Artificially Produced Opioids
A seemingly insane story started to sweep around the internet a couple of months ago. Scientists had, it goes, been able to synthesize opioids from yeast cultures.
Think about that for one second – scientists in a lab had been able to artificially produce opioids. We’re not talking about scrapping opium poppies, taking the raw opium back to a lab, and producing painkillers.
No, we’re talking about a team in a lab, probably dressed in HAZMAT suits, cooking up completely synthetic opioids.
That’s a terrifying prospect when you really consider it.
We weren’t sure how to feel about it here at Lighthouse. After all, who knew if it was true and, more importantly, who knew the positive and negative impacts this discovery might have on our culture at large.
Then we read this excellent article. In it, author David DiSalvo explores some of those positive and negative impacts.
It’s interesting stuff. Read on for a breakdown of his ideas and our own spin on whether 100% artificial opioids are a blessing or a curse.
Benefits of Synthetically Produced Opioids
Before getting into any doomsday prophecies, it’s important to look at some of the very real benefits that synthetically produced opioids may offer. DiSalvo makes this very clear in his article and I couldn’t agree more.
Artificially made opioids can lead to a whole host of positive effects, including things like:
- Increased production of painkillers both inside and outside of the US
- Unique additions to any given chemical which can potentially produce less addictive drugs
- Painkillers would most likely become cheaper to produce which would enable them to be distributed to those who need them most, rather than those with good insurance
DiSalvo touches on these in his article. I’d like to add one of my own.
If creating opioids of all shapes and sizes starts to take place solely in labs, there’s a good chance this’ll lead to a decrease in “opium farms.” This, in turn, could lead to a decrease in the illegal production of morphine, heroin, and other potent chemicals.
There are a few ifs in that scenario. Still, it makes logical sense that increasing production of opioids in labs will lead to decreased production in the Middle East.
Okay, those are the positives. Now let’s look at some of the potentially disastrous side effects of mass-producing artificial opioids in a lab.
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Drawbacks of Synthetically Produced Opioids
The first thing DiSalvo makes clear is the connection between synthetically creating narcotics and the other synthetic drug explosion in recent years.
He writes, “Right now more than 160,000 labs in China are pumping out synthetic drugs for buyers across the globe” (Forbes).
Call them bath salts, flakka, gravel, or any of their other ridiculous names. The point is the same – when creating drugs in a lab, there’s the potential that someone can, and most likely will, start creating those same drugs for a different purpose.
America is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. That much is old news. Do we really need another source of painkillers for our population to consume? Do we really need to outsource that production (as it were) to illicit labs in foreign countries?
Of course those are worst-case scenarios. Still, they’re worth considering. After all, look what happened to Tramadol in Egypt.
There’s another angle that DiSalvo doesn’t touch on that bears examining. I’m talking about the simple idea of supply and demand.
There’s likely always going to be a demand for painkillers and other opioids. If the supply increases – as artificial production is refined, it’s going to cost less and less to produce these pills – and demand remains steady, then the price of black-market opioids is going to drop.
On one hand this is a good thing. After all, it takes money out of the pockets of drug dealers. On the other hand, though, this is horrible. Incredibly addictive and powerful chemicals could become available for pennies on the dollar.
That’s a scary thought!
That’s a good question reader! So what? Why does any of this matter? A small group of scientists were able to create thebaine and hydrocodone from yeast. That’s a far cry from any scenarios mentioned above, good or bad!
This stuff matters because it gives us the opportunity to be prepared! Remember when OxyContin first emerged in the late ‘90s? No one saw it coming and it started the painkiller epidemic – it fundamentally changed America.
We have the opportunity to avoid that if, and most likely when, synthetically produced opioids start to cause trouble.
What do you think? Let us know on social media!