MUN – Understanding the Opioid Crisis

The QQ will make a series explaining and understanding the issues that will be debated on SIS MUN Day.


guvo59, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Although the Opioid Epidemic is an issue very prevalent in the United States of America, it unfortunately extends to all over the world. The problem affects developed nations as well as developing or underdeveloped countries, and it has been ravaging entire communities for decades now.

This is an issue that will be discussed by the Committee 2, in the UN this Committee stands for Economic and Financial matters. The Opioid Epidemic is going to be discussed in OPG during MUN Day. The countries that are going to be represented are: USA, Afghanistan, Mexico, Colombia, Pakistan, Russia, UK, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, France, Germany, India, Turkey, Australia, China, Denmark, Peru, and Laos.

Haven’t done your research for this committee? Here is the QQ’s overview of the issue.

According to John Hopkins Medicine, “opioids are a class of drugs that derive from, or mimic, natural substances found in the opium poppy plant.” This includes illegal substances such as heroin, but it also includes legal substances, more famously OxyContin, produced by Purdue Pharma, owned by the Sackler Family. OxyContin and other medicines, ranging from codeine to morphine, can be administered or prescribed by a doctor for issues such as chronic pain, for example. However, opioids have the inevitable tendency of being extremely addictive, which leads patients to destructive paths.

The “explosive growth” of opioid prescribing in many Western countries, but mainly the US, was due to an intensive marketing campaign conducted by Purdue Pharma. In an article for Brookings, Keith Humphreys and two colleagues of his wrote that the promotion of the drug was “misleading” and done in an “unethical way”, “notably misrepresenting its risk of addiction when used to treat chronic pain.” Purdue Pharma and other pharmaceutical companies, owned by the Sackler’s or not, have actively lobbied beyond the United States, too, reaching Canada, Poland, and the Netherlands.

The appeal, both to sell and to buy this class of medicine in developed countries is evident; as life expectancy in these countries increases, the market for painkillers will also increase. Less obvious (at first glance at least) is the enormous appeal that opioids have in countries like India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The Telegraph reported last June on how parents in Afghanistan are administering opioids to their children so that they don’t feel the tremendous pain from starvation, as food is virtually impossible to get in the war-ravaged country. The new Taliban government is also failing its citizens in the combat against a rising heroin epidemic; too, thousands of Afghans are expected to die from overdoses this year.

Companies take advantage of lax regulation on medicine and of under-treated populations to aggressively sell their products, which then have horrific consequences. Opioid prescription is conclusively tied to heroin and crack-cocaine usage, as patients desperately enter the illegal market for more powerful drugs and doses. 

Opioids are still very prevalent, even after Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy in 2020. OxyContin may just be the first in a long line of opioids that are getting people addicted all over the globe. With the drug moving into Africa and the Middle East, the opioid problem doesn’t look like it’s coming to a stop.