The Flinchum File

Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions
Subscribe to the Flinchum File
View Archives

Emotional Numbness

The President has declared opioid usage a national health emergency, and I applaud anything to help those people trapped in addiction.  Missing from the discussion, however, is the historical sweep of drug addiction.  There has never been a time in my lifetime that there was NOT a drug problem of some type.

As a boy, I remember my father making me watch a TV show about heroin.  Many decades later, I still recall one particular scene of an otherwise-upstanding young man literally laying in the gutter, while begging for more heroin.  As a teenage, I remember seeing “Reefer Madness” – a video showing marijuana as a killer of morals, which I was required to watch again in Army Officer Candidate School.  In college, the rage was LSD – a time of “turn on, tune in, and drop out.”  Then, speed became popular – which would turn a lazy bum into a workaholic, until he collapsed.  The first time I saw coke, was on the hood of new Cadillac in Florida, as bankers swarmed to snort it.  Then, there was quaaludes and assorted other drugs that have crossed the stage since then and passed out of fashion.

My point is NOT that opioids are not a problem.  My point is NOT that opioid addiction is not a personal tragedy.  My point is NOT that addicts don’t deserve help.  My point is that some other drug will take the place of opioids in the future.  Which drug will that be?  The most recent data from Colorado shows clearly that opioid usage has declined as marijuana has become legalized and used more regularly. 

My question is whether the drug is a cause or a symptom of another problem.  Because different drugs become fashionable at different times, I’m suspicious that there is a certain personality type that is prone to addiction.  Would it not make sense for psychologists to identify those people at an early age and begin treatment before they seek out drugs to deal with their problems?

Maybe, if Americans had taken Nancy Reagan’s advice decades ago to “just say no,” we would not have the opioid problem today.  But, we do!  Well-meaning admonitions like that won’t give relief to those who need it.