This is how I’ll vote in 2024

Ashley Herzog
6 min readFeb 7, 2024
Photo by Darren Halstead on Unsplash

I broke my ankle last week. This is the second time I’ve walked around a few days with broken bones wondering if it’s all that bad, compared to dealing with inadequate insurance coverage and 28-year-old doctors who can’t stand that I often know more about my body than they do. Still, I’m lucky. The good news is that there is one medical fad I never fell for: dealing with pain by loading up on “safe and effective” opioids. Until very recently, doctors insisted they were great after every minor dental surgery and pulled muscle. When I was pregnant in 2011, there was indeed hysteria over “fetal alcohol syndrome,” and because of the circumstances and my young age, I was scolded up and down about it. (As for the “very serious effects” that will absolutely appear because the woman admitted to a couple rowdy nights before she even knew she was pregnant: I spent an entire month grimly researching the topic before I decided to “be still and know.” I was right; I looked at the people patiently waiting to be proven right, expecting a gloom and doom scenario in the delivery room, and said “So, it appears you were all full of shit here. Can I now present my extensive research explaining how you’re full of shit before you do it again?”)

But forget alcohol here; we know the risks. This post is about something else where we should have “known the risks” decades ago: opioids. Instead of admitting it was a huge mistake to hand them out like candy, the morons who pushed this scourge doubled down. Doctors are now cringing that as of 2015, they gave opioid drugs to brand-new mothers who were still delirious from an emergency C-section…and then sent them home with it while nagging them to breastfeed. I read cases of women who had “massive heart attacks” or mysterious complications right after giving birth; these women were disproportionately black. The doctors tried to explain the sudden increase in black maternal mortality by looking askance at their “health habits” and “education.” But then it turned out that black women with master’s degrees had higher mortality rates than white high school dropouts having babies at age 19.

Anyway, before we start debating black maternal mortality again and why it’s starting to get a little better after hitting rock bottom; I’m here to tell you it was the opioids. Black people respond poorly to them, which is why the “heroin epidemic” (now the fentanyl epidemic) is disproportionately white. There’s genetic reasons for that, but that’s a post for another day. The nurses at the Cleveland Clinic ER were actually pretty cool this time; however, I was still expecting to get the side-eye when they read my chart. The young male nurse looked a bit hesitant to ask if I was “okay” with ibuprofen or if I needed to see the doctor about taking “something else.” I said, “nope, no opiates for me! Even if I need surgery, I’m still not fucking with those.”

And I’m not saying this because I’m “above” popping pills. It’s the opposite: I think I am very much not above popping pills. In fact, I have genes that allow me to use high amounts and not overdose. If I had started down that road in an alternative scenario (that fortunately didn’t happen, and only because I was lucky), I’d probably be emboldened by the lack of consequences. People used to marvel at how much I could drink without vomiting or “passing out,” I could have fifteen drinks in a night. I wish no one had ever complimented my “tolerance.”

I’m just glad no one told me I clearly could handle a little heroin or some stealthy “oxys” to enhance this pub crawl. People like me probably can — until my tolerance goes down a bit with age, and I decide to take my usual hit after a month off. I’m likely to die immediately this time with absolutely no warning signs. Families genetically similar to mine are often blindsided by the autopsy: yes, she did it on purpose. Yes. was beyond high; she took enough to tranquilize an elephant. She’s been doing it a long time, you just never knew about it. A few years ago, these families often refused to accept it and insisted someone or something else was to blame…until they lost another member to the same drug a years. later. On and on and on.

Anyway, they were somewhat right: the medical establishment dumped this scourge on America without a single fuck to give. They saw it would be very hard to “prove” their drugs were the cause of death, and it’s not their fault some people are druggies; sue us. People in states like West Virginia and Oklahoma are now over this shit: “we always knew some people were addicts, especially here. However, we are skeptical of your claim that we all are. Huge swaths of West Virginia weren’t burned-out war zones with people stabbing and shooting each other…until you people showed up.”

For twenty years, the response was: “it’s not our fault you people are druggies, the rest of the country is just fine.” Are you people upset that your tiny little town just lost half of its productive father figures because they suffocated in a mine? Some of you might remember this horrible story out of West Virginia in 2006. The coal miners were down there for about 10 days before the company got off its ass. After repeat denials, they told the families on night 9 that they did see cause to go down there. The situation had suddenly “worsened,” but they weren’t going to explain how. They promised the. families “most” of the me. were going to be found alive; one or two might be dead of complications. But they’re 50 and about to retire, so who cares, right? Not us!

The families found out via news conference the next morning that the company was pulling out dead body after dead body. It wasn’t one or two who were dead, they all were. After staying alive for a whole week, three of the men died in rapid succession. They realized they were going one by one and no one was responding to their calls for help; they thought no one was even looking for them. Anyway, no one wanted to be the last man standing in this bullshit ass scenario; no one wins by being the only one still alive in a dark mine shaft. Also, there was another problem: they were about to run out of the painkillers they’d been taking for years to deal with this job. They wrote letters to their families and huddled behind a tarp while downing the last of their opioids. They basically said: be proud of us for acting honorably. No one hoarded the last of the snacks and tried to escape, even if he probably could. It’s not “every man for himself” down here; fuck that. These miners made no attempt to make this grotesque scene look better. In fact, it seems they wanted the whole world to see that it was very ugly. And if the company announced the “shocking” discovery that they actually overdosed on OxyContin: just know this was not shocking to them, and they made us that way. They told us to take it. Don’t listen when they tell the world it was all smooth sailing until we “chose” to get high. They’re evil for insisting this was all the result of our poor morals. Our own people will see right through them, Maybe now, the rest of the world will see it too. Do not these people run for office. Tell your state leaders to demand reimbursement. for killing entire towns and states with drugs.

Anyway, I know who I’m voting for this year: who’s talking about fentanyl?

--

--

Ashley Herzog

New account. I’m still a professional journalist, novelist, and radio host. And Catherine’s mom.