Young healthy people are dying mysteriously. Is deadly Fentanyl to blame?
As the economist Thomas Sowell once remarked: “There are no solutions- only trade-offs.”
Other great luminaries have put the same sentiment somewhat differently: “No good deed goes unpunished.”
They are all right: No good deed goes unpunished and no solution is complete because everything has consequences.
All our actions, good and bad; including the times we choose inaction, everything has an equal and opposite reaction. All our myriad daily decisions, right and wrong, big and small; all of our carefully laid plans and game time decisions: Everything we do and don’t do causes a ripple effect of outcomes and influences.
It is also often impossible to predict all the consequences of our actions. The Law of Unintended Consequences is as immutable as the other physical laws governing the universe.
As sure as gravity, some of the outcomes from our various deeds and misdeeds are inevitably bound to surprise us, collectively and individually.
In February of 2020, when the words “Coronavirus” and “Covid19” and “pandemic” were first starting to seep into our vocabularies and lives, there would have been no way to predict the trajectory we were, even then, already on.
The United States, like all the other countries of the world, was about to experience a global pandemic. Unlike all the pandemics and epidemics of the past, however- including more recent, modern brushes with deadly foes like AIDS, Swine Flu, Ebola, H1N1 or SARS- Covid19 produced a pandemic response unlike anything world governments had ever really tried before in modern history.
Just how well all the quarantines, closures, mandates, restrictions and shut-downs worked to stop the spread of COVID19, we may never really know. It may be decades before all the numbers are finally in and even then the findings are apt to be inconclusive at best.
The problem with pandemic mitigation measures is that if they work, it may make it seem like they weren’t necessary in the first place.
Since we can’t exactly run the vast social, medical, and psychological experiment that was and is COVID19 over again to determine how fewer mitigation measures would have changed death outcomes, science may never truly know if such socially-disruptive measures were effective or even necessary.
One thing is clear about COVID19 mitigation measures: There were unintended consequences. And severe ones.
Whatever their effectiveness or lack thereof, the widespread, long-term closures, shut-downs, distancing guidelines, and masking mandates took a major toll on public health.
Rates of depression, suicide and self-harm are skyrocketing- among the youth in particular. There can be no doubt that long-term public school closures harmed the mental health of school-age children. Deprived of in-person learning and socializing experiences for over two years in some places, school-age children have been demonstrating everything from delayed language development to overwhelming social anxiety and worse.
As is always true in times of crisis, disease, natural disaster, war, famine and destruction, the most vulnerable populations were hit hardest by COVID19 mitigation measures.
Young people are often the most vulnerable demographic in society. Lacking the critical thinking and decision-making skills that can come with maturity, young people can easily fall prey to growing challenges underpinning any society.
In times of strife, poverty, and social upheaval, young people are the most likely to turn to violent groups like gangs and religious extremists for security and comfort.
Children from impoverished backgrounds are especially vulnerable.
Nationally, the rates of domestic violence have gone up markedly, with child and spousal abuse becoming more prevalent that they were in the previous 10 years.
Low-income, working-class people were hit hard by COVID19 mitigation measures. Working-class parents bedeviled by long-term public school closures often found themselves in the ironic position of having to find a babysitter, just so they could go to work at their “essential” job while teachers fought for the right to remain safely at home.
There have been other casualties of the social breakdowns which were, in retrospect, bound to occur if a large portion of the population was kept from pursuing the things which give their lives meaning and purpose for over two years.
Americans struggling with addiction are struggling more than ever.
Worse, their ranks are growing by leaps and bounds. More and more people experiencing PSTD from 2.5+ years of COVID19 are attempting to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.
Tough times don’t bring out the best in everyone. On the contrary. A fight for survival brings out our survival instinct, which is as self-serving an impulse as any human impulse could possibly be.
The rates of drug and alcohol addiction in jails and prisons would surprise most people but it really shouldn’t. Of course people who are incarcerated are anxious to numb their pain with drugs and alcohol. Life inside a prison is often a miserable, hellish experience.
That so many people found COVID19 to be just such a miserable, hellish experience and are now turning, in record numbers, to illicit drugs should be of no surprise to anyone.
Nearly every single day comes the news of another young, previously healthy person- a star high school athlete, a surfing champion, a golf pro- suddenly expiring with no previous history or indication of illness or disease.
On September 19, 2022, Cowboy State Daily reported on the recent death of country music singing sensation Luke Bell: “Autopsy Report: Luke Bell Died of Accidental Fentanyl Poisoning.”
Bell, 32, died mysteriously in August after going missing for six days. According to the toxicology report, Bell’s system contained a blood-alcohol level of .076 and 21 nanograms of fentanyl per milliliter.
“With fentanyl, something as small as a pen tip can kill you,” Sargent Richard Gradillas of the Tuscon Police Department told Cowboy Daily.
In California, a 15-year old girl died last Tuesday night of a fentanyl overdose at Hollywood High School. Two other students were hospitalized but survived.
According to local news reports, the teenagers thought they were buying Percocet.
“Business as Usual” Might Actually Make the Economy Worse,” contends The Nation today, making the surprising argument: “According to data from the National Center for Health Statistics and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are few economic costs from pandemic policies that prioritize public health.”
That may perhaps be true, though certainly something must be responsible for the runaway inflation suddenly eating away at working-class pocketbooks. But it can’t be said there are few costs in general from, “pandemic policies that prioritize public health.”
Clearly, pandemic mitigation measures meant to preserve public health have had the opposite effect for some, not least among them Americans who were already grappling with addiction prior to 2020.
Hard times are a particular struggle for recovering addicts; the tendency to self-medicate, the prevalence of drugs and especially alcohol in our society, and isolation like we experienced over the past 2.5+ years, can prove overwhelming.
Hard times have a tendency to make new addicts, too.
With 63% of Americans now reporting falling behind the cost of living, America’s worsening drug problem may be only beginning.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)