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Editors’ Note

WITH WHITE MORTALITY RATES soaring as a result of opioid use, drug addiction has morphed from a criminal crisis into a health crisis. This should not surprise us since, as Donna Murch notes in her lead essay, “Historically, the fundamental division between ‘dope’ and medicine was the race and class of users.”

But by examining the opioid crisis alongside the War on Drugs— which has locked up so many people of color—as well as the Trump administration’s immigration policies, Murch brings an otherwise familiar story into new territory. To understand the twisted logic that created the divergent responses to drug use—succor and sympathy for white users, prison and expulsion for people of color—Murch draws on Cedric Robinson’s idea of racial capitalism. She shows how a racialized regime of drug prohibitions and a commercialized approach to prescription pharmaceuticals led Purdue Pharma to market OxyContin specifically to whites because it guaranteed them the longest head start on enforcement attempts and thus the biggest prof its.

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