White Opioids: The Racialization of the Opioid Epidemic
MD Jules NetherlandZoom
Much has been written about the ways in which anti-Black racism fuels the war on drugs. Much less has been said about the ways in which whiteness makes the war on drugs possible. The current opioid crisis and calls for a “gentler war on drugs” provide an opportunity to examine the ways in which whiteness operates in U.S. drug policy. Drawing on interviews as well as analyses of media, marketing materials, and the congressional record, this presentation traces how the current opioid crisis became framed as white. It explores how four “technologies of whiteness” -- including addiction neuroscience, new biotechnologies, legislation and regulation, and media and marketing – operate together to create a so-called white opioid problem. This talk will also review how this framing has created a policy paradox and ways in which it has and has not influenced public policy.