By R Carter
An August 13, 2019 articles in the Los Angeles Times may be heralding the beginning of the Orwellian era that was postulated in the fictional account of Nineteen Eighty-Four by English writer George Orwell.
The Times article, “With opioid abuse surging, expert panel recommends drug screening for all U.S. adults” cites a draft report issued Tuesday by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. The draft proposal is still open to public comment, so you can make your views known by following the link.
The USPSTF also advocates exploring whether a patient might be sneaking pills from a family member’s pain medication or getting a boost from stimulants prescribed for a child with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. At a time when addiction has become a leading cause of disability in the U.S. and drug poisonings have become the No. 1 cause of injury-related deaths, some say the panel’s advice is long overdue.
“All of us should be keenly aware that on average, one in 10 of our patients are doing drugs — whether we ask them or not — and we’re not going to cause someone to use illicit drugs because we ask the question,” said Dr. Gary LeRoy . “When you create an atmosphere of trust where you have safe conversations, they appreciate that you ask.”
But trust is the real issue and considering that only 17% of Americans trust their elected officials to do the right thing, as documented in this PEW Research article, and this number has been falling consistently since 1958, do we really want the government keeping tabs on behaviors they consider at risk? And if so, to what degree? What happens when the ideology of those in power changes? Having a system that keeps tabs on every individual and what they do within the confines of their home seems very disturbing.
The opioid crisis and mass shootings have started pushing a new generation of lawmakers to consider solutions which tear apart the foundational principles of freedom this country was built on. This is not the first time someone at a state or federal level has advocated for mandatory drug screening of all US citizens, adults and children. This idea has started coming up more frequently following the recent mass shootings in El Paso Texas and Dayton Ohio. There’s also been some whispers about expanding state PDMP data, (prescription drug monitoring programs) to include the prescribing of antidepressants, antipsychotics and other such medications, plus the results of urine drug screens, so that public health officials and law enforcement can capture and document individuals who are suspect of a mental disorder. They would then red flag these individuals to prevent the purchase of firearms.
Such suggestions are truly Orwellian in nature and I believe this because we’re focused on using an approach which relies on prevention as it applies to the masses, as opposed to a punishment which applies to the individual. By using a deterrent to control all Americans, we adopt an ideology of totalitarianism, where government will monitor what you do, how you behave and force you to comply with the ideals and values of those who hold the reigns of power.This is inessence punishing everyone with the loss of freedoms, for crimes committed by a few.
While a mass deterrent may seem like a noble approach for an opioid or gun crisis, in practice it’s a cancer on the personal freedoms of every American.
What’s at the heart of such suggested controls is the issue of deterrence. Should we deter drug abuse and mass shootings by monitoring all US citizens, keeping databases on their recreational activities, medical conditions, medication usage and sharing that data with law enforcement? Or do we just need better laws which punish offenders?