Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Treading Water

One mom-and-pop pharmacy in Oceana received 600 times as many oxycodone pills as the Rite Aid drugstore just eight blocks away.
Drug firms poured 780M painkillers into WV amid rise of overdoses
While the article mainly goes after the major distributors of opioid painkillers as the culprits of West Virginia's overdose epidemic, I was hoping that they'd spare some word count for the pharmacies dispensing the drugs. Because it strikes me that unless that "mom-and-pop pharmacy in Oceana" was raking in sales like nobody's business, it's a pretty safe bet that they understood that they were selling addictive drugs to addicted people. And there's a story in that.

For all that I understand the appeal of weaving a narrative that lays the woes of a community at the feet of uncaring outsiders, I think that even more compelling (if not as comforting) are the stories behind why local people aid in those woes. Because for a small independent pharmacy to be handing out painkillers hand over fist, someone was likely confronted with a choice between complicity in the deaths of addicts desperate for a high and watching their business go under. And sure, it could have been a successful business "motivated by greed" (as often goes the mantra in such stories) but it seems a high-risk strategy just for another Lexus or a lakeside cabin.

It's a missed opportunity, because it shows us a side of poverty that we don't often see. While we are often shown stories of the desperate poor, the people who are working multiple jobs or just lost in their own sense of helplessness, the stories of those people who turn to doing things that are legal, yet damaging to the people and the community around them because it's the best option that they have available are thin in the ground. But I think that they're instructive, because they illustrate what people will do to hang on.

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