Americans love Opioids

Been meaning for a while to link to this Wonkblog post that puts American opioid use in international context.  Based on the title of this post, you can probably figure out the deal:

United Nations data provide one important benchmark against which to judge how much more or less opioid consumption might be appropriate for a given country. And what it finds about the United States is jaw-dropping: Even when the list is restricted to the top 25 heaviest consuming countries, the United States outpaces them all in opioid use.

For example, Americans are prescribed about six times as many opioids per capita as are citizens of Portugal and France, even though those countries offer far easier access to health care. The largest disparity noted in the U.N. report concerns hydrocodone: Americans consume more than 99 percent of the world’s supply of this opioid.

There’s a lot of factors as play, but I find the cultural explanation particularly intriguing:

Cultural factors may augment U.S. opioid consumption, as well. Relative to Europeans, Americans have more faith that life is perfectible (e.g., all pain can be avoided). Consider, for example, a 55-year-old who feels acute back and leg pain after doing the workout that was easy when he was 25. A European in this situation might reflect sadly that aging and physical decay must be accepted as part of life, but an achy American might demand that his doctor fix what he sees as an avoidable problem by prescribing him opioids.

And, while I’m at it.  Just how much do addicts want their opioids?  Enough that they will crush literally hundreds of pills of loperamide (presumably known to you as Immodium A-D), which is actually an opiate (don’t worry, it doesn’t usually affect the brain unless you take hundreds).

Amusingly to me, just last week I had a pretty good bout of what I prefer to refer to as lower gastro-intestinal distress, and the loperamide was amazingly effective, as it always has been for me.  Honestly, I can think of few medications I ever take that actually do a better job of treating the condition that they are supposed to.  Anyway, I’ll stick with 1-2 at a time.

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The NC Legislature gets one right

Amazing, I know.  Might as well give credit where it’s due, in this case on “ban the box”:

— A bill that would help people with criminal records get jobs in state government passed the House Tuesday afternoon with surprising levels of bipartisan support.

House Bill 409 would direct most state agencies to “ban the box” on job applications – that is, to move a question about criminal history from the initial stages of a job application to later in the interview process, when an applicant would be able to explain his or her criminal record and why it should or should not matter to consideration for state employment.

Legislative Democrats have filed “Ban the Box” bills most every session since 2011, but they’ve never gained much traction with the Republican leadership. However, House Bill 409 sailed through the House with a 98-14 vote, including all Democrats and the majority of Republicans as well.

The proposal would not apply to jobs with direct interaction with children or the elderly, law enforcement or public safety jobs or any other positions that by law require a criminal history inquiry as a preliminary qualification.

Bill sponsor Rep. Rena Turner, R-Iredell, said the bill also directs state recruitment officers to consider the gravity of the crime, the amount of time passed since it happened, any rehabilitation work and whether the crime committed had anything to do with the job the person is seeking.

Turner is a longtime clerk of court in Iredell County. She said her experience led her to support the measure, which she believes will reduce criminal recidivism.

“Occasionally, there’s somebody who really understands that they messed up,” Turner said. “Maybe it’s been 20 years ago. Maybe it’s been 30 years ago.

“If we keep stuffing them down and never taking their applications,” she asked, “how can we expect them to do any better?

“I think they need a chance,” she said.

I do love that “occasionally.”  Just a reminder that the vast majority of criminals are bad, irredeemable people.  At least we’ll give the “occasional” good one a chance.

Of course, in all seriousness, it is great to see some real bipartisanship on common-sense criminal justice reforms.  There’s so much low-hanging fruit we can improve if Republicans just open their eyes.  Good to see that, at least on some issues, they are.

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