As opioid overdoses stack up in Georgia, as well as across the nation, Rep. Karen Handel implies she can’t help and encourages parents and community members to stop the crisis, saying that if parents lock up their drug cabinets, it will all be over. Handel says it’s parents’ and community members’ jobs to stop the opioid crisis and minimizes the role of the government and drug companies.
The crazy thing is even Trump understands how serious the opioid crisis is and wants to intervene, he even said he intended to declare the crisis a national emergency.
“These kids are selling in these schools,” said Handel. “They are going in, holding back and stealing from the parents and grinding up the Oxycontin. We’re talking a 10th grader grinding this stuff up and doing it. We have to get serious about this side of this.”
All of that may be true — but 10th graders aren’t the ones mass producing Oxycontin and other potentially deadly pain pills. Last year, 7.8 million pain medicine prescriptions were issued in Georgia, more than one for every adult. Before blaming a deadly nationwide epidemic on high school students sneaking into their parents’ medicine cabinets, shouldn’t we first ask the question: “Why are pharmaceutical regulations so lax when so many people are dying?”
According to the New York Times, “Overdoses killed more people last year than guns or car accidents, and are doing so at a pace faster than the H.I.V. epidemic at its peak. In 2015, roughly 2 percent of deaths — one in 50 — in the United States were drug-related.”
In Georgia especially, a lot of the money and services fighting the opioid epidemic come straight from Medicaid. As Handel attempts to shift the responsibility for fighting the opioid epidemic away from the government and onto families grappling with the issue, she’s also fighting to take money from the services that treat addiction.
One reason the opioid crisis continues is the huge amount of money big pharma is putting into lobbying against tighter regulation. According to a recent study,
“Members of the Pain Care Forum, a coalition of companies and advocacy groups that meets to discuss opioid-related issues, gave more than $1.2 million to state lawmakers, candidates and parties from 2006 to 2015. That total put Georgia eighth in the nation when painkiller producers’ contributions are ranked using a ratio that factors in all campaign contributions.”
As campaign donations increase, prescriptions increase, and overdoses do too.
During the Congressional District 6 Special Election, Handel got some big contributions from a big pharma PAC. Maybe she’s saying the opioid epidemic isn’t her responsibility because she’s being paid by the same companies that lobby the Georgia legislature not to increase pharmaceutical regulation.