Zuckerberg surprised by extent of opioid crisis in US
The “biggest surprise by far” from Mark Zuckerberg’s listening tour of America is the extent of the opioid crisis, the Facebook CEO said last Friday. “It’s really saddening to see,” he said, referencing the 64,000 people who died from drug overdoses in the US last year.
“That’s more people than died from Aids at the peak of the Aids epidemic. That’s more Americans that died in the whole of the Vietnam war. It’s more people than die of car accidents and gun violence I think combined, and it’s growing quickly.”
Speaking in a 50-minute Q&A at the University of Kansas, Zuckerberg’s eyes welled up as he talked about his encounters with communities affected by the crisis. He described sitting down with a group of recovering heroin addicts in Dayton, Ohio, and hearing a woman say how when she was an addict her objective with shooting up was to get as close to death as she could without dying.
Zuckerberg made his comments about opioid addiction the day after former Facebook president Sean Parker used the language of addiction to criticise the social network, stating that features such as the “like” button were designed to give users “a little dopamine hit”.
The Facebook CEO also highlighted the impact of opioid addiction on the broader community, including the strain on police resources and the employable workforce, referencing an Alabama shrimp fisherman who couldn’t find people to work on his boat because so many people were hooked on opioids.