The dead man splayed on the sidewalk looks ready to be drawn and quartered like an angus cow. Cops are called to pick him up before his corpse starts to stink. One couple is huddled together on the ground in front of a doorway. The woman lies on the top of the man and sticks a hypodermic needle into his lip. A young black boy, curled into fetal position, is passed-out under a sleeping bag. His baseball cap has fallen off his head and while he appears to be asleep, there is no way to tell if he’s dead, unless you want to touch him and no one wants to do that. Outside the parking garage, spoons, needles and matches are left on the ground like the remnants of a messy supper. And this is the wealthy part of town.
Addicts are everywhere. We walk over and around them on the street. They come in all flavors, shapes and colors. They can’t really say their names. They don’t have much of an identity. All that remains: hollow shells, ghosts, zombies, the living dead—they have become OxyMorons. They have no real purpose except to lie, cheat, steal; they’ll kill for their next quick fix. They’d kill you too.
In our urban dictionary we have new words that that did not exist until recently: Opioids, Fentanyl, Carfentanil, and Narcan. I’m adding another new word—OxyMorons—it’s definitive of a choice people make when they numb their pain and get hooked. At one time, OxyMorons didn’t look as dumb as they do after they have passed out on the street. Doctors, lawyers, technology workers, kids, nice normal middle class people are showing up at ten-step programs, detox centers, narcotics anonymous meetings, and in morgues. Overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans who are under the age of fifty. Every half hour a baby is born addicted. Two and a half million Americans are addicted to some form of opioids, and an additional 95 million used some form of prescription painkillers during this past year. That’s a lot of pain and suffering.
No one can keep up with new data that shows the extent of the drug overdose epidemic from last year because the numbers keep getting higher in the current year. There is every indication that many addicts began taking highly addictive painkillers that were prescribed to them by their doctors for a host of aliments ranging from tooth pain to bad backs and soft tissue-muscle injuries. Many believe the doctors were seduced by Big Pharma with perks and incentives to prescribe painkillers like candy without being informed of the dangers. One Big Pharma company in particular, Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, reportedly deployed aggressive and deceitful tactics to get doctors to prescribe OxyContin to as many patients as possible. So even if people started their addiction with a legitimate prescription from their doctor, no one warned them there was a strong chance they would become addicted. There is every indication that Purdue Pharma intentionally lied about the highly addictive properties of OxyContin. Purdue Pharma, a privately held family business, made a vast fortune for its owners the Sackler family. According to Forbes, today the Sacklers are one of America’s richest families with a collective net worth of thirteen billion dollars, more than the Rockefellers or the Mellons.
We’re not hearing anything we don’t know except it is a fair question to ask: what is causing people to slip into a downward spiral to a place from where they cannot recover? The answer to this question is complex and cannot be manifested in memes or tweets. The answer might be more rooted in the vacant spiritual values that dominate the digital clutter of our lives and our culture. Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said, “The spiritual poverty of the Western World is much greater than the physical poverty of our people.”
To honestly explore why so many people are dying is worthy of study, research and swift medical treatment to counteract the effects of addiction, but that takes funding. Under the current Republican tax plan, it is clear that the modest cuts enjoyed by the middle classes will quickly decrease and disappear altogether. Over a five-year span, the middle classes will pay more in taxes, and the rich will pay less. The Republican tax plan mandates that a direct transfer of money will be made from the poor to the rich and to corporations. The Republican tax plan benefits the uber rich like the Sackler family. With less revenue coming into the US Treasury, the national deficit will grow more monstrous. There is no funding for healthcare programs to treat the OxyMorons. Republicans will seek to cut programs that had always been untouchable. Medicaid and Medicare are the prime contenders to get slashed and sacked.
In more ways than one, we’ve come to a fork in the road. An oxymoron is a way to describe two contradictory ideas that come together to create a combined effect like living death, which is also a perfect way to describe addicts, thus OxyMorons. Then there is another common oxymoron that is befitting of the Republicans who architected the tax plan; it’s called cruel kindness. The Sackler family could be the poster child for the Republican party. To their way of thinking, maybe we should all take opioids so we no longer have to feel the pain.