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Black Church News in Virginia

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword: The Epidemic

By Imam Vernon M. Fareed

We are now hearing alarm bells go off about a heroin epidemic sweeping Hampton Roads and many other areas in the country. I always find it intriguing when law enforcement, media and others in society begin using the term, “epidemic.” There are various definitions of this word and I’m going to share a couple of them with you to lay the groundwork for the point that I want to make. Epidemic is of Greek origin and carries the basic meaning of epi (upon) + demos (the people). It is further defined in the following ways; 1. A sudden widespread occurrence of an undesirable phenomenon 2. A widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time.

Most of us are very familiar with the term epidemic associated with drugs, crime, flu and other types of phenomenon. The question is, “what threshold has to be met and upon what people must the infectious disease be in order for something to be declared an epidemic?” There is currently a declaration of a “heroin epidemic” resulting in part because some people are now gravitating to this drug to address issues of pain. Some others have resorted to heroin when they can’t get prescription pain medication, or when the prescribed medication doesn’t effectively give them the relief that they are seeking. Another factor that contributes to the rise in the use of heroin is cost – prescription pain medication has become more expensive than heroin.

The face of “the people” upon which this undesirable infectious disease is occurring is for the most part white! Many of them are said to have “chemical dependency” to prescription pain medication, and they have turned from legal drugs to illegal drugs for relief. There is a sympathetic note struck when mentioning these people who are now “drug addicts.” To draw attention to this situation a declaration of “epidemic” has been made!

It begs to question, why wasn’t a declaration of epidemic made prior to a significant number of whites resorting to the use of heroin? The pain that some African-Americans suffered from was; low self-esteem, hopelessness, discrimination and the like, so some of them resorted to drugs like heroin to get relief from their pain. In either case there is no justification for using heroin, whether it be for the reasons whites had done it or for the reasons African-Americans have done it. The critical question remains, “why didn’t they declare the use of heroin an epidemic prior to middle class suburban white men and women getting hooked on it? This obvious inequity in society needs to be addressed if there is to be “truth in advertising!”

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