Back in the day those much cooler than I would call a pick-up game of basketball dribbling the pill, it was an impressive use of street slang for small town Alabama but it did little to enhance their actual effectiveness on the court. The phrase came to mind this morning as I read a news story about baby faced Nikolas Ramiro, who is being charged with murder for supplying the methadone that killed his best friend in an overdose.
Better known for its teams participation in March Madness, North Carolina has more recently developed a reputation for its growing problem of methadone abuse. The state ranks at the top for overdose deaths in methadone, check out the maps in this NDIC report on methadone diversion and abuse. Obviously NC has a problem and steps need to be taken, but charging a kid with murder for another’s voluntary ingestion of an illegally acquired substance is just madness. Just like the NBA wannabe’s of my past, these particular authorities in NC seem more interested in looking like they are combating the problem rather than actually taking effective steps.
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Some other things jumped out at me about this story. Notice how the article mentions that methadone “is commonly used to treat opioid addiction” yet fails to mention that it is used in far greater quantities for pain management. The NDIC report shows an increase of methadone prescriptions by pharmacies, doctors, and hospitals has increased over 1000% in the last five years with comparatively little increase in its use in addiction treatment. Diversion is far more likely to come from other sources rather than treatment centers, yet the media and politicians are often very misleading on methadone.
Regardless if it is bias or ignorance, I think this inability to winnow out the misconceptions about prescription drug abuse is the primary cause of its continued growth. Demonizing one of the few effective treatments for addiction is not the answer, neither is draconian sentencing. Yes the kid should be charged with illegal distribution, but more emphasis should be placed on how he acquired the controlled substance, where it REALLY came from, and why the young OD victim assumed it was safe to ingest in the first place. Painkiller prescription drug use has increased exponentially over a very short period of time and abuse is rampant, but until both the general public and authorities realistically address the problem it will continue grow worse.