Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Seductive Pain: the Astrology of the Opioid Epidemic

Somehow...“E pluribus unum” has come to mean “you’re on your own.”  

Sometimes a chance comment on the radio can set a whole process of exploration into motion: today’s NPR discussion regarding the GOP Senate healthcare bill (discussed here in greater length) was such a wake-up call, especially when the discussion veered off into how the GOP bill would affect the so-called “Opioid epidemic.” 

This catastrophic development has ensnared millions of Americans these days, causing escalating numbers of deaths by overdose (62,000 in 2016, with numbers growing) and decimating families. 

The conversation pointed out two essential facts about this tragic public crisis: a) that the only remedy for opioid addiction is medical care, not willpower (as Kelly Anne Conway tried to say that day in the news), and b) that the epidemic is approximately 20-years old. 

The first issue seems to be a no-brainer to everyone except those who are ideologically-bound to believe that drug addiction is a sign of character defect—a sign of low morals, laziness, inability to “just say no,” etc. Medical professionals tell a very different story: that addiction (of any type) is a mental health issue, a brain phenomenon, an illness that can be contained, if not entirely “cured” with judicious medical care. The New York Times chimed in on this idea, as well, offering scientific backing:

“Why would anyone continue to use recreational drugs despite the medical consequences and social condemnation? What makes someone eat more and more in the face of poor health?
One answer is that modern humans have designed the perfect environment to create both of these addictions.
No one will be shocked to learn that stress makes people more likely to search for solace in drugs or food (it’s called “comfort food” for a reason). Yet the myth has persisted that addiction is either a moral failure or a hard-wired behavior — that addicts are either completely in command or literally out of their minds. Now we have a body of research that makes the connection between stress and addiction definitive. More surprising, it shows that we can change the path to addiction by changing our environment.”

This article is worth exploring in full—click here

The scope of the epidemic is frankly scary: opioid addiction is destroying thousands of families, with the children of addicted parents often thrown into an already overtaxed foster care system. Entire states are affected: Wikipedia.org reports that:

“…over 30 per 100,000 in New Hampshire and over 40 per 100,000 in West Virginia.[8] With the ongoing crisis, opinions about drug abuse have changed and the moral, social, and cultural resistance to heroin and opioid use has weakened.[8]
In March 2017, the governor of Maryland declared a State of Emergency to combat the epidemic.[9] CDC director Thomas Frieden has said that ‘America is awash in opioids; urgent action is critical.’”[10]

Clearly, this epidemic is a crisis with long tentacles and no easy answers—a real outer planetary phenomenon, akin to the 1980s AIDs epidemic, to last year’s Zika epidemic in Brazil, to the recurring Ebola scare we have only narrowly escaped and dare not lose sight of, and to the present tragic cholera epidemic in Yemen. Can we at least agree that THIS IS NO TIME TO BE CUTTING BACK ON PEOPLE’S HEALTH CARE?! 

Bottom line, the pathway into opioid addiction has often been the over-medicating practices of the medical industry, and the medical industry also provides the pathway out of that addiction. 

The puzzle

So, what’s the astrological story here? What was happening roughly 20 years ago that set this monstrous rolling tragedy into motion, and why does it seem to be a specifically American problem? It’s an elusive puzzle that we can probably never entirely solve, but we can tease out some critical dynamics that lend insight. 

For starters, epidemics don’t typically spring forth fully formed from one moment in time and space; in fact, they operate like the proverbial “frog boil,” in which the hapless frogs are seduced into submission by the warm bath of the cook pot—their “fight or flight” impulses and energies depleted by the comforting warmth—until at some critical point the temperature starts to feel uncomfortable and it is then too late to escape. 

All the last minute willpower the frogs can muster is to no avail: the water boils and that’s that. It’s the environment they’re caught in (the slowly heating pot) that makes the difference. In froggy terms, the inevitable happens in the time it takes to bring the pot to a boil; in human epidemic terms, the time frame extends over years, but the end results are equally devastating. 

So, what set this tragic opioid crisis “pot” to simmering? To discern this we need to consider the transiting cycles and ingresses that likely contributed. In anything of this nature, there’s a cosmic layering effect: one major cycle provides the broad social context and sets things in motion, while cycles operating within that broader cycle’s embrace fill in the “details,” perpetuate the broader problem and drive its development over time. Here we’ll consider its likely origins and a couple additional dynamics that have powerfully perpetuated the problem. 

February 2, 1993

At 12:46:43 p.m. on this day, Uranus exactly conjoined Neptune at 19°35’Capricorn, launching a new, roughly 172-year cycle, the second one this nation has experienced in Capricorn (the first took off in March, 1821).  Perhaps simply because of its timing, we need to consider this 1993 cycle because it is now being powerfully reactivated by Pluto’s transit to the cycle point, and in astrological terms, “we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” Jupiter and Saturn will both transit this point between now and their new cycle launch at 0°+Aquarius in December, 2020. 

I’ve written extensively about these approaching times, here and in other publications, but here we’re focusing a bit differently, on the opioid crisis as a manifestation of these powerful Capricorn energies. Saturn rules Capricorn and specializes in manifestation, in consolidating nebulous energies, dynamics and resources into some purposeful form, which means that Capricorn’s connection with American business and the corporate world (our Sibly 2nd house cusp is Capricorn) is more than relevant here. 

Epidemiologists trace the origins of the epidemic back to the 1990s and a change of policy in the American medical industry regarding addictive pain killers. From Wikipedia:

“Opioid addiction has mostly been an American problem. Approximately 80 percent of the global opioid supply is consumed in the United States.[11] What the US Surgeon General calls "The Opioid Crisis" began with over-prescription of powerful opioid pain relievers in the 1990s and led to them becoming the most prescribed class of medications in the United States. As of 2016 more than 289 million prescriptions were written per year.[12]:43
Between 1991 and 2011, prescriptions of painkillers in the U.S. tripled from 76 million to 219 million per year. Among the opioid pills prescribed are Percocet, Vicodin, Oxycodone or OxyContin. Along with that increase in volume, the potency of the opioids also increased. By 2002, one in six drug users were being prescribed drugs more powerful than morphine; by 2012 the ratio had doubled to one in three.[6]

So, it looks like the opioid “frog pot” was lit up in the early 1990s, telling us that the 1993 Uranus-Neptune cycle was definitely implicated.  In fact, considering the 1993 cycle was merely a continuation of the 1821 Capricorn cycle, the seeds of this problem were likely built into our business-centered approach to a health care system from very early days. 

In 1821, the cycle launched from our Sibly 1st, opposite our Sibly Jupiter-Venus (Cancer) conjunction, with a late Pisces Pluto disposed by Capricorn Neptune. This certainly secured the lucrative nature of the American brand, and with Pluto exactly semi-sextile our Sibly Moon (Aquarius), trine Sibly Mercury (Cancer), it’s not surprising that health care would have been swallowed up by the developing corporate economy and the national mindset (the “rugged individual”) that has always enabled the abuses built into that economy. 

Fast forward to 1993 and the biwheel with the U.S. Sibly chart confirms that the American people were put at grave risk that year—let’s consider a few highlights:

Biwheel #1: (inner wheel) U.S. Sibly chart, July 4, 1776, 5:10 p.m. LMT, Philadelphia, PA; (outer wheel) Uranus con Neptune in Capricorn, February 2, 1993, 12:46:43 p.m. ST, Washington, D.C.. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node.

Cycle Uranus-Neptune (Capricorn) oppose Sibly Sun/Mercury (midpoint, Cancer), trine Sibly Neptune (Virgo) and semi-sextile Cycle Saturn-MC-Mercury (Aquarius). It’s worth remembering that one of the first programs Bill and Hillary Clinton promoted when he took office in January, 1993 was healthcare, specifically an attempt to craft a universal healthcare plan that, if it had had a snowball’s chance in hell with Congress that year, might have been a solid foundation for an even better program today. As it happened, the Clinton plan was shot down ignominiously, leaving corporate insurance and Big Pharma to tighten their heavy foothold as the only, increasingly expensive option for people. 

I would guess that the cycle point’s opposition to Sibly Sun/Mercury had a lot to do with the Clinton’s program being stillborn; a predictable smear campaign was immediately launched to discredit the plan as “socialist,” and so on. Actually, there may have been something to that, with Sibly Neptune trine the Capricorn cycle point, but back then “socialized medicine” were dirty words in this country. The collective dream of universal health care has grown on us over the years, however—especially since we’re one of only a hand full of banana republics that doesn’t offer such security to its people. 

Somehow our powerful corporate sector and its lobbyists have decided that “E pluribus unum” means “you’re on your own.” 

Bottom line, Bill Clinton decided that it was too big of risk for his presidential ambitions to pursue the plan any further, so it was stowed away for another day. 

This Sibly Sun/Mercury midpoint also had a lot to do with the corporate enmity that’s existed ever since against the Clintons. Hillary Clinton simply wasn’t speaking their “language” with her healthcare efforts, and many of them haven’t trusted her ever since: she wanted to leap frog over the type of government/corporate compromise program Obamacare would become, right into a “single-payer” style program. 

Funny thing, we’re finally cycling back to this idea now that millions are at risk of losing Obamacare—and now that the idea has a popular champion in Bernie Sanders. 

Interchart T-Square: Cycle Asc-Moon-So. Node (Gemini) conjoin Sibly Dsc-Mars (Gemini) and oppose Cycle No. Node (Sagittarius); this axis squares Sibly Neptune (Virgo). This configuration is interesting because the Sibly Mars-Neptune square destabilizes anything it touches, and the Cycle Moon-Asc here represents the well-being of the People. The fact that this axis is flipped in relation to the Sibly horizon (with the Cycle Asc on the Sibly Dsc) suggests that the People’s issues are not top priority in the super-corporatized world spawned by this 1993 cycle. 

In fact, the People’s issues may even be “the enemy” in that world, and it’s not hard to see how this has played out since 1993: in the globalized economy that drained jobs away from our borders, in the ravaging of local economies in favor of “big box” stores, and so on. People’s needs tend to be literally “drowned out” when Neptune is given free rein, and with the Cycle point trine Sibly Neptune and quincunx Cycle Moon, the checks on Neptune are fragile at best. 

For instance, we’ve been suffering from decades of stagnant wages, and with Neptune, flows of money “seek their level” across the entire collective, so there’s been pressure on our wages to be “competitive” with overseas wages—always under the corporate threat of relocation and offshoring. Neptune’s superpower here is to undermine borders and erase limits on where companies and resources can go: that’s fueled the globalization process of picking “winners and losers,” or in classical biblical terms, two+ decades of sorting the “wheat” from the “chaff.” 

We look to Neptune for compassion, yet this Capricorn cycle—disposed by judgmental Saturn—has been anything but. 

A lot of people have gotten hurt and angry under these conditions; needless to say, we’re suffering the backlash (very Neptunian, if we envision how a tsunami operates) with today’s political realities. We can see here how today’s opioid crisis was seeded in this Saturn-infused “tsunami” that has overwhelmed and engulfed so many. 

Clearly, an actual calamitous tsunami (we saw a horrific example of one in 2004 in Indonesia) is the exact opposite of a “rising tide that lifts all boats.”  It’s no wonder this phrase—so often used in Democratic party platforms—has lost all credence with so many: the concern for people’s needs implied by that phrase simply doesn’t seem real in today’s harsh environment. I can just hear the amen chorus of “Fake News!”

Interchart Double Quincunx (DQ): Cycle Saturn-MC-Mercury (Aquarius) conjoin Sibly Moon (Aquarius); this focal point quincunxes Sibly Neptune (Virgo) and Sibly Mercury (Cancer). This configuration only confirms the difficult times looming in 1993: even though Bill Clinton’s two terms were relatively prosperous times (we even had a federal budget surplus), the prosperity was a “house of sand,” and had little staying power once George W. Bush decided to wage two wars at once. 

Healthcare issues were basically set aside during those years because they were simply intractable (the DQ); to his credit, however, Bush did oversee the development of the Medicare D prescription plan, which was a whole lot better than what some conservatives intended for Medicare and Social Security at that time. 

Even so, pressure mounted for solutions to rising healthcare costs and the scourge of pre-existing condition discrimination in premiums and availability of plans. By 2007, documentarist Michael Moore released his damning look at American healthcare, entitled Sicko, and this seemed to wake people up to the need for a new healthcare system. 

There wasn’t much widespread discussion about an opioid crisis at that time yet, but the problem was building, as Neptunian epidemics do. Chronic pain is a situation that is very similar to an intractable DQ: you’re damned if you do take the addictive painkillers your doctor prescribes, and you’re damned if you don’t. When people have to go to work and function as heads of families, they tend to opt for the pain killer. By the time they realize the pills are simply creating bigger problems for them (the frog boil), it’s often too late. 

Nailing the “coffin,” if you will, is Pluto: as mentioned earlier, the semi-sextile between Sibly Pluto and Sibly Moon (forming part of the DQ focal point here) speaks to Big Pharma’s role in promoting opioid consumption through prescribing physicians. Tapping into that set-up, however, is a powerful Cycle Pluto (in home-sign Scorpio), lurking over the Sibly 12th house of prisons, institutions (foster care, hospitals, rehab centers) and slavery (addiction), square Sibly Pluto-Cycle Saturn-MC-Mercury. Those vulnerable individuals with difficult environments, mental health and/or chronic pain issues, were caught in a classic Plutonian, Gordian knot. 

Bottom line, those who get too deep into the weeds with Neptune often have to deal with Pluto as well. Neptune’s pain-killing euphoria has cost hundreds of thousands a deadly price. Those lucky enough to secure the help they needed on time have without doubt experienced a fundamental Plutonian transformation.  

Perpetuating the threat

Once the 1993 Uranus-Neptune cycle set the Saturn-infused, harshly chaotic and uncontrollable dynamics known as globalization in motion, other astrological dynamics began to chime in, perpetuating the “fantastic beast” that had been spawned. Many analysts celebrated the phenomenon, and in many ways, it felt inevitable and even positive (lots of arguments exist on this for another day), but it’s hard to make those points with millions of people who found themselves rudely displaced by the developments. 

Here, we’re focused on the opioid epidemic, another way in which this cycle has arguably transformed global economies and named “winners” and “losers” for generations to come. This Capricorn cycle will be with us until the year 2165, too (when Uranus and Neptune start a new “air” cycle in Aquarius), so we seriously need to adapt as a collective to the new realities they have inspired. Hopefully the chaos will settle as that happens and we’ll start to see the more positive potentials of this cycle. 

In fact, we might wonder how much of the opioid epidemic has been about escaping the uniquely post-1990s pain so many have experienced. Mental stress and security anxiety can both feel and be very physical, so the connection with the drug epidemic is real. This is especially true in the wake of the 2007-8 Wall Street crash and the ensuing housing crisis—all 1993 cycle related, with a little help from various planetary players. 

One major planetary player from the get-go has been Saturn, which as we saw in Biwheel 1, was heading into the final decan of Aquarius—a sign it co-rules with Uranus (which was then in Saturn-ruled Capricorn). Globalization required a total reorganization of our economic system and our post-WWII priorities, so when the elder President Bush coined the term “new world order” to describe what’s emerged since then, he knew what he was talking about. 

Clearly, Saturn has enabled Uranus and Neptune in their project, and this was reinforced when Saturn entered Neptune-ruled Pisces in May, 1993, still conjunct Sibly Moon. In the course of its tour through this watery domain, Saturn trined Sibly Jupiter-Venus (Cancer), squared Sibly Uranus and Mars (Gemini), trined Sibly Sun and Mercury (Cancer), quincunxed Sibly Saturn (Libra) and opposed Sibly Neptune (Virgo). Not surprisingly, it took until almost the end of Obama’s presidency for government-funded programs (Saturn, Jupiter and Uranus) to be created to address the opioid crisis, and the future of these efforts is now an unknown. 

Overall, I would say that Saturn’s time in Pisces initiated a deeply destabilizing period—a period that foreshadowed the shifting landscapes of the Uranus-Neptune (Pisces-Aquarius) mutual reception that launched in March, 2003—just in time for the Iraq invasion. Shifting landscapes and insecure footing in the world do not help with addiction problems. 

I haven’t seen the statistics, but we have to wonder how many opioid-addicted individuals are veterans of the Afghan and Iraq wars. Or, victims of the so-called “culture wars.” Or victims of the rising tide of discrimination and hate crimes. Or victims of domestic abuse. Or of dreams deferred. Pain is pain, whatever the cause. 

Should people be able to “man up” and “walk it off?” Ideally, but Neptune also erodes the limits of what people can bear. Perhaps this is why Neptune is also associated with compassion? It would be great if those of us lucky enough to escape the addiction trap could empathize with afflicted neighbors and loved ones. 

Jupiter, Chiron and Neptune  

Finally, one amazing moment in time probably can be credited with at least perpetuating the pain for our Sibly Moon since 1993: the amazing May 23, 2009 Jupiter-Neptune-Chiron conjunction at the Sibly Moon (Biwheel 2, below). This happened during the 7-year-long Uranus-Neptune mutual reception in Pisces-Aquarius, so the epidemic-prone impact of Neptune was doubled. While that period was also marked by the euphoria (apt for this combination) many were feeling about Obama's new presidency, there was also the darker side--the birth of the so-called "birther" movement which carried Trump into his presidential run, and the immediate "hate" campaign that flourished against our first black president. We can only speculate whether the mounting hatred and media-spawned distrust in the new government had anything to do with supporting the opioid epidemic, but we do know that many people who benefited from the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare in the following year were caught up in that epidemic. 

A couple highlights from this chart tell the story.

Biwheel #2: (inner wheel) US Sibly Chart, July 4, 1776, 5:10 p.m. LMT, Philadelphia, PA; (outer wheel) Jupiter-Chiron-Neptune conjunction, May 23, 2009, 9:33:31 a.m. DST, Washington, D.C. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node
Jupiter-Chiron-Neptune conjoin Sibly Moon, trine Sibly Mars (Gemini) and inconjoin Sibly Neptune (Virgo). Addiction has a troubling Mars-Neptune flavor, so the way the three transiting points tie into this delusion-prone, mutable Sibly square is significant. Idealism (Neptune) and get-up-and-go (Mars) are wonderful qualities until they are twisted to a toxic purpose, and that appears to be what happened when Big Pharma was allowed to unleash a massive whirlwind of addictive pills (Jupiter-Neptune) into the marketplace. Chiron here attests to the outrageous pain involved in all of it—both as the initial reason for over-prescribing, and as the inevitable outcome to addiction. 

As mentioned earlier, it took until the end of Obama’s presidency (which had just got going when this triple conjunction happened) to pass legislation that aspires to rein in the opioid crisis, assist afflicted individuals and limit Big Pharma, and all of that is now in legislative limbo. 

As also noted, the Uranus-Neptune mutual reception factored into this assault on the Sibly Moon, being semi-sextile that point, from the Sibly 4th. Any governor of a heavily-impacted state—like Ohio’s John Kasich—will attest to how devastating the epidemic has been on the “homeland” and families (4th). Foster care systems are straining as families with addicted parents fall apart, either through death by overdose, incarceration, or inability to function. 

Hollywood has offered an entire genre of disaster films that have pictured all kinds of insidious attacks on the American people, but they pale in comparison to the actual damage we’ve done to ourselves since this 2009 event. Importantly, we can look to this 2009 time period as powerfully enabling the threats we’ve experienced to our voting systems, our public confidence in the facts as opposed to media spin, and to the toxic rise of xenophobia, hate crimes, etc. It’s no accident that it all coincides with the immigration crisis in Europe, and unrest in the Middle East and Africa.  

Bottom line, an enemy wanting to undermine (Neptune) the American people by sapping away its core strength could not have done more damage. 

Forward in time

So, following the bread crumbs forward in time, we see that Pisces Saturn (May 1993-April 1996) and then Saturn’s conjunction with Sibly Neptune (Virgo) in late 2009 destabilized our collective psyche and laid the ever-shifting groundwork for the mutable 2015-17 Saturn-Neptune square (Sagittarius-Pisces) that we’ve only recently shaken off.   

For its part, this square has further undermined our public institutions, perpetuating the process started by the 1993 cycle: as we hear every day in the news, even our voting system has been compromised and remains vulnerable going forward. 

And, not to be ignored, it was soon after this May, 2009 convergence that Uranus entered cardinal Aries to begin its monumental 7-hit square with Capricorn Pluto. This has rocked the world ever since and literally turned up the heat on the opioid epidemic. 

Final thoughts

Remember the “frog boil?” It may seem inconceivable that our sacred institutions—like the 1st Amendment-backed free press, our presidency, our civility, our Constitutional checks and balances, and the very strength of our familiescould erode beyond repair, leaving a toxic void for some malignant power to fill, but here we are. I hope we still have a chance to flee that seductive “bath” before it gets too hot. 

IMHO, the opioid crisis is a symptom of a deep erosion in everything we hold dear as Americans (fill in the blanks), and the bad news is that healing it in the near term will be difficult at best. The good news is, however, that many legislators seem to have woken up recently to how critical a sound healthcare program is going forward. We’re messing around with people’s lives here, and that should not be acceptable. 

If we come out of this treacherous time with a workable healthcare plan and solid resources from Congress for addressing the epidemic (and for preventing another generation’s slide into it), then we’ll have reason to celebrate. Let's make it a great 4th of July!!

Raye Robertson is a practicing astrologer, writer and former educator. A graduate of the Faculty of Astrological Studies (U.K.), Raye focuses on mundane, collective-oriented astrology, with a particular interest in current affairs, culture and media, the astrology of generations, and public concerns such as education and health. Several of her articles on these topics have been featured in The Mountain Astrologer and other publications over the years.

She is also available to read individual charts—contact her at: robertsonraye@gmail.com.

© Raye Robertson 2017. All rights reserved. 


No comments:

Post a Comment