Zucker­berg sur­prised by ex­tent of opi­oid cri­sis in US

The Guardian Weekly - - International news - Olivia Solon San Fran­cisco

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.

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