That picture won’t change much on Monday, when one of the nation’s biggest opioid settlements is set to be effectively resolved. A federal judge is expected to certify Purdue’s bankruptcy plan, which sits at the center of a $4.5 billion settlement between the company and thousands of state and municipal governments that have sued for damages related to the opioid epidemic. In many ways, that settlement is atrocious. Members of the billionaire Sackler family, which owns Purdue and profited most heavily from the company’s opioid dealings — will not have to admit to any wrongdoing. They will secure near-total immunity from any future litigation, and by the time the settlement is paid out they most likely will be as wealthy as they ever were.
But the deal will achieve at least some good: Millions of pages of documents, detailing the full scope of the company’s malfeasance, will be made public. Communities across the country will finally receive some of the money they need to address the ongoing crisis. And the resolution of so many lawsuits at once will bring a small measure of closure to a plague that has felt interminable and shows no signs of abating. That is nothing to scoff at, for a nation weary of epidemics and starved for closure of any kind.
As one chapter in this long and terrible story ends, it’s crucial not to lose sight of the human faces behind the grim statistics. Five hundred thousand is an incomprehensible figure, even — or especially — in the age of Covid. It includes sons and daughters and siblings and parents and spouses and friends. It includes the suffering of all the people who loved them. It includes so much heartache and despair that hardly anyone in America today remains untouched by it. And, of course, there are the two million or so more people who are still living, and struggling, with opioid use disorder and its consequences.
In the face of that struggle, it’s important to remember that there are still more causes for hope than for despair.
For starters, we know what does and doesn’t work against addiction epidemics. Criminalization of drug use, and the war on drugs that undergirds it, has been a dismal failure by just about every conceivable metric. People suffering from substance use disorders have been stigmatized, nonviolent drug offenders remain imprisoned and the crisis has continued unabated.
What does work is evidence-based treatment and harm reduction. Decades of data make clear that medication assisted therapies like methadone and buprenorphine can cut the mortality rate of opioid addiction in half. Likewise, the balance of evidence shows that harm reduction programs — like needle exchanges, safe injection sites and routine use of the overdose reversal drug naloxone — can reduce the number of overdose deaths by helping people with opioid use disorder consume these drugs more safely.
TO CONTINUE: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/08/opinion/opioid-epidemic-sacklers-settlement.html?campaign_id=2&emc=edit_th_20210809&instance_id=37477&nl=todaysheadlines®i_id=35747334&segment_id=65763&user_id=ccde51e4ec9251b4505257eedc2ee927