Paraphernalia for smoking and injecting drugs is seen after it was found during a police search on April 19, 2017, in Huntington, West Virginia.

President Trump this week said that solving the opioid crisis is an “absolute priority” but rejected the advice of his commission on drug addiction, which asked that the crisis be declared a national emergency. Forum talks about what Trump’s decision means for efforts to combat the epidemic in California where hospitals treat an opioid overdose – from heroin or prescription painkillers – once every 45 minutes.

Keith Humphreys,
professor of psychiatry, Stanford School of Medicine

Jennifer Kent, director, California Department of Health Care Services

Kelly Pfeifer, director of High-Value Care team, California Health Care Foundation

Katie Bell, program manager for the medication assisted treatment program, Chapa-De Indian Health in Auburn and Grass Valley

Combating California’s Opioid Crisis 10 August,2017Michael Krasny

  • geraldfnord

    I don’t want to make too little of addiction, but what portion of the problems are artefacts of illegality and poverty rather than of opiates? Basically, I don’t care how other people use their time, and by repute junkies, when adequately and inexpensively supplied, are much less obnoxious than people addicted to speed or alcohol or power or status or superstition.

  • GlendaNews

    Less than 1% of Chronic Pain Patients are addicts. 99% are NOT addicts. Why then are these Drs focused on a minority of patients? Follow the money. The above Drs are advocating the TORTURE of pain patients many of whom are killing themselves. #AmericanGenocide #ChronicPain #PatientsNotAddicts

    • geraldfnord

      I think that’s a little over-heated, but basically right: we’re so afraid of People Being Unworthy, and of pleasure, really, that we’re over-estimating the damage done.

      I’ll be frank: if we adequately medicate for pain, the greater amount of opiates legally in circulation will create some increased amount of addiction in non-patients or in people who don’t strictly have to be patients any more, and I don’t care much beyond wanting there to be adequate schemes for getting people off drugs if they care to do—legal maintenance for the rest. (Bill Burroughs lived to an over-ripe old age on legal heroin in Britain, then on methadone in the U.S., none of his supposèd cures ever lasted.)


    While the U S population is only 5% of the World population, Americans use more than 60% of illicit drugs produced Worldwide and even far bigger percentage of prescription pain killers including zannex, Valium, and several other potentially very dangerous prescription drugs that often cab be fatal if they are taken with other drugs or and alcohol….very sad statistics indeed…..


    Again the best way to deal with the rampant drug epedi8mic in the U S is decriminalize drug use, and treat addicts as patients and offer them treatment for their addiction, that will reduce the prison population by near one half as well as it will reduce drugs overdose by great amount as well as it would reduce property crimes and may put an end to gangs drug wars and bloody shooting and murders that happens on the streets across the country including her in Oakland and elsewhere in the Bay Area,…We spend more than 60 thousand dollars to house each prisoner every years, it will cost far less to treat drug addicts and change them into good productive citizens instead….but we must first put all for profit the Prison Industrial Complex.

  • Noelle

    There are the chronic pain patients who need some opiates to function, then there are people who get addicted and cannot function and it takes over their lives, add poverty and lack of opportunity, it’s more than a public health problem, it’s an indictment of our overall society. And then DJT is stuck in an 1980s time warp, basically saying “just say no” he has no understanding of the complexity of the problem.

    • jurgispilis

      At least DJT talked about this issue during the campaign.

  • jurgispilis

    Is this in line with the state’s “population replacement policy”?

    • Noelle


      • jurgispilis

        Well, it’s easy to a historical pattern to settlement in California. People move in during boom periods with the perception that it’s the Promised Land. People leave during the busts due to job loss, or cash out and move to Portland or Reno or Detroit or San Quentin or rehab.

        There are always people willing to come, so it’s an easy sell. Business, institutions, government are geared and tempered to accommodate the flow, and facilitate the exit. One might call this a “population replacement policy”. That’s what I call it.

  • Leslie Fong

    So your interviewee does not think that over-prescription of opiates instead of holistic treatments in the US has anything to do with its prevalence in this country as opposed to others?

  • Noelle

    Medical marijuana for pain treatment?

  • Robert Thomas

    “… [We medical students] were told that these drugs were safe to prescribe …”

    Anyone who was an adult in the 1970s or 1980s in the United States will have either themselves been exposed to or seen friends or loved ones exposed to the risk of “habit formation” of any of

    Vicodin (hydrocodone/acetaminophen)
    Percodan (oxycodone/aspirin)
    Percocet (oxycodone/acetaminophen)

    I mean, this knowledge among responsible adults was Very Common. It was COMMON KNOWLEDGE, okay?

    Honestly, when did medical schools start matriculating stupid imbeciles?

  • Audrey

    As a mental health therapist who used to work in residential drug treatment programs, it seems so obvious that the current state of our society (mostly the fallout of recession including grave economic inequality, increasing homelessness, poor educational system and ever growing prison system) is the crux of the opoid epidemic. Life in the USA is depressing, people need a way to deal with it, unfortunately opioids are more accessible and a quicker fix than mental health therapy.

    • Noelle

      yes. Keep stigmatizing the people in order to divert attention from dealing with the breakdown of our society.

  • Ehkzu

    Opioid addiction still only afflicts a small minority of Americans, while another form of addiction that’s far more destructive to society afflicts over a third of Americans: the addiction to expecting simple answers to complex problems, coupled with smug self-righteousness, coupled with an urge to look to the Big Man to lead them as long as he gives those simple answers.

    Let’s call it Republican Partyism…

    • Curious

      ^Irony alert.

  • 1PeterDuMont2STARALLIANCE8

    The Transcendental Meditation program — an extremely effective, easy, natural method for deep relaxation, stress reduction, and resultant good feelings with few or no negative side effects — already had science on its side in the late seventies.

    For two years, as a young teacher, I worked my heart out volunteering and educating virtually every Department Head in Alameda County prior to a funding meeting of the Regional Criminal Justice Planning Board.

    Except for two officials…both of whom refused to see me ahead of the crucial board meeting, despite several requests well ahead of time.

    Naturally, out of ignorance, when the big moment came for public funding, it was the the Sheriff and the DA who “shot down” our county’s chance to have the historic first, publicly-funded prevention program in the country utilizing this wonderfully effective technique.

    Thirty-seven years later, after umpteen millions of dollars of public money have been spent on dealing with the problem — it is time the Sheriffs and the DAs of California and the nation made a point of reaching out to the TM program to ask their help in dealing with the opioid epidemic.

    And they should be willing to pay for it,

  • Ehkzu

    The real source of opioid addiction is computerized workplace automation which has permanently erased many millions of working-class jobs that used to pay middle-class wages. Hopelessnessness–>drug use. Duh.

  • giulia

    Regarding the pharmacist’s comments: on my monthly pain medication (oxycodone) prescriptions there are already codes written by my doctor which correspond to specific physical afflictions. As far as I know this is the case with all scripts of this type, which are on special, not counterfeitable paper. It’s not up to the pharmacist to judge who does and who doesn’t receive pain medication. I have encountered this refusal a number of times while traveling (I reported one pharmacist to the pharmacy board) and had to travel hours to return to my local pharmacy that know me. This is unjust and,I believe, illegal. I cannot go far from my local pharmacy in case I don’t receive pain medication, one month at a time!

  • pdjmoo

    It is about time we looked the elephant in the room directly in the eye….BigPharma — the global pharmaceutical industry — as we did Big Tobacco. Big Pharma is perhaps the biggest drug pusher in the USA. Irresponsible physicians have been handing these (and antibiotics) out like candy to patients— Don’t tell me doctors and the pharma industry were not aware of the escalating sales and demand for opoids yet did nothing.This opiod epidemic is making them tens of millions in profits as is the antidote medication. They must be rubbing their hands in glee.

    First they get us hooked, then they make another fortune on the antidote pills now mandatory for first reponders to carry in some cities and paid for by the taxpayer, and it’s not cheap. And then tax payers have to put out the funds for treatment and centers. Problem is we now have an addiction epidemic that even treatment may not “cure” as we see it bleeding through into other drugs like heroin and morphine, etc.

    Big Pharma also make a fortune off all the antibiotics they have overdosed us and our farm animals with (1/3 of all antibiotics are pumped into our corporate farm animals) causing a monstrous problem with superbugs. Let’s get this under control at the source, including the social ills visited upon us by our current corporate governance and rush for profits and support of corporations vs the people out there suffering.
    We need a Big Tobacco attack on Big Pharma as the weakness in the social fabric of the USA will only create greater demand for more and more drugs for those suffering emotionally .

    • jurgispilis

      As a group, physicians comprise one of the largest groups of drug abusers – because the availability and access is so easy for them.

  • Sar Wash

    How does California compare to the rest of the nation in terms of the opiate epidemic? While meaningless statistically, my anecdotal experience is that the abuse of opiates is quite rare here. I have never met or encountered someone who has had this problem (unlike, for example, alcohol abuse which is quite common).


Michael Krasny

Michael Krasny, PhD, has been in broadcast journalism since 1983. He was with ABC in both radio and television and migrated to public broadcasting in 1993. He has been Professor of English at San Francisco State University and also taught at Stanford, the University of San Francisco and the University of California, as well as in the Fulbright International Institutes. A veteran interviewer for the nationally broadcast City Arts and Lectures, he is the author of a number of books, including “Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life” (Stanford University Press) “Spiritual Envy” (New World); “Sound Ideas” (with M.E. Sokolik/ McGraw-Hill); “Let There Be Laughter” (Harper-Collins) as well as the twenty-four lecture series in DVD, audio and book, “Short Story Masterpieces” (The Teaching Company). He has interviewed many of the world’s leading political, cultural, literary, science and technology figures, as well as major figures from the world of entertainment. He is the recipient of many awards and honors including the S.Y. Agnon Medal for Intellectual Achievement; The Eugene Block Award for Human Rights Journalism; the James Madison Freedom of Information Award; the Excellence in Journalism Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association; Career Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and an award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association. He holds a B.A. (cum laude) and M.A. from Ohio University and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin.

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