Episode #12 - Narco Mindset Podcast - Opioid Crisis
April 1, 2020
Host: Jorge Valdes Ph.D. - An Author, Speaker, Blogger, Podcaster, and You Tuber
Co-Host: Anthony Petrucci
EPISODE SHOW NOTES
In this episode, Dr. Valdes approaches the opioid crisis from his lens of being the founding member of the group that became the Medellin Drug Cartel. Dr. Valdes is shocked that we lose over 150,000 people to drug-related death, over 70,000 to drug overdose, and no one talks about it unless it happens to someone close to them. Dr. Valdes tackles some hard questions from his co-host Anthony Petrucci, as it relates to why he believes that we have such a crisis in America, who are some of the culprits, and what we need to do to make a difference.
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TRANSCRIPTION OF EPISODE #12
Intro: Before we watched TV shows and movies on Narcos, and even before Pablo Escobar’s rise to fame, there was one man who was the ultimate Narco. He lived the Narco life of greed, money and power but found a way to reclaim his life, and use his astonishing experiences to empower others to live a life of hope, meaning and redemption. Welcome to the Narco Mindset podcast where Dr. Jorge Valdes shares his journey through life before and after the Medellín Drug Cartel. From torture and multiple prison sentences to how he refocused his life onto a path of principles learned as a Narco, it’s time to share that raw truth with you, right here on the Narco Mindset podcast with your host, Dr. Jorge Valdes.
Jorge: Today on the Narco Mindset podcast ... you know, I never thought that what we’re facing today would ever happen. We need to really be involved in the lives of our children. America is a very, very reactive society. Because, I’d rather have our children mad at us than us crying over the fact that it’s too late, and we did nothing about it. We’ve allowed society to dictate to us what makes us happy, and sometimes being a father or a mother is not a popular thing to do. It doesn’t take a day to become an addict. It takes a village to raise a child. We need to make sure that there’s a safe place for them.
Thanks for joining us today. I am your host, Dr. Jorge Valdes, here with my co-host, Anthony Petrucci. Anthony, in the last couple of episodes we only scratched the surface on the topic that is of so much interest to our listeners. Today, I think it is important that we go a bit deeper. What is the real problem, and what we parents, citizens as a whole, should be very, very aware of, and that is to me, the opioid crisis in America. What can we learn about it today? Anthony, what are your thoughts as you have been busy writing this book on the prison reform?
Anthony: Absolutely. The opioid crisis hurts individuals, it hurts families, it hurts communities. It’s not just an individual issue but people are desperate because it is an addiction. Many times, people need help but it’s a case where somebody can’t just do it alone. Families are being affected. Our communities in the United States where really, half the community is somehow affected by this, whether the person themselves or whether it’s their families or friends being affected. So, it’s really looking at what has caused the opioid crisis. What are the underlying factors to that? I know we’re going to dig into that a little bit here today but I want to ask your opinion of what do you see as some of the main causes and drivers of the opioid crisis yourself?
Jorge: You know, Anthony, I think this is a really good time for me to say something I’ve really been wanting to say for a long time. That is, to our listeners, I’m not doing this podcast, I have not written the books I have written, I don’t speak all over the country as I do to make amends or somehow for feeling good about the wrong that I did. When I was involved at the beginning of that organization that became the Medellín Drug Cartel, I never thought that what we are facing today would ever happen. I thought that we were only doing something that was going to be for the rich and famous. Nobody in the cartel did cocaine. We never thought about the implications or what could come off of it. Today, as I see the opioid crisis, I can’t help but, to a certain extent, it’s been 45 years now since I left the cartel, and to a certain extent I cannot help but find some guilt as to something that I did that was the foundation for what we find today.
But with that said, as we look at the opioid crisis and we look at many, many crises that we’ve had throughout our history, I think that there is something that is really, really critical that we need to bring awareness to our listeners. That is, number one, it doesn’t seem to me like the public is very, very at arms, let’s say, and I mean, shocked, at the problem that, to be real, we’re losing 150,000 Americans’ lives every day. We hear about some people getting killed in the war, and we are really alarmed, and we feel bad about it and we should. It doesn’t seem to me that until it happens, until this sin knocks in your front door, until this sin hits one of your relatives that we become aware and we start finding out what is really going on. Think about it. Put it all in perspective.
We lost about 45,000 in Vietnam, and in every war that we’ve been involved in, including Iraq and Afghanistan, that’s 45,000 too many. If you take into consideration that we lose 150,000, some people are going to say, “Jorge, you are exaggerating, it’s only 70.” Only 70. The University of Georgetown recently did a study and said, “When we say 70,000, we’re only talking about the people that directly overdose. We’re not even taking into consideration that many deaths related to drugs like suicide, mental health, people driving under the influence of narcotics and killing themselves and killing others.” They did a long study of about 10 years and came up with the real figure is 150,000. Now, as we identify that the tragedy of this says 70, 80, 90, 100, 150, one life is too many.
We need to ask ourselves why today it’s even more than ever before. I think that one factor is the media. Media that says no more than [inaudible 00:05:43], used to be told. I know that crisis in New York with the heroine was tremendous but the problem right now is that we are just now focusing on the fact that where are these drugs coming from. We are just focused on looking at the war on drugs overseas and in South America and going up to the cartels, and we fail to realize that many, 61% of all these overdoses are caused by legal narcotics produced here in America. The first step that I tell parents whenever I speak is, we need to be aware of. We need to really be involved in the lives of our children.
There are many, many signs before a child uses drugs. There are many, many more signs that are evident when he uses drugs. What ends up happening is, because we are not looking, because we’re letting our kids be raised on the streets or raised by the computer or they go into the room, and they lock themselves up, we don’t eat as a family, we don’t watch TV as a family, we do very little activities as a family, and I know that is a tragedy that a lot of parents today have to work so many jobs. So, therefore, the child literally is being raised by themselves. I want to tell you like the first time my son used drugs, my middle son, he did it with a friend, and the friend’s mom, her husband worked for a dentist and was getting the pills. So, we need to be so aware of who our children are associating with. What are they doing? Be aware of their temperament because what we need to do to, number one, to avoid this crisis is, first, we need to be preventive.
I always say that America is a very, very reactive society. You find out your son is on drugs or your daughter, and immediately, we have so many resources, we have money, we put them in the best rehab centers. The truth of the matter is that we fail to realize that once it’s a problem already, oftentimes then the battle becomes very, very difficult when in reality we can cut the subject. We tell our children as they were growing up, there is no privacy in this home. This home is my home. Do you want privacy? Get a job, move out, and you’ll let me know when I can come and when I cannot come to your house.
But as long as you live in my house, I’m going to check your drawers. I’m going to check everything every time I can, and if I have the slightest suspicions that you’ve been using drugs, then I’m going to test you. We cannot be afraid to do that because I’d rather have our children mad at us than us crying over the fact that it’s too late, and we did nothing about it. This is a tragedy. It is part of the biggest tragedy affecting America today, and you know, somehow, it is really sad that we hear about it when we find out about 20 people overdosed or the morgues in Virginia or Ohio are so full that they need to bring in refrigerated trucks. If you think about 150,000, think about how many kids are dying every day. Literally, every day. A lot of our youth and a lot of our adults are dying.
We can talk about, Anthony, you and I, talk about deep down inside, what drives a child to use drugs. To me, it’s this emptiness inside these kids, the emptiness inside our adults, our parents. We’ve allowed society to dictate to us what makes us happy and when we try to find meaning to our lives and we have no one to mentor us, we don’t have parents to guide us, then it becomes a serious problem. When we let the streets and the peer pressure that’s out there today, it is horrific. It is very difficult in today’s world for a child that wants to be part of the clique, wants to fit it, to not be able to say, “No, you know what, I was made for a lot better than this and I can’t do this.”
We as parents, I say, step number one, if we really got to be aware of our children, and we got to be transparent with them, and let our kids know, listen, I have six children, all the way from 17 to 43. I’m extremely close to all of them but I told them, “Listen, you are going to live under the golden rule. He who has the gold is going to make all the rules. In my house, in my house, not your house, in my house, my number one priority is not to make you my friend.” Of course, I have an open relationship. I share with my children the horrors I have done. I’ve come clean with them but I let them know that, first and foremost, I am a father, and sometimes being a father or a mother is not a popular thing to do but at the end, who cares about popularity? Listen, our children have too many friends as it is. They need someone to direct them. They need someone to show them the way.
We need to, as parents, have an open dialogue and an open door, and realize that, listen, when our kids messed up, we just cannot overreact and go nuts. This is going to happen. I look back and I use my mom, Anthony, as the best example. My mom, she never stopped telling me that what I was doing was wrong. That what I was doing didn’t please God. That I was destroying them. But in the same breath, she would then say, “Hey son, what do you want to eat today?” What that taught me was that my parents had a stance against what I was doing, and it was a strong stance, and it made me think about it. But at the same time, they were my parents and nothing was going to change that, and they were going to love me, and they love me.
When finally God turned my life around, when finally I changed my ways, I knew where to come back to because I had a home, and I had a mother and a father that did not judge me because if they judged me, they would condemn me. If they condemn me, I’m not coming there. Recently, Andy Stanley said something great talking about raising kids with his wife. One of the things that they worked very, very hard at was to make sure that their kids when they left home, they would want to come home versus the kids dying to leave home before they left home. It’s a very, very complex subject but I would say awareness and involvement and presence in the lives of our youth is critical. That also goes for the lives of our co-workers. The old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Listen, we’ve become too independent and isolated. Technology is great, it has brought faraway friends to close but it has taken close friends far away.
We are living really in a bubble. We need to burst out and realize that no one is immune, it can happen to you. It’s amazing when something you hear when it happens to you. They say, “Why doesn’t anybody care? Why doesn’t anybody care?” My response is, “When did you care?” There are answers and there are solutions and there are things that we can do and we don’t have to panic and the world doesn’t end, and we don’t have to go nuts and kick our children out of the house because we caught them using drugs. There are consequences to what they do but we need to make sure that there’s a safe place for them.
Anthony: As you know, there is a whole system out there that is actually providing opioids as well. Who is actually benefiting from today’s opioid crisis? You have kids and adults hooked on opioids. There’s kind of something in the shadows behind it. Can you comment?
Jorge: Yeah, you know, I say that one of the components of how we’d make an impact on the war on drugs is what we call those five tenets. One of them, very, very important, has been pharmaceuticals. I want to be very clear, drugs don’t kill people, people kill themselves with drugs. But I believe that pharmaceuticals have a tremendous responsibility. They make billions and billions of dollars. There’s a lot of ethical ones and we’ve seen those unethical like the ones manufacturing oxycodone and just pushing 20 pills knowing that after 10 pills a person becomes addicted to oxycodone.
My son had minor surgery and they gave him 20 pills. I was there [inaudible 00:13:04] like, “I don’t want 20 pills. He only needs two.” “Well, he got prescribed 20.” I said, “I don’t give a damn how many he got prescribed. All I want is two. One right now when the anesthesia wears out and the other one we’re going to split for the following day and the day after.” But they pushed those. We saw that company, went under, and now we see these major companies and then, I suppose, this is one of the reasons why we put so much focus on the war on drugs because if we are so focused on attacking the drug cartels ... Listen, do not mistake me, we need to. We need to realize we’re not going to defeat them but what we also need to realize that they are 10% of this problem.
61% is pharmaceutical legitimate drugs that are over abused. The greed in people. Those clinics being set up all over the country right now. There are people that have had legitimate back problems and they are in legitimate pain, and they need them. But we need to also be able to find alternatives. If we let the public know that, listen, the minute you take 10, 12, 13 of these pills, you will be addicted to that pill then we as a pharmaceutical company and we in the government need to come up with a program where they don’t let this person pass those pills. Once those limits are exhausted, when we’re getting close to addiction, then we need to find another solution whereas they can manage that pain without being addicted because, in one sense, we manage the pain but then we destroy our lives. So, that is a big problem.
Then, of course, there’s the human greed with all these clinics that are opening up all over the place, and you won’t go to pain clinics and say you have a back problem. Think about it. The thing with a back problem is that there is no way for someone to detect if you really do or not. People can go in there and fake it, and get all these pills. Then you’ve got all the different pharmacies or the non-institutional pharmacies that are out there prescribing drugs left and right because it’s all about the bottom dollar. We just simply don’t care about what it’s doing to our society and what it’s doing to our youth. Pharmaceuticals is a big problem, and if we take a little focus off this war on drugs, and we shift a lot of this money that we fight in fighting the cartels and we shift it to fighting the supply of these narcotics, not the legal supply but the consumption of these narcotics and how do we help these people that legitimately need our drugs.
Pharmaceuticals, I believe, have a tremendous responsibility but a lot of focus is on the cartels and we don’t think about them. We’ll focus on 10%. Listen, it goes to a very complex subject; political corruption. If we’re looking at the horrific amounts of money that it costs to run a senatorial, presidential campaign, federal campaigns this time around, then you ask yourself, “Where’s this money going to come from?” I don’t care what anybody tells me. No, all the $10 donation in the world is not going to give you $350 million to run a senatorial and a billion dollars to run a presidential campaign. It’s going to come from big interest groups, guns, war complex, pharmaceuticals, and then what happens? When they supply that money then you're indebted to them and then it becomes a vicious cycle.
But again, going back to the thing that you and I are calling awareness to, we need to be aware. Remember people, this is our taxpayers’ dollars that are being spent unnecessarily that could be spent and legislation that can be created to allow the pharmaceutical companies to make money. I’m a capitalist at heart. If you risk finances, if you risk money and you create these drugs, then you know you should benefit from them. But there is a moral component that must come into play where benefit and harm intersect. Where, hey, you know what, I’m making a lot of money off of this and I have a moral responsibility or society, the responsibility of doing something to be able to curtail that problem and to help those people that are really, really suffering.
Anthony: Who would you say is really benefiting from the opioid crisis today because somebody is pushing these opioids, and a lot of times, people get into it because maybe they had back pain or they had some sort of pain and they are looking for relief from that and then they get hooked on opioids, which is very addictive. But the system itself of what’s providing the opioids, can you comment a little bit about that because it’s not exactly the way things were back in the 1970s or ‘80s when there were other kinds of drugs. A lot of times people are like, “This is prescription drugs,” but it’s being abused. Can you talk about the complexities of that?
Jorge: You know, it was a different world in my time. The consumption of cocaine during the ‘70s, it wasn’t a violent world like what we see today, and it was the high society of America. The wealthy. The rich. The thing with cocaine was that it was not addictive in the sense of physically addictive but it was mentally addictive in the sense of people liked it and they wanted more. The good thing with cocaine is that once you snorted enough of it, your nose would be clogged up and that was all you could do. But at the same time, you had what drove people to pay ungodly amounts of money back then to snort cocaine.
Anthony: Is there any other distinction or difference that you would compare today’s opioid addiction crisis with the drug addiction trends that frankly benefited you in the drug cartel days of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Are there any other lessons you say you could learn either compare or contrast what you saw back then and what you're seeing today. You’ve touched upon it already. I was just wondering if there was anything else that you’d like to call out that our listeners would be interested in and perhaps doesn’t get covered in mainstream media.
Jorge: Again, it’s back to the same thing. We’re trying to find meaning and we’re trying to find joy to our lives in so many things that are just not there. We can trade this problem today with alcohol doing prohibition. What makes people want to get drunk? What makes people break the law to supply so that people can get drunk? Again, the core subject of it is an emptiness inside. There’s this emptiness inside that we want to fill somehow, for whatever reason. Broken home, we’re angry. Our mental health is a big, big component that our society has totally ignored, and we need to address it as a country, as a government, we need to address it as a crisis.
Mental health drives people to deal with pain and to medicate themselves with these narcotics. That’s one component. The other way is that there are drugs being manufactured that can help people get off these horrific drugs but again, somehow, we need to identify as a family, as a neighbor, as a relative, what is happening. Why are we so lonely that we have this desire to use these drugs even when we know they're going to kill you. That’s really one of the things that are most shocking during this time because, during my era, you get arrested. Look at it now. I recently saw an interview with this girl. Her mother died of Fentanyl, her father died, her boyfriend died, and she nearly died. I’m like, “Oh my God if you see all these people that are close to you dying, how can you be so ignorant?”
But it’s not ignorant. It could be many issues. It could be, again, mental health or pain. Pain that people are suffering. We live in a lonely world, and we’re not dealing with that pain inside because we can’t come clean with people. We present a mask to people who we are and what we feel, and instead of saying, “Hey, I’m struggling. I’m struggling through the divorce of my parents. I’m struggling through an abusive father, an abusive mother, I’m struggling with so many things. “At the same time is to help people ... especially you’ve got to start with the youth because that’s where the problem begins. If it’s a drug problem among young people, just imagine what is going to happen when they grow up. They are not going to grow out of it, they are going to grow more into it.
We’ve got to be able to deal with these young people and address the pain that they are suffering. A lot of times all they want to do is feel loved, all they want to do is feel meaning, all they want to do sometime is just feel like they belong but unfortunately, we are at a point in our lives that we’re so isolated that we just don’t think about it. You live your life, I’ll live mine. If I love you or if you are close to me, when you get messed up or I get messed up then we come to the crisis but people, we need to be aware. We can talk, Anthony, for hours and hours about this subject, come up with so much. I’m willing to let listeners e-mail us on our webpage at jorgevaldesphd.com. I read every e-mail personally. I answer every e-mail personally.
Keep this dialog going and bring awareness to this. Bring awareness to the government, and hold our politicians accountable. They just don’t walk up to Washington and say, “Here I am. I’m your senator. I’m your representative.” We put them there. We allow them to be there and we don’t hold them accountable. It’s a tough subject. It’s one that is really painful for me. I thank God that I have one child that was really messed up in a broken home, and by God’s grace, I was able to lead him to Teen Challenge and here’s a plug for the most amazing rehab program in the country. If your child is suffering from drug addiction or you feel that he’s beginning, listen, Teen Challenge is amazing. It’s a 12-month program, not having money will not keep you from the program. I raise money for them for a long time, and I put my son through it. I put him through one in Senoia, Georgia. John Barrels, a man that I love dearly, he lost his son to a drug overdose. He’s created a program ‘Better Way Ministries’ in Georgia and it’s amazing what the program has done.
Now the program is 18 months because he realized that it doesn’t take a day to become an addict to the point where you really have a problem. It’s a long process, and it actually is changing our mindset, right? What we talk about a lot is breaking those old habits. First and foremost, beginning with an addict, a felon, a criminal. We all have one thing in common. We’re selfish. We care about only ourselves and we don’t care about anybody else. We are not hurting anyone. We’re not doing anything to you. Bullshit. We’re hurting everybody. We hurt ourselves. We hurt those that we’re close to and love us and then we hurt society as a whole.
There are great programs out there that I endorse because I’ve seen them. I saw Better Ways Ministries which is an outreach of Teen Challenge with John Barrels in Senoia, Georgia literally transform my son’s life to the point today he’s super successful, married, owns his own home, CFO of a big tech company and he’s only 30 years old. Passed the CPA the first shot. He’s going to have a tremendous impact on the world. He’s doing things to help others. So, again, there are programs out there. Let’s not wait until it’s too late. The minute we see something wrong or a sign, then you know what, we need to start working on it. But first, we need to be looking. Sometimes, you know, we just don’t look. We need to look. We need to be attentive. Listen, our children had no choice to come into this world. We brought them in there. Our responsibility is to give our whole life to them.
Anthony: You’ve covered so much here. Everything from the denial that people have to the desperation that people feel to the forces that work against people but I think with everything that you have said that there is hope for people. They can go into programs that help but also there needs to be a strategic change to the way the country addresses the opioid crisis. It’s at the governmental level but also companies can help as well as families and individuals and communities. I think really your message is one of hope even though we’ve been talking about some difficult issues here. I just want people to believe that there is hope and that people should get involved and get better educated. They can go to jorgevaldesphd.com to stay connected. I know that we’re going to be posting more material in the weeks and months ahead on this topic whether through blogs or other ways. We do want people’s questions, so I think it’s a great discussion. We’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg. That’s everything I think I have to say.
Jorge: Yeah. Thanks so much, Anthony. Well said. You’ve wrapped it up completely. It takes a village, it takes a world, it takes a community. Be attentive. Be involved. Don’t lose hope because there is hope, and where there is hope, there is redemption. If you have enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe and tell your friends about it. Go to our webpage www.jorgevaldesphd.com and join our community. Once you join our community, it will automatically send you a pdf of my latest book, Narco Mindset: Freedom Edition. Be blessed and see you next week.
Outro: We’ve come to the conclusion of this episode of the Narco Mindset podcast but your path towards hope, meaning, and redemption continues. For more information and resources to help you on your path towards finding a life built on integrity, honor and truth, head to jorgevaldesphd.com, and join our community. We appreciate you joining us for this episode, and look forward to helping you find your turning point right here on the Narco Mindset podcast.