The Inevitable Extinction of the Opioids Predators, as seen in the Lotka-Volterra Model
To begin this note, let us first look at the theory behind extinction events for a population under a generalized Lotka-Volterra predator-prey model. I will defer to the excellent paper by Ackleh et al. titled, "Extinction in a Generalized Lotka-Volterra Predator-Prey Model".
Sparing the reader a bunch of differential equations, the upshot of this generalized predator-prey model is this: closed reproduction, or reproduction only within a class of those with the highest "growth to mortality ratio", forces the subordinated populations to extinction as time goes on. However, without prey, the predators then must cannibalize each other.
However, this long-term extinction dynamic changes if there is "open reproduction", where a subordinate class have a chance at reproducing with dominant class, with a new member of the subordinate class as an output. This dynamic sustains the creation of non-dominant individuals by dint of the existence of dominant individuals, creating the basis for the classic oscillation that sustain an ecology without extinction as a steady-state.
Opioids: Closed-Classes & Monotonic Trends Mean Long-Term Extinction
With the insights from Ackleh's paper, I maintain that those with more sophisticated models have already simulated this outcome from the Opioids predation on the lower-classes. However, I believe that my analysis here does not significantly deviate from the broad-strokes of those with more resources at hand.
First, let's define our "predators" and "prey" so we can avail ourselves of these mathematical insights:
Predator Population: Those profiting from opioids
Prey Population: Those losing from opioids
Defining "Winning" and "Losing": Income is Life and No Income is Death
As explained in the Predator-Prey paper, a long-term extinction event requires some indication of "closed reproduction". In the US, this can be measured through income inequality as a determinant for mortality outcomes, according to an MIT economist:
"When we think about income inequality in the United States, we think that low-income Americans can't afford to purchase the same homes, live in the same neighborhoods, and buy the same goods and services as higher-income Americans," says Michael Stepner, a PhD candidate in MIT's Department of Economics. "But the fact that they can on average expect to have 10 or 15 fewer years of life really demonstrates the level of inequality we've had in the United States."
Characterizing the Losers from Opioids: Poor Whites (Obviously)
For sake of completeness, I defer to the NBER to demonstrate what we already know. According to their latest study, "Macroeconomic Conditions and Opioid Abuse (Hollingsworth et al.)":
As the county unemployment rate increases by one percentage point, the opioid death rate per 100,000 rises by 0.19 (3.6%) and the opioid overdose ED visit rate per 100,000 increases by 0.95 (7.0%). Macroeconomic shocks also increase the overall drug death rate , but this increase is driven by rising opioid deaths. Our findings hold when performing a state-level analysis, rather than county-level; are primarily driven by adverse events among whites ; and are stable across time periods.
Predator Cannibalization IS NOW: Opioid Predators ALREADY Eating Labor Predators' Prey!
It would be pretty difficult to model exactly for how long this epidemic could last before the phenomenon exhausted itself.
However, I can use a trick and simply rely on the labor market to give me the signal of population exhaustion: when opioid abuse becomes so severe that the market can not draw labor from the lower class white population, it tells me that the interests of the Opioid Predators now overtly conflict with the interests of the Labor Predators.
This means that the opioid Predators have driven their Prey into near-extinction, cutting into the higher-quality portion of this Prey class who would normally sustain themselves with income and careers in the lower-tier labor markets.
The situation isn't sustainable, and if left unresolved, could degenerate into poor white communities dissolving into their own equivalent of "Indian Reservations", with the attendant poverty, misery, and declining population.
Sessions/Pence Hit Rock Bottom, and Then, the Floor Knocked: Expanding Drug War
Rather than solving the underlying problems impelling poor white America into suicidal stupors, the Jeff Session/Pence faction within the Trump administration (N.B: some on Team Trump want Marijuana legalized, notably Roger Stone Jr., etc.) wants to escalate its predation upon these people by not only not providing alternative painkillers that would enable them to participate to some extent in society, but instead grind these lost souls into dust by allowing law enforcement to predate upon these crushed people, further enriching the well-established crony drug enforcement gendarmerie and their patrons in the prison industry.
It's ironic, because Jeff Sessions is a notorious shill for Big Tobacco, and so any health claim he makes about the downsides of marijuana usage has dubious credibility.
Sessions/Pence Opioid Plan: Grind Bones of Prey So Predators Can Survive
The Sessions/Pence plan to expanded "Drug War" on opioids simply creates a new sub-class upon which the existing Predators can predate without losing their fragile patronage network.
The Sessions/Pence opioid predation plan proved so regressive, some in the DEA won't tolerate it. As a recent example, Trump's "Drug Tzar" appointee, Tom Marino, had to withdraw from accepting his appointment after a damning DEA leak that he was nothing but a shameless PIMP for the opioid industry.
Assuming this cruel, selfish, and stupid policy doesn't gain traction, what, then, is the more rational and mutual solution to the pain-killer problem in America?
Cannabis not only acts a pain killer and palliative on its own, but it has proven efficacy when used in combination with opioids to not only reduce pain but also forestall any later opioid addiction or dependency.
Cannabis: The Solar Power of Pain Killers
Just as solar power made distributed generation a reality in the power industry and forever doomed the long-term viability of large-scale central thermal generation, so, too, can community-grown cannabis forever disrupt the centrally-distributed and controlled pain killer industry.
The pharma lobbies and "drug warriors" can fight a losing battle as long as they want to, but Cannabis is destiny.
How to Profit From Cannabis… Or How to Short Big Pharma?
With such a strong argument for the long-term success of cannabis gaining mainstream acceptance as medicine rather than a "drug", how would one profit from this trend?
While it is tempting to go long industries that profit from the cannabis trade, it should not be overlooked that were Cannabis to succeed, it could make some Pharma players as redundant and vulnerable as Appalachian coal mines under the Clean Power Plan and cheap fracked gas.
Divine Irony : The Predators Become Prey
The "pill-billies" in coal country, whose people were unprepared to cope with the fracking and regulatory disruption to their livelihoods and communities, could very well be avenged by the Cannabis industry's disruption of Big Pharma, which cynically profited from their vulnerable and miserable state.
Do not overlook this traditionally Democratic population, which voted Trump, reverting back to their Blue roots (and with gusto!) to maximize the revenge on their Pill Predators within the Trump administration.
Cannabis: Just Another Catalyst Deflating America's Healthcare Bloat
Aside from the aforementioned benefits, Cannabis provides equivalent or even superior outcomes at a far lower cost: roughly 5-10x cheaper, per dose.
As America inexorably wrestles with the reality of implementing a single-payer healthcare system, it seems unlikely that the narrow interests of Big Pharma and mean-spirited "drug warriors" can for long supersede the competing interest of the nation at large.