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Columnist: Rant by Governor of Maine concerning heroin addiction a classic case of stupidity

By Glenn Dowell

Contributing columnist

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Did your parents ever tell you that it is sometimes better to just keep quite? A more proverbial way of interpreting their advice is that “it is better to be perceived as being stupid than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”

Evidently, Gov. Paul LePage’s parents did not give him this advice as a child.

In a recent town hall meeting in Bridgton, Maine, Gov. LePage was asked what the state is doing to address its crisis of opioid addiction. That’s when the governor — who once accused President Obama of hating white people — sidestepped into this racist rant: “The traffickers — these aren’t people who take drugs,” he said. “These are guys with names like D-Money, Smoothy, Shifty — these type of guys — that come from Connecticut and New York. They come up here, they sell their heroin, then they go back home (http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/maine-governors-racist-rant-drug-traffickers-impregnating-young-white-girls-20160108).”

It is difficult to understand whether the governor was intentionally playing on the racial fears of his constituents or was just plain stupid. The fact of the matter is that Maine is not the only New England state suffering from an historic increase in the use of opioids.

The New England states are essentially experiencing the worst drug epidemic in history. The prescription drug OxyContin appears to be a major culprit.

If the governor had done his homework, he would’ve discovered that critics of OxyContin in 1996 had said emphatically that the drug could potentially be extremely addictive. By 2010 OxyContin prescriptions was making their producers, Purdue Pharma, L.P., more than $3 billion a year.

It did not take a rocket scientist to discover that doctors were clearly over-prescribing the drug, resulting in their patients becoming addicts. It was even clearer that OxyContin as a pill was becoming the gateway drug to heroin addiction.

Some OxyContin users even go so far as to call it the heroin pill. With increasing addiction to OxyContin and heroin, and up to five deaths a day due in part to the abuse of opioids, Purdue Pharma, L.P. was hauled into court.

The company in 2007 agreed to pay $600 million in fines and other payments to resolve the criminal charge of “misbranding” its product, one of the largest amounts ever paid by a drug company in such a case. The company had misled doctors and patients when it claimed that the drug was less likely to be abused than traditional narcotics.

This is information that Governor LePage should have been aware of. The fine was a drop in the buckets for the company whose owners in 2015 were included as $14 billion newcomers in Forbes list of the super wealthy.

Another drug that is wreaking havoc in the New England states is fentanyl. Fentanyl is one of the most powerful painkillers on the market.

Clandestine labs mix it with other byproducts and sell it as heroin. It is believed by addicts that traces of fentanyl can be found in most addictive opioids sold in the New England states.

It has been said that fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin. Because of its potency when mixed illegally, it has been called by users as drop dead, China white and serial killer.

Some critics of the drug believe that fentanyl is the most dangerous opioid available. The company actually ended up having to pay a major settlement for the manner in which it was prescribed by doctors.

Nationally, drug overdoses, in fact, have surpassed car crashes as the leading cause of injury deaths in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with 44 people dying each day from overdoses of prescription opioids like OxyContin.

Residents in the state of Massachusetts were shocked last year when it was discovered that 684 people lost their lives due to opioid overdose during the first half of 2015. That number increased significantly by the end of the year.

The origin of the heroin entering the New England states

Most of the heroin reaching New England originates in Colombia and comes through Mexico.

The purity of the heroin varies widely, which law enforcement officers say is partly responsible for the increase in deaths. Because heroin reaches the brain so quickly — and witnesses hesitate to call for help immediately — overdoses are often fatal.

Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs in the world. About a quarter of everyone who tries it becomes dependent on it. Users can quickly develop a tolerance, prompting them to seek more and more until the pursuit takes over their lives and, often, leads to ruin.

So, Gov. LePage, now you know.

Glenn Dowell is an author and LaGrange native who currently lives in Jonesboro. He may be reached at glenn.dowell@gmail.com.