Unbearable

There is an old story, whose ethnic origins are irrelevant, about a genetically deformed man at the birth of his first child. The ambivalence of his experience was what pervaded the recent “FED UP!” opioid addiction rally in Newark, 8-31-16. The pain, actual physical gut wrenching pain, of Ohio’s opioid addiction epidemic was to be expected (and was palpable). It only follows considering the contemporary take that this is a disease, and we eschew illness for exactly that reason (never mind that Woody Allen says germs are our friends). The event turned out to be a generic Komen-race-for-the-cure-Pelotonia disease event bringing folks together in a positivity rally (Woody Allen was right?). Even Newark council person Jeremy Blake enthusiastically led the group in a rather extended pep cheer of New-Ark (and spoke all things wonderful about Newark). Many of the speakers admitted they were preaching to the choir, sharing their grief with those who knew, and that those absent, not wishing to experience pain even vicariously, were the ones who needed to hear. The deaf to the message also passed through the event, rushing to their parked cars after a day’s work, not wishing to experience anything having to do with opioid addiction, even for a minute. The chief of police spoke of the new law enforcement conversion to considering addicts as sick people in need of rehab/recovery. Though he spoke of the financial cost benefits of such an approach (less incarceration, less crime), he was mum on the illegality of illness (is any other disease illegal?). Others were much more specific about the economics involved, lambasting state legislators for caving to Pharma’s lobbying against producing prescription medication that cannot be broken down (to snort or shoot) but only ingested as intended. The argument echoes that of Pharma’s failed resistance to ephedrine regulation: economically unfeasible due to increased costs. Phrased otherwise it would be that contributing to eradicating the opiod addiction epidemic would cut into company profits (opioid addiction is good for the bottom line). The Rob Portman syndrome was present in the form of his spokesperson touting his election year concern and efforts without noting what another speaker pointed out – there are 3-4 week wait times for admission into rehab/recovery facilities in Ohio. Without that, all the Komen race for the opioid addiction cure efforts fail. But if you have insurance, then …(Portman opposes the Affordable Care Act which begins to address the lack of comprehensive health care insurance in this country). The tit-for-tat, do I/don’t I want the child to be like me/not like me of the old story had Analysis looking for cultural/historical insights. That addiction is a disease (albeit an illegal one that winds up with most sufferers in jail) assumes or presupposes health (something the rally insisted about assuming for New-Ark). Are we healthy? Opioid addiction as a disease effectively implies that health is threatened by this malady. In terms of medicine, maladies are treated with medication – drugs. If you are ill, you take a pill, the least painful remedy. Yet the remedy is the malady, all connected by an aversion to pain. Analysis finds the dog chasing its tail, the man not knowing whether to view the newborn or not. Should he wish for it to suffer his disfigurement, or not? One thing is clear. The sparsely attended rally (for a region of well over 50,000) was precisely that because in this day of “brand” emphasis, all things pain are not a big draw. You don’t want your “brand” associated with unpleasantness. And pain is definitely unpleasant. Analysis finds the evolution of cultural disposition to opioid addiction quite relevant. For the greater part of western history, it was associated with a kind of “demon” possession. Odysseus steered clear of the island of lotus eaters knowing full well that once there, he and his crew would be captive to their seduction and never return home. Christians associated it with being in the throes of the devil. Infidel moderns ascribed it as an escape from the brutality of industrialized society (there’s that pain again). In the 80’s it received acceptance as part of Pop culture, with media expose’s of celebrities and icons, and films, music and reading material including drug use with tattoos, piercings, surf boards and advertising art. Of course, celebrities didn’t wind up in jail. Those not in the 1% fueled the profit margin of the prison industrial complex (opioid addiction is good for the bottom line). Today, opioids are as ubiquitous as tobacco once was (an addiction that is NOT illegal). Opioid addiction is seen as a disease, a despoiler of our otherwise happy and healthy society. Like the man in our story, Analysis finds it unbearable to take a look.

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