by Lynn Webster, MD – Published by The Hill
The media and policymakers are mistaken when they decry an opioid crisis rather than a drug crisis. Unfortunately, the mislabeling of the drug crisis leads lawmakers to chase one suspect while the mastermind is making a clean getaway.
Here are some examples of the way the media and others mistakenly labeled a drug crisis as an opioid crisis.
A recent New York Times op-ed by Nicolas Kristof, “Drug Dealers in Lab Coats,” begins by citing “63,000” drug overdose deaths in 2016. In the next sentence, Kristof implies that these were exclusively opioid-related deaths. But they weren’t. The 63,000 drug-related deaths involved all drugs including cocaine, benzodiazepines, and methamphetamines.
In a recent story, CNN also misreported the data. To quote the original story, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects opioid overdose deaths to top 64,000 in 2016 when the numbers are finalized.” To its credit, CNN corrected the error and modified the statement to say the number reflected “drug overdoses.” CNN also added the sentence, “Most of these overdoses involved an opioid.” But this was after the inaccurate information had been posted online and was widely read.