How Pharma Plays Both Sides of the Opioid Crisis

The news media has been high on the opioid epidemic for the past few years. The oversaturation of reporting has caused the epidemic to lose the impact of how serious it is.

Article after article showcases people suffering from substance abuse, their ongoing recovery and how the community is attempting to combat opioid abuse; yet, the media forgets to explain how the epidemic truly started.

The FDA allowed American pharmaceutical companies to deceive the U.S. by promising their pain medications were not highly addictive — and, boy, did Big Pharma make America look like a fool.

From oxycodone to fentanyl and morphine, pharmaceutical companies retailed these drugs under different trade names, including Percocet and OxyContin, and ensured the public there was no risk of becoming addicted to the prescriptions.

Little did the public know they were developing addictions to these drugs, and for some, it led to a darker path involving harder drugs like heroin. Thus, the heroin and opioid epidemic began.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them and “80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.”

Those who choose treatment, whether it’s court-ordered or personal, are given limited options. Whether it’s check themselves into rehab, be referred to a methadone clinic or attend a recovery group, opioid abusers are limited to what they can do to turn themselves around.

Often opioids abusers are referred to methadone clinics. There, pain management doctors prescribe methadone, a drug that alleviates chronic pain and is routinely used to treat narcotic drug addictions, including relieving withdrawal symptoms.

This epidemic hasn’t just sprung up within the past few years; rather, this battle has been going on for nearly a decade.

“[Nearly] 245,000 people were admitted into opiate treatment programs in 2010. More than half of those admitted required maintenance and detoxification services … Methadone was the primary medication given to those in treatment; the survey reported nearly 270,000 people receiving methadone in March 2011,” a 2011 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said.

One can only imagine how the opioid epidemic and all of its components have drastically increased since the survey was conducted.  

Pharmaceutical companies are only adding to the fuel to the fire of our capitalist economy by trying sell a solution to the problem they created.

“Purdue [Pharmaceuticals] explored acquiring drugs to treat addiction, calling it ‘an attractive market,’ … Purdue executives discussed promoting the overdose reversal drug Narcan to the same doctors that prescribe the most opioids, ” a report by NBC News said.

So, not only are corporate pharmaceutical companies urging doctors to prescribe their branded opioids, but they are also further addicting America by marketing their own addiction reversal drugs to opioid abusers suffering from withdrawal symptoms.

How could we have let this disaster slip through our fingers? How could the FDA have overlooked the pharmaceutical industry’s actions? Most importantly, how did we let corporate America kill us?

According to NIDA, in 2017, over 47,000 people in the U.S. died from an opioid overdose, which includes illegally manufactured Fentanyl, heroin and prescription opioids. NIDA also reported nearly 1.7 million people in the US suffered from prescription opioid use disorders in the same year.

Because of corporate greed, innocent and vulnerable members of society are dying. From mothers to fathers, sisters, brothers and friends, this epidemic doesn’t possess a specific face — it can affect anyone and everyone.

Since the FDA won’t put a stop to this never-ending cycle of addiction, it’s up to the people the epidemic affects the most to step up against the monstrous corporate machine pharmaceutical companies created in order to put a stop our loved ones from losing their lives to opioid addictions.