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A Nation on Opioids: Why the Opioid Crisis Needs More Attention in our Community

15 Mar

Omair Ali

Perspectives Editor

There is an increasing trend in deaths related to heroin and opioid overdose in the United States. Adapted from a Mother Jones article, which sourced its data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than car accidents and shootings, drug overdoses have become the leading cause of unintentional death in the United States. Among all the issues that drug addiction presents, opioid addiction is the major culprit, responsible for at least 91 deaths a day or more than half of deaths related to drug overdose.

Opioids aren’t your typical, over-the-counter painkillers—they are highly effective at reducing pain, but are also highly addictive and highly lethal. They act by binding to specific receptors found in the body that block receptors, but opioids are not without side effects. Opioids cause a rapid buildup of tolerance accompanied by an insatiable physical dependence, constipation, nausea, and respiratory depression, which can lead to death. And let me tell you this: opioid withdrawal is one of the most excruciating ordeals to deal with, with a sobriety success rate of only 5% success rate after immediately withdrawing from opioid use.

By now, most of us know that opioid abuse is a significant public health issue. It’s covered heavily by local press outlets as well as national media outlets. But despite the amount of attention being given to this issue, the evolution of the opioid abuse crisis has been overwhelming for far more communities than previously anticipated, and the problem appears to be growing as the access to opioids has proliferated nationally during the past decade. Now, solving the opioid epidemic is paramount and requires the collective efforts of every community, including our university.

How is the Opioid Epidemic Affecting Our Community?

Today, deaths related to opioids, both prescription and illicit, are  occurring throughout the country; predominantly in the southeast, southwest, and western regions of the United States where deaths are becoming commonplace. But what about our community? Perhaps you would be surprised if I said that opioid abuse is even ravaging our communities.

A Daily Herald article outlines just how bad the opioid problem is becoming in our local area. The abuse of fentanyl, an opioid that is stronger than heroin, is becoming more prevalent in Will and DuPage counties. It is suspected that synthetic opioids like fentanyl are being illegally produced in China and distributed via illegal markets, some of which exist in Chicago. Many residents in these counties access these drug markets via the “heroin highway,” or the I-88-I-290 route that leads to the west side of Chicago, is a well-known path that drug users take to acquire heroin and other opioids from dealers. What remains to be answered is how many people are abusing opioids right now through this means.

While elaborate drug trade schemes remain a threat to public health, people are also acquiring drugs through other ways that are more difficult to monitor. 90.1% of reported cases of prescription opioid misuse in 2015 have happened through abusing prescriptions or receiving a drug from a friend or family member. The act of sharing opioids with others or abusing opioid prescriptions has made the opioid epidemic a situation that transcends law enforcement, which is limited to overseeing large-scale illicit drug operations.

It is also important to consider how parents that abuse opioids are setting their children up for failure. The number of children that have been poisoned by opioids has increased at an alarming rate, Because of this and the general misuse of opioids by parents, many parents have had to forfeit their rights to care for their children, resulting in thousands of displaced children ending up in the foster care systems or relocating to relatives’ households. In other words, opioids have unprecedentedly encouraged poor parenting, which is systematically reshaping how children grow up in this world and how they perceive their parents, which could lead to life-long ramifications.

Our Duty as a Community  

Many people addicted to opioids, regardless of socioeconomic background, want to quit but are trapped by the chronic physical dependence, which would take several weeks, if not months or years to overcome. And most people that have died from opioid overdose didn’t intentionally choose death over life.

So, let’s face it: Opioids are an evil that indiscriminately threaten the state of our nation, which means that we must be prepared for terrible consequences in our own community. Not only that, law enforcement has no means of cracking down on all illegal opioid activities as the problem has grown into a behemoth that can’t be stopped anymore by the mere use of force. However, communities have the capacity to resolve this growing crisis through creating initiatives and programs that can help individuals in need.

Either we can watch the horrors of the epidemic continue to overtake our communities from the sidelines or we can try to do something to improve the lives of people that live in our community.

And I vote for the humane approach.


Democratic Empiricism is the Proper Way to Approach Civic Engagement

15 Mar


Omair Ali

Perspectives Editor

We are all familiar with the politically-charged rhetoric on both sides that has found a new place in American society. In many ways, the presence rhetoric in our society is fueling hatred between different groups that has led to several hate crimes over the past few months. As an active citizen, I am very concerned with these prevailing attitudes that are fueling nationwide discord, and how we can stabilize this tension.

One plausible approach, albeit to the displeasure of many people, would be to adopt a more objective, fact-based approach to civic engagement and public policy to normalize but how can we sift through these emotions and feelings and come to a consensus? We can do this by agreeing to facts and logic-driven thought, treating all people fairly and equally, and constructing policies that best fit the needs for most Americans without hurting others in the process.

Thinking vs. Feeling

How can we normalize civic engagement so that people aren’t focused on attacking each other, but rather working with each other? The only way is through adopting objectivity as the primary approach to civic engagement, and more specifically, public policy.

The Myers Briggs Personality Inventory, a well-known personality test, assesses one’s personality, then assigns the test taker a 4-letter code to indicate their personality. These letters signify one’s personality tendencies, such as thinking or feeling for decision-making. Thinkers tend to base their decisions on facts and logic, and can be apathetic towards emotions in the decision-making process. On the other hand, feelers tend to be sensitive to others’ feelings or concerns, and often strive to maintain peace in their environment. Some people, including myself, are thinkers, but there are others who instead operate on feeling. In terms of general decision-making scenarios, neither personality type is better than the other because both can result in pleasant outcomes.

However, we have seen how feelers have operated in the political realm. Look at the feelers in our society: violent, criminal activists; populists and xenophobes, radicalized terrorists, individuals that don’t identify as male or female; bureaucrats; white-collar workers; blue-collar workers; professors; students; normal people– you get the gist. Indeed, it does not take a lot of finger pointing to realize that so many people (not everyone) operate with the tendency to feel emotionally rather than think logically, and we have seen how this has impacted the stability of our social climate.

Fundamentally, both decision-making styles would approach civic engagement in fundamentally-different ways. Feelers would approach public policy in a qualitative way, most likely concerning themselves with every case out there (others might be worried about specific groups of people or ideas). Whereas, thinkers would take all the concerns into account and determine the logical, course action to serve the needs of the people while upholding fairness by treating everyone equally.

But to cater to the needs of all these people, and everyone else out there, we ought to standardize our laws to meet the needs of as many people. This is because approaching public policy by addressing everyone’s feelings and concerns would be exhausting and unproductive, especially when there are over 324 million needs in our nation.

As a society, we have been acting democratically and empirically for many parts in our history. But lately, many people have been using their feelings and concerns to operate as feelers rather thinkers, resulting in widespread disagreements and conflicts between various groups. I describe thinking in the civic sense as democratic empiricism, the mode of decision-making by which one objectively makes decisions based on: the most common concerns of citizens; information driven by evidence and facts; and Constitutional law. In my opinion, approaching civic engagement and public policy in this manner is the most feasible, because it is not skewed by opinions or feelings that could potentially benefit some groups and not others. For instance, some feelers—who might staunch supporters of income equality because they feel this is best for society– may argue that taxing the rich heavily could bring benefit to many Americans; but that would come at a great cost in multiple ways that would not only harm the rich but also harm the economy, thereby being an improper course of action.

On the other hand, Civilians and bureaucrats would benefit from the thinkers’ approach to public policy because they would use concrete evidence (data compiled over the years by researchers and the government) to bring forth conclusions about society, such as drug use, the failures of public education in many rural and urban communities, crowded prisons, etc. With all that is happening in our country, we ought to speak about the facts, and set aside feelings because they don’t provide an accurate picture of our nation. At least facts provide concrete information that can be translated to public policy.

Restructuring Expectations for the Sake of Civic Progress

With the recent surge feeling-oriented bureaucratic and civic, we are at a crossroads in terms of how we want to approach governance in our nation. You can disagree with me with the notion that facts ought to take priority over feelings, but to avoid inconsistencies and flaws in public policy, we ought to support facts and logic more often than feelings. And if we all want to live in a society that’s fair for all Americans, then we all should consider approaching our issues in an objective manner that can be fit everyone’s needs. In other words, adopting democratic empiricism is how we would avoid the civic discord that we are dealing with in society.