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The Cure Amplifies the Problem

DONNA MURCH’S masterful description of the roots of the opioid crisis coheres with our study of corporate pharmaceutical executives, addiction researchers, and medical practitioners. We too find that racial capital has played a central role in creating the “white” overdose epidemic through drug regulation, drug marketing, and law enforcement. Racial parsing has meant that even while pharmaceutical opioid markets grew out of control, drug-war style law enforcement continued to inflict its devastating harms, especially in black and brown communities.

But Big Pharma’s carefully constructed racial capital did not end with the creation of the opioid crisis; it endures in the U.S. national response. Many of the same players now reap profits from treatments for the opioid dependence they helped to create. And the structures of access are marked by many of the same racial privileges.

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