Pubdate: Thu, 01 Mar 2018
Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2018 Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Author: Billy Cox


SARASOTA - When the Drug Enforcement Administration was formed in 1973, 
roughly 2,000 Americans were dying from overdoses each week, largely 
from heroin injections. In 2016 alone, thanks to a deregulated
pharmaceutical industry, fatal overdoses -- 80 percent opioid related
- -- claimed 63,000 lives.

Or, as Peter Bensinger pointed out Thursday morning, opium-derived
drugs have exacted a higher death toll in a single year than nearly
two decades of fighting in the Vietnam War.

Appointed by President Ford in 1976 to become the nation's second DEA
director, Bensinger detailed the history of America's relationship
with the poppy to a Sarasota Institute of Lifetime Learning crowd
gathered at First United Methodist Church. As the leading cause of
death for U.S. residents under 50, the toll from opioids and its
synthetic counterparts today would've been unimaginable to Bensinger
when he was the nation's top drug cop.

In other words, respectable, corporate, white-collar pushers have
succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of the street-level traffickers
Bensinger was collaring during his five-year tenure with the DEA.
Under his stewardship, the DEA went after drug paraphernalia shops,
formulated asset forfeiture laws, and launched aggressive herbicide
drops in Mexico. Consequently, he says, fatal overdoses, from heroin
products and everything else, plummeted from 2,000 a year to 800.

Addiction went down until 1995, when a company, Purdue Pharmaceuticals, 
developed an extended release of oxycodone, it was a derivative of 
opium, and it was called Oxycontin, and it coincided with an intensive 
increase in pain management clinics. And they spread all over the country.

On Tuesday, four months after President Trump declared an "opioid 
crisis" in America, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Justice 
Department's intention to launch a task force targeting the 
manufacturers and distributors of prescription painkillers. Bensinger 
praised the decision, and added there were at least two more components 
to the solution.

However, Bensinger maintained a hardline stance on medical marijuana,
saying it should remain classified as a dangerous Schedule 1 drug
because therapeutic value is “anecdotal,” and that more
research is needed.
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