On January 10, 1998 the satirical American newspaper The Onion published the finest headline that has ever been written.
“Drugs win drug war” is a masterpiece of such wit, brevity and precision that not only is it unlikely to ever be improved on, it belongs in anthologies of poetry.
Indeed, it is so ingeniously crafted that it makes the haiku look a little stodgy and long-winded by comparison.
But just as time has not dulled its brilliance, neither has it dulled its message, as another headline in today’s Independent – which also could have come from the Onion – confirms.
“Donald Trump’s pick for drug czar withdraws amid claims he made opioid epidemic worse,” says the paper.
The “pick” is a congressman called Tom Marino, and he was “the top legislator advocating for the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act.”
The law prevented the Drug Enforcement Administration from stopping the supply of “suspicious narcotics shipments from drug distribution companies to ‘corrupt doctors and pharmacies’,” the paper reports.
Who knows whether all this political faffing is “good” or “bad”?
Only politicians and lawyers have the energy to squabble about the small print and it’s unlikely to be quite as moronic as it the paper makes it sound.
But there are a couple of other details in the Independent report that nearly knocked Saint Peacock off its favourite branch.
Firstly, that at the time the bill passed (2016, an Obama bill) “the opioid crisis had claimed the lives of 200,000 people – more than three times the number of US military deaths in Vietnam.”
And secondly, that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “the number of prescription opioids sold in the US had also nearly quadrupled since 1999, but that there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain Americans report.” (Freaking-out typography Saint Peacock’s own.)
So like the NRA’s argument that the solution to problems caused by guns is for there to be more guns, the solution to problems caused by drugs is for there to be more drugs. Four times more.
President Trump, speaking – Onionishly – from his golf club, promised to “protect innocent citizens from drug dealers that poison our communities.”
He really should have gone on to clarify that by “drug dealers” he meant “doctors with prescription pads” and “pharmaceutical companies.”
As the Onion confirmed in 2010 though, he’s wasting his time.
Because drugs won the drug war years ago, and show no signs of unwinning it.
- See also this from the New Scientist in 2016: “Addiction to prescription drugs is ‘UK public health disaster'”, and this from the Guardian this year, “Overdoses on opioid pankillers more than double in a decade.” The latter contains the breathtaking deck “Doctors say drugs are being prescribed too readily” – they shouldn’t have to look far to discover which profession is doing all that over-prescribing.