Once upon a time in America, pharmaceutical companies decided to get richer off of patients’ pain. They had some good intentions -like relieving pain-and they had some nefarious ones -like wanting to make stakeholders richer. They created a huge ad campaign targeting both doctors and patients to use their opioid medications. As a result, pain was better managed. However, since doctors were rarely shown the big picture of what opioids can do, millions of people became addicted to them, eventually turning to heroin after their doctors cutting off their legal supply.
Big Pharma encouraged doctors to over-prescribe opioid pain medications because the manufacturers only revealed data that supported the safety of these medications. Doctors were encouraged to treat chronic pain liberally with opioids, never knowing the very real costs to patients. Doctors treated pain patients with opioids as a first step instead of trying other pain medications and/or alternative methods (e.g., physical therapy).
In 2012, 259 million prescriptions for opioid medications were written; and since 2000, a 200% increase in overdoses by opioid medications has occurred. This may appear cut and dry on paper. If we limit the supply of opioid medication available in the U.S., then overdoses will decrease. Whenever there has been a decrease in opioid pain medications both in terms of prescription and overdose, heroin has simply moved into its place. In fact, according to Time magazine:
This rise in cheaper, purer and more readily available heroin has coincided with a law enforcement crack down on illegal prescription pill providers.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the rate of overdose deaths and the sales of opioid pain medications both grew in tandem to each other from 1999 to 2008. They also state that one in four heroin abusers started with opioid prescription pain medications. These gloomy statistics would be enough to make me jump to the conclusion that opioid medications are bad for us as a society. However, research has shown that when the supply of opioid medications decrease, abuse of its illegal counter-drug increases. See this:
The marketplace for abused substances tends to balance itself when the availability of one decreases.
… to be continued.