Dan Baker was introduced to opioids at the age of 21, to treat an old back injury he had obtained while playing sports. Despite being aware of the addictive nature of the drug he decided to push through with the treatment. A few months later he was being committed to a clinic for opioid addiction. Dan’s father would later admit: “We weren’t sure he was as committed to treatment as we thought he should be. We let him know: You can choose this life. We can’t make you do this the way we want you to. That was the last time we saw our son alive.” Dan was subsequently kicked out of this treatment center for sharing drugs with his roommate. His roommate’s father picked his son and Dan up and, at their request, allowed them to attend one last party in Minneapolis. Dan was found dead the next morning, having passed away at the age of 25 (Magan).
OxyContin hit the market in 1996 and, thus, began the circulation of what was seen at the time as the new standard in pain medication. Purdue Pharma, the manufacturers of OxyContin, aggressively promoted the product to the medical community. Between its initial release in 1996 to 2001, Purdue held more than 40 “national pain-management and speaker-training” conferences in resorts across the country. Professionals across the medical field from physicians to pharmacists were invited to these seminars, at no personal expense, to hear about the practical applications of this new drug. Art Van Zee, reports, “It is well documented that this type of pharmaceutical company symposium influences physicians’ prescribing. . .” (Zee).
This proved to be true, as in the early 1990s, the number of painkiller prescriptions issued had been steadily increasing by 2 to 3 million a year, however; the number of prescriptions inexplicably jumped by 8 million in 1996 after OxyContin’s release. This number would jump to 11 million in 1999, a year after Purdue released a promotional video to be used in “physician waiting rooms as a ‘check out’ item for an office’s patient education library” (Moghe). In this same span of time, Purdue saw their sales rise from $48 million in 1996 to $1.1 billion in 2000 (Zee).
It wouldn’t be until 2007 that Purdue and three of its executives would be charged for downplaying the addictive nature of the drug, culminating in $635 million settlement with the U.S Government. By this time OxyContin was already a leading drug of abuse in the United States. Purdue re-marketed their drug in 2010 with new “abuse deterrents” put into place, making the pills more difficult to crush to discourage abuse through snorting or injecting. According to a study conducted by the staff of the New England Journal of Medicine, while this move did help decrease the number of opioid abusers, OxyContin’s nature as a gateway drug had already spiraled the situation out of control. As one opioid user interviewed in the study asserted, “Most people that I know don’t use OxyContin to get high anymore. They have moved on to heroin [because] it is easier to use, much cheaper and easily available” (Moghe).
“What we are going to see is something close to a genocide. We are dying here. I cannot fathom the thought that the greatest nation in the world cannot figure out the logistics for a small island of 100 miles by 35 miles. So, mayday we are in trouble.” (San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz-Sep. 29th, 2017)
It has been almost two months since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and left the island in shambles. There has been a mass outpouring of support from across the country. One notable example is the release of Lin Manuel Miranda’s newest song “Almost Like Praying” to raise money for the relief. Miranda, who became a household name after his hit musical Hamilton swept the nation by storm, is no stranger to writing benefit songs, having previously collaborated with Jennifer Lopez to write “Loves Makes the World Go Round” in response to the Pulse Nightclub shooting last summer. “Almost Like Praying,” with its star-studded cast of Latin American artists, offers a roll call of all 78 of Puerto Rico’s towns. This effectively symbolizing Puerto Rican unity in a time of great devastation, and the reassurance no one is being forgotten in a time when it is difficult to feel otherwise. According to a study conducted by the Quinnipiac University, 52% of Americans feel that President Trump doesn’t care about the situation in Puerto Rico. These feelings are once again reflected by the 55% of Americans who believe the Trump administration has not done enough for the Hispanic majority area (“University”). This stands in sharp contrast with the favorable opinion regarding the administration’s handling of Harvey and Irma.
This impression seems fairly justified considering the flippant comments that the President has made regarding the island. He even alluded to removing federal support from the area only a month after the disaster: “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!” (Trump) This comment was hastily retracted after receiving harsh backlash. As it stands, the current support afforded by the federal personnel on the island seems to be fairly lacking. National Nurses United reported that RNRN/NNU nurses deployed to the island were shocked to find people who have not yet received food, water and other supplies from FEMA. Moreover, many across the island have seen no sign of FEMA or any other federal relief officials at all (“Nurses”). This disparity in care has caused citizens to take matters into their own hands. More than a month after the hurricane hit on Oct. 26th, a group of civilians delivered a generator to a elder-care facility in Isabela, Puerto Rico. The facility has been almost perpetually without electricity and often water since Hurricane Maria. One of the citizens who delivered the generator asserted, “All we have is us, there is no FEMA here” to explain their involvement in the affair (Cunningham). The power situation in Puerto Rico still remains in dire straits, the Washington Examiner reports, “…66 percent of the island’s estimated 3.4 million residents have electricity, according to a government-run website detailing utility coverage.” Considering the progress made thus far the Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, estimates that full power will not return to the island until February (Giaritelli).