More than 2 million Americans are hooked on some kind of opioid, be it heroin, morphine, fentanyl, or a multitude of other related drugs. The past decade has seen a quantum leap in opioid use and related deaths in America, with more lives lost in 2017 than in the entire Vietnam War. How did this crisis happen so fast? The best answers take the long view. What draws all opioids together is their relationship to the poppy, a flower that has been used as a numbing agent in America since the earliest days of the nation when Thomas Jefferson planted them in his Monticello garden. The poppy has a unique draw on Americans — and its growth mirrors the history of the nation itself.
This brilliant and illuminating article by Andrew Sullivan is essential reading for understanding the landscape of the American opioid epidemic today. Read "The Poison We Pick" (New York Magazine). For a book-length treatment of the American opioid crisis, check out Sam Quinones' Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opioid Epidemic.