during that same period, crack was primarily used by African-Americans and it ravaged the inner-city communities in which they lived. However, it seems those communities and the people in them – addicts or not – were expendable.

For it wasn’t only the addicts who were hurt by crack cocaine. As today, the addicts’ families and friends, and the very neighborhoods in which they lived also suffered. Now that the majority of opioid addicts are white and white families and neighborhoods are being adversely affected, it’s a crisis and they – all of them – must be helped. The proof is that included in the president’s budget proposal today is a large chunk of money earmarked to alleviate opioid addiction.

I don’t really begrudge these opioid addicts the help they need. It’s just that it is unfair that addicts of color got NO help when they were in distress. I do not even know whether the crack epidemic is over yet. The “war on drugs” in African-American communities certainly doesn’t seem to be. It may just be that the news media lost interest in crack and the people addicted to it. I hope I don’t sound paranoid. It’s just how this opioid crisis looks through my eyes. . .


One Reply to “Opioids vs. Crack: Good vs. Bad Addicts?”

  1. Pamela,
    I have made the same observation about this opioid epidemic verses the crack epidemic. I heard on NPR that there were far less African American opioid addicts than white opioid addicts. Opioid addiction is not as big a problem in the black community. One reason may be that the African American population has less health insurance. Another may be that Doctors are careful about how much pain medication they prescribe to African Americans because they don’t trust them with drugs (bad addicts) so they don’t write refills on the OxyContin scripts. Ironic, huh?
    Barbie Fox


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