As a pastor and prison chaplain, I was for years confronted by the grim reality of drug abuse and the toll it took on individuals. That was bad enough - but now the problem is so widespread, and so aggravated by new and "enhanced" drugs, that it's becoming a serious threat to our economy as a whole.
For example, there's the supply chain crunch we've examined in these pages for some time. One of the biggest problems is a lack of drivers for long-haul trucks. Turns out that drug abuse is one of the main reasons there aren't enough of them.
A dire truck driver shortage that’s wreaking havoc on the US economy is getting worse — and it’s being fueled partly by tough federal drug-testing restrictions that were imposed nationwide last year, industry officials told The Post.
More than 72,000 truck drivers have been taken off US roads since January 2020 because they have failed drug tests that are now required by the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, a 22-month-old registry established to increase safety on US highways, according to government data.
That’s a big number, considering that the American Trucking Association — which also blames the pandemic and a lack of younger drivers, among other factors — recently pegged the industry’s overall driver shortfall at 80,000, up from 60,800 in 2018 and 50,700 in 2017.
There's more at the link.
There are those who say that we should simply abandon the new drug testing rules for truck drivers - that would solve the shortage. However, it's not that easy. When you consider just how potent and damaging illicit narcotics have become, the last thing I want on our roads is more drug-using drivers!
First, the good news ... Heroin has largely disappeared from much of America.
The bad news: That’s because heroin has been replaced by the synthetic anesthetic fentanyl, which is much stronger and deadlier.
The worse news: Fentanyl is so cheap that drug dealers have taken to sprinkling it into most of the other drugs they sell, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, because a dash of fentanyl makes all drugs more euphoric. Plus, it’s extraordinarily addictive, so you can become a fentanyl addict without even knowing you have been ingesting it. You just want your dealer to sell you more of that good stuff.
On the other hand, you probably won’t be a fentanyl addict for long because just a tiny excess amount can kill you. And drug dealers aren’t good at quality control when mixing white powders. When stepping on their product, Quinones says, local dealers invariably rely on $29.88 Magic Bullet blenders, which are great at mixing liquids for smoothies, but are terrible at mixing powders, so nobody can tell how much fentanyl wound up in your particular dose.
Therefore, Quinones warns that the era of recreational drug use is over:
That concept belongs to a past when drugs were far more expensive, harder to procure and less potent and more forgiving…. Now, every line of cocaine, every “pill” [counterfeit OxyContins are often fentanyl] at a party is an invitation to Russian roulette. On the streets of America, there’s no such thing as a long-term fentanyl user.
. . .
Second, there’s more good news ... Crack, which was such a disaster for America in the late 1980s, is fading in popularity.
The bad news: Mexican crystal meth has taken over from crack. Meth, long the low-rent white drug, has spread to Latinos and now blacks.
The worse news: Meth is now really cheap because huge Mexican drug labs have replaced the old ephedrine-based meth with a high-volume recipe that Quinones calls P2P meth that can be made from common industrial chemicals without requiring any controlled substances like ephedrine.
The worst news: While the old ephedrine meth was a party drug, the poor man’s powder cocaine, the new meth can much more rapidly inflict monstrous brain-damaging psychotic side effects resembling schizophrenia, such as paranoia, hearing voices, and the destruction of memory and personality. These adverse events can set in within weeks of starting on modern Mexican meth and often don’t begin to fade until after six months or a year of abstinence.
. . .
Meth is an upper and fentanyl is a downer, so, at least, never the twain shall meet, right? Nowadays, though, addicts tend to cycle through both drugs to self-medicate. Meth covers up the withdrawal symptoms of getting off fentanyl, and then fentanyl seems to make meth heads act less crazy. Rinse and repeat until dead.
Again, more at the link.
Being already aware of the impact of drugs on their unfortunate users, I'm "sensitized", if you will, to what this might mean for employers. (Don't forget, I was a company director in another life, before the good Lord changed my career direction to the ministry, so I'm well aware of business realities.) I've been looking into that in connection with the shortage of workers about which many US companies are complaining. It turns out that a large part of the problem is that potential new hires can't pass a pre-employment drug test, or - if they pass it - they're found out by routine, ongoing drug testing practiced by many employers. Just last week, a correspondent at a nearby employer told me that up to half of those who apply for jobs there are rejected on the grounds of active use of illegal narcotics. That employer dare not risk the legal consequences of employees being stoned on the job. The chances that they might injure or kill someone are too high.
I daresay the COVID-19 shutdown of our economy hasn't helped. Millions of workers were idled, but had money to burn, thanks to increased unemployment allowances and "stimulus" payments. How many of them, I wonder, turned to "recreational" drugs to help them get through the monotony? I suspect it was more than a few, particularly in inner-city "ghetto" areas. How many of those previously-employed workers have found they can't be re-hired, or get a new job, because of their drug use?
Given the scale of the problem, and the frightening effect of modern drugs on their users, I certainly don't support legalizing some of them. There are those who say that marijuana isn't really a problem, and should be de-criminalized; but how many of its users are adding fentanyl to their habit, even if they don't know it? That's a scary thought. I'd love to know how many people busted for marijuana use also test positive for more harmful substances. I suspect it's more than a few.
How are you finding this problem, readers? Health industry workers - what proportion of your patients are drug users? Those of you in commerce and industry - are the employment problems I've mentioned present at your employer, too? I'd like to know how widespread this problem has become in the experience of our readership. Please let us know in Comments.