Aug 6, 2017

Letters from the opioid apocalypse

AP / Toby Talbot

Last week, we reported on the heroin-and-opioids crisis in the U.S. jobs market — a lot of skilled positions are going unfilled because a lot of people can't pass a drug test required for this work — and about a new trend in which Americans have stopped moving to find work. The posts generated many more than the usual number of letters, not a few which were powerful. We asked some of these readers whether we could reprint part of their letters.

Robert Legge, Etlan, Va.: Our drug war has only made things worse. People who have never hurt anyone but are convicted of drug possession are given a felony so they can't get SNAP, college loans, job that requires a state license, [and they have] difficulty finding housing ..., all things that often contribute to loss of relationships. They may see selling drugs as their only viable way to survive. And their drug using/selling friends will still be their friends when few else will.

Chris in Colorado: I'd sooner say, "Our employment situation is needlessly worsened by benighted and indefensible drug policies" than, "Employers can't find qualified workers because everybody is on drugs."

Walt Kotuba, Youngstown, Ohio: I can't find a job to save my life. I have a very rare neuromuscular disease that I was diagnosed with almost three years ago. I have a college degree and almost 20 years experience in environmental and health and safety. I've trained over 100 people. I could've worked from home. I could've done many different jobs. Now, I'm pretty much blackballed. Employers don't want any problems from anyone. Heck. I even was told I wasn't qualified to hand out towels and check in people at the local Air Force base. I took so much pride in my work. Now, I could care less. I've totally given up.

Elliott Cole, Montana: I am a paramedic and National Guard flight paramedic. And I have never once met a drug addict who was upset about the drugs being too potent. ... Heroin addicts are so testy when given the reversal agent (Naloxone) that they will fight you. Being brought out of that high that they paid good money for makes you their enemy. I usually give them just enough naloxone to keep respiratory drive intact but stop short of a full reversal of the high. I let the doctors deal with that nightmare.

Karen Porter, Orange County, NC: Our country and economy simply offer no support for different "tribes" locked in places that appear hopeless — at least those societal prisons offer friends and family if nothing else. Sad state of affairs. Doesn't matter if it's the inner city or the midwestern farms or the rust belt cities or the Appalachian hills. It's too scary to move now, Move where? Why? How? For how long? With what support? Sad answers to all of this. Yet I never see this addressed anywhere in the articles full of statistics.

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