Crusaders and social justice warriors who want to link their name to a social issue often exaggerate the issue to, in effect, make themselves look more important.
This happened the past week as an effort was made to criticize the government for treating the SARS outbreak a few years back as an epidemic, which is how the opiate (heroin, I’ll call it because that’s what it is) problem should be treated.
These two issues have nothing in common except, perhaps, that some deaths can be involved.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome saw a worldwide outbreak in 2003, and involved a virus which was first reported spreading from Asia in February of that year. Those infected by the virus had many flu-like symptoms and the Centers for Disease Control state almost all SARS patients develop pneumonia, which, even with modern medicine, is no laughing matter.
Doctors were concerned about SARS spreading in an epidemic-like fashion, because the disease leaped from person to person in close quarters. Despite this, only about 8,000 people worldwide developed the disease. Viruses can be spread from person to person in different ways, but generally don’t involve approaching a drug dealer on the street corner.
The opioid “epidemic” involves a few different problems, but for the most part can be summed up with this: a person likes using heroin or its derivatives, for recreation or pain relief. They develop what’s called an “addiction.” If uncontrolled or unattended, the addict engages in substantial use of a drug that’s very, very dangerous, and the user risks death.
As far as I’m concerned, that’s not an epidemic and has nothing to do with a dangerous virus that could spread through airline flights throughout the world in a few days or weeks.
The issue of addiction has been dividing healthcare professionals since the 1950s, when the term “alcoholism” was coined.
Some, such as those who claim heroin addiction should be considered an epidemic, still fail to present any scientific evidence that addiction is real. By that I mean, a disease that can be examined under a microscope like SARS can. Or pointing out a mechanism by which the addiction triggers the arm to grab the heroin and engage in using it against the user’s will. That would be evidence of a disease.
I think such a premise goes against everything science has taught humanity over the past 200 to 300 years.
In preparing this article I tried to research the inordinate number of heroin deaths in Canada that would trigger the word “epidemic.” The best I could do is this statement from a medical paper: In 1993, an investigation by the chief coroner in British Columbia identified an “inordinately high number” of drug-related deaths, of which there were 330. By 2017 there were 1,473 deaths in British Columbia and 3,996 deaths in Canada as a whole.” Apparently this was published in February of this year, and I found another source, our own federal government, that stated B.C. saw just over 1,200 heroin deaths in 2017. So even nailing down the numbers is difficult.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, there are 1,460 people killed in impaired driving crashes annually, more than what the heroin “epidemic” is causing in B.C. if you can even trust the government’s heroin-death numbers.
Health Canada stated in 2011, “Each day, 100 Canadians die of a smoking-related illness.” I’m not great with math, but I think this means 36,500 Canadians die every year from tobacco-related illness. This is at least 10 times the people who die every year from the heroin “epidemic” if the heroin numbers are accurate.
I suspect drunk driving and tobacco aren’t interesting enough for these SJW crusaders to get involved with. Stories on the evening news about heroin addicts are much more interesting, and, therefore, make the SJW a more heroic person.
A person uses heroin because they want to use it; anyone who feels they are addicted to heroin can quit anytime they want.
And it sure as heck isn’t an epidemic.
Stu Salkeld is editor of The Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the newspaper.