Quoted health official misspeaks, accurately notes lack of evidence for the fabricated causal link between emotional stress and the continuing lethal opioid surge

by Clark Miller

Published May 1, 2022

South Carolina saw a grim spike in opioid-related overdose deaths from 2019 to 2020.

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control reported a 59% increase from 2019 to 2020 in opioid-related overdose deaths, from 876 deaths in 2019 to 1,400 in 2020.

The total number of all drug overdoses increased by 53% across the state, from 1,131 to 1,734, according to DHEC.

“While we cannot directly correlate these overdose deaths to the stress and emotional toll these individuals may have experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, South Carolina’s overdose death data follows national trends that substance misuse has increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Public Health Director in an emailed statement.

Wait . . . what?


“we cannot directly correlate these overdose deaths to the stress and emotional toll these individuals may have experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic”

But of course they could have, as could the reporter for this piece, that reporter or Dr. Brannon Traxler, Public Health Director simply by making some calls or email queries. Calls or emails to the innumerable sources of media reports and to quoted experts from which COVID period opioid deaths have confidently, authoritatively been attributed to those very factors: stress, anxiety, and the emotional toll of loneliness, of isolation, of disconnection from the spiritual, healing, addiction-curing relationships among acolytes in the religious subcultures AA and NA. It is a universal truth that those factors have been causal. How can that be doubted when there is an apparent consensus among America’s top medical authorities and trusted American media? 

Those causal relationships and evidence supporting them could have been gathered, noted, confirmed, then used in this piece of journalism to contextualize the South Carolina evidence with what is already known, what Goes Without Saying: that surges in opioid deaths over epidemic periods have been caused by some combination of forced isolation (because “addiction is a disease of isolation”), stress, and additional associated anxieties tied to pandemic conditions, stressors that would affect populations generally. 


Okay, enough with the sarcasm, the satire. It can be challenging to write with seriousness these days, as if the material to be considered came from serious sources, from sound thoughts. 

The disclaimer from South Carolina’s public health director is impeccable and the only type of comment warranted, because there is no compelling or strong evidence to suggest that the surges in high-risk oopoid use and deaths over pandemic months and years were driven by emotional distress. 

Pandemic stressors hit well before restrictions started, increased and varied over the two years, and were moderated by multiple changes including mortality rates and risk, vaccine availability, protective employment and financial supports, and shifts back toward normalcy. Humans had shifted increasingly to virtual social interactions and functional transactions years ahead of the pandemic. 

Yet problem opioid use, ODs and deaths continued to surge over the two-year moderation of stressors, continue to surge now. And in numerous locales, opioid overdoses and deaths remained within variability of  proceeding months, or decreased at the time  – March and April of 2020 – when stressors and associated emotional and psychological responses would have been greatest.  

From a recent post – 

Crisis is a necessary condition for a questioning of doxa, but is not in itself a sufficient condition for the production of a critical discourse.”

– Pierre Bourdieu  Outline of a Theory of Practice (1972)

In Bourdieu’s Theory of Practice, heterodoxy is dissent, challenge to what “goes without saying” – the accepted, constructed doxa, “knowledge”, reality, that goes without saying precisely because it “comes without saying”, without real scrutiny, untested, unquestioned. The function of doxa is not knowledge or truth or promotion of the collective good, but to protect and serve the interests of those with the power, the cultural capital, to create it.

And it Goes Without Saying as well, because it Comes Without Saying – that the heightened anxiety, stress with the onset of an ominous pandemic – with sudden threats to income, potential loss of housing, serious illness – are explanation, of course, for the escalation of high-risk use of opioids and other drugs with associated surges in overdoses and deaths. Everyone knows that.

Except, no.

It turns out, as we’ll see in multiple upcoming posts, that acute, exacerbated anxiety, objectively surveyed, as predicted surged significantly in the weeks prior to lockdowns and other restrictions, then rather quickly returned to baseline by April or May of 2020, before the significant surges in opioid OD deaths began. That result and evidence were predictable, are consistent and from multiple locales and surveys, and follow what we know about anxiety in humans related to lack of knowledge, uncertainty, and novelty of a stressor. 

And it turns out, as we’ll see in multiple upcoming posts in this series, that actual surges in opioid deaths – not by surmise or assumption, but by objective measure, consistently and across locales, nationally – did not occur in the timeline required by the fabricated explanations required to hide what has obviously happened, those fabricated explanations that America’s Media/Medical collusion has manufactured as expert consensus, as truth. Just as they manufactured truth to establish that opioids are safe and effective for pain, all forms of pain, some time ago.

It turns out that there are other factors that do fit the time line of – and are identified as causal factors in -pandemic period surges in high-risk opioid use, overdoses, and deaths. 

Recent posts – 

There is more to come. 

Why A Critical Discourse?

Because an uncontrolled epidemic of desperate and deadly use of pain-numbing opioid drugs is just the most visible of America’s lethal crises of drug misuse, suicide, depression, of obesity and sickness, of social illness. Because the matrix of health experts and institutions constructed and identified by mass media as trusted authorities – publicly funded and entrusted to protect public health – instead collude to fabricate false assurances like those that created an opioid crisis, while promising medical cures that never come and can never come, while epidemics worsen. Because the “journalists” responsible for protecting public well-being have failed to fight for truth, traded that duty away for their careers, their abdication and cowardice rewarded daily in corporate news offices, attempts to expose that failure and their fabrications punished.

Open, critical examination, exposure, and deconstruction of their lethal matrix of fabrications is a matter of survival, is cure for mass illness and crisis, demands of us a critical discourse.

Crisis is a necessary condition for a questioning of doxa, but is not in itself a sufficient condition for the production of a critical discourse.

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