The struggle to maintain a painkiller habit is most definitely real. What often starts as an intended treatment for chronic pain can scarily morph into full-blown addiction and reportedly, over two million Americans are chronically abusing some form of prescribed opioid or benzodiazepine medicine. The latest scary news from the opiate addiction department? People have taken to robbing the actual vans that deliver these pills to pharmacies.
While stick-em-ups for pills isn’t anything new, pharmacy and pharmaceutical warehouse robberies can at least be regulated. But since the drivers of pharmacy delivery vans don’t usually carry weapons or have any extensive self-protection training, these robberies are virtually impossible to prevent. And sadly thieves are extra motivated by the current financial gain when these assaults are pulled off—what they can sell these items on the street for is usually insanely higher than what they go for at your average Rite Aid or medication-assisted treatment clinic. For example, a methadone pill that’s 20 cents in the pharmacy can be as high as $20 when peddled on the street.
Where’s The [Stolen] Beef?
Meanwhile, across the pond, there is an entire meat black market happening—all in the name of maintaining heroin habits and keeping a nice cut of lamb on the table for financially struggling families and pubs. According to a recent Vice article, rising food costs and a recession have made quality meat prices in England so high that heroin addicts have launched careers out of stealing and selling coveted mammal flesh (you’re welcome for that disgusting visual, PETA). Yep, meat products are becoming the more common and obvious choice of property to be shoplifted for the purpose of exchanging for drug money (you’ve got to admit that slabs of vacuum-sealed bacon are easier to slip down one’s pants than say, a digital camera).
A thief interviewed in the Vice piece has been shoplifting (a crime that’s at a 10-year high in Great Britain) for 12 years, all to maintain a $75-$150 a day heroin and crack habit. Despite over 20 jail stints and the fact that he’s been banned from multiple grocery chains, he keeps going. According to the piece, “He also steals cheese, spirits, and household goods, but meat is his staple.”
Although this crime is driven by the need for heroin, I do think it’s fascinating that people are so desperate for affordable meat there that this system has infiltrated every town in England. It’s safe to say that the message that we need to get enough protein in our diets has certainly been hammered home if average citizens are buying lamb chops that have been shoved down a crackhead’s boxer shorts.
Crime and Not Enough Punishment
Clearly, the jail time served by the British man was zero deterrent. And the van attackers definitely seem to keep getting away with their system. What is the solution? There isn’t an easy one but so many signs point back to the doctors who originally prescribe these things. It all begins with the physicians who face a moral dilemma regarding whether someone is in genuine, severe pain or falling down the opiate dependence rabbit hole.
So beyond starting at the top with better doctor regulation, increased education for doctors about addiction and more preventative measures for long-term good health, is there any way to combat this problem? If it’s gotten to the point that each day 7,000 people are treated in hospitals for misusing these drugs, perhaps the punishment involved in participating in the illicit market for them should be a lot worse. Awareness of the opiate epidemic and the need to address it seems to be on the rise, in our country at least, but I don’t know that we are getting to the root of the problem quickly enough.
The only thing I do know for sure is this: if I lived in the UK, I’d rather become a vegan than buy sausage from a guy on my doorstep with the shakes.
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