By now you’ve heard about the opioid epidemic. Maybe you’re wondering how we got into this mess in the first place? How are all of these people becoming addicted to street heroin when they come from upper middle class families and are college graduates? If you’re paying attention, you’ve likely already heard that most of the heroin addicts out there in this demographic started with prescription painkillers, and that is where the story starts.
Prescription narcotics are controlled substances, so why are they easier to pick up than a 30 pack of beer? Well if you dig just a little bit you will find the culprit, who has already been caught red handed on multiple occasions. The source of the overflow of opioid pain medications is your friendly neighborhood drug company Purdue Pharma.
Purdue Pharma is the drug company responsible for the much loved OxyContin, the drug that I personally became addicted to before making the inevitable switch to heroin. So how does a drug company get their product out onto the streets in such large numbers? Simple and far from surprising: They lie.
OxyContin is a time released form of oxycodone. It has a coating on it that allows the active ingredient to be released slowly over a twelve hour period. So if you do the math, that means the drug should be prescribed at the appropriate dose, TWICE DAILY.
But that’s not enough for our friends at Purdue, so they send their reps out into doctors’ offices all over the country and start telling them that it’s a great idea to start prescribing this drug three and four, sometimes more than eight times a day.
They do this under the guise of “off label” uses, which means ignoring what the FDA approval is and just making up their own rules. It’s the policy that allows a lot of drugs to be used for things they aren’t designed for, which helps a lot of people especially in psychiatric medications. But in this situation they are abusing it all the way to the bank. Not only do they manipulate the dosing schedule, they suggest prescribing the medication for all kinds of things that it wasn’t designed for. It was meant for serious illnesses like cancer, not for sprained ankles and papercuts.
Maybe you’re thinking that these doctors are negligent to be prescribing such an addictive medication in such large quantities. Well, the lies keep coming. Purdue Pharma also launched a campaign completely denying the addictive properties of the drug. They KNEW that it was just as addictive as heroin, considering it’s basically the same exact drug, but they put profits ahead of people and before you know it their pants were on fire.
Now these aren’t just speculations or conspiracy theories. Purdue paid out lawsuits for both of these destructive business practices. In 2007, when the epidemic was still underground to the world at large, they paid out a $600 million dollar lawsuit for lying about the drug’s potential for abuse and addiction. That’s certainly not the only lawsuit they’ve paid either. A quick google search will unearth the whole sad saga to anyone who knows enough to start digging.
Now you can plainly see the consequences. Patients were being prescribed so much extra OxyContin, it allowed for a huge surplus to be available on the street. People with legitimate illnesses would take what they needed from their script, and sell the rest. It’s easier than trying to work when you’re chronically ill and disability pays you peanuts. And the time release aspect just boiled down to peeling or washing the coating off of the solid pill underneath. I’d just dump a handful in the sink and rinse that time release coating right off in minutes.
In desperation, you could just pop it in your mouth and spit out the residue, leaving you with a perfectly clean dose of lab quality heroin substitute, ready to snort, smoke or inject.
The cost of these drugs on the street is astronomical, which is how so many addicts make the natural transition into street heroin. Today, most dope is cut with high quality opioid medications anyway, like Fentanyl for example, which I’m sure you’ve heard about on the news. The switch from narcotic painkillers to heroin is seamless and easy. Your body doesn’t know the difference in the slightest.
As time goes on, Purdue Pharma continues to strengthen its relationships with politicians and lobbyists. They continue to push on doctors and hospitals. So who is going to do anything to try and stop them? Not the state of Connecticut, which is so broke that not even us Democrats can come up with excuses for it anymore. But good old Purdue Pharma is located right here in Stamford, CT and they provide jobs to almost 2000 people. They provide tax revenue to our desperate economy. Nobody is going to suggest we bite the hand that feeds so many people, even while its responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of others in the process.
So if you were wondering how all of this got started, now you know. And if you’re wondering how we’re going to stop it, welcome aboard. As long as companies like Purdue can continue saturating the market and making prescription narcotics as prevalent as ibuprofen in our country’s medicine cabinets, the heroin problem will only grow larger and more out of control.
The more people who use prescription painkillers (legally or illegally), the more people will become addicted. The more people who become addicted to prescription painkillers, the more people will switch to heroin.
It is true that these medications help a lot of people in chronic pain, and I would never want to take that away from them. I’ve never been one of those people promoting an all out ban on narcotic painkillers. What I am promoting is responsible development of new drugs, responsible prescribing of these drugs, and honest, factual information about how addictive these drugs truly are. The best weapon we have is to educate the average person on why they should think twice before filling that prescription. We have to educate young people on the dangers of these drugs, despite how safe a legal medication might seem.
We have to keep fighting, because you can rest assured that companies like Purdue Pharma are not about to start playing by the rules any time soon, no matter how many people they kill in the process.
©Copyright 2016 In Angel’s Arms and Lauren Goodkin