The opium poppy has been used as a potent pain-killer since the ancient Sumerians (4,000 to 2,000 B.C.) left the first known written records in what is now modern Iraq. They cultivated poppies and isolated opium from their seed capsules.
Historically, opiate abuse was limited to areas that grew poppies or were on a trade route with such a place. Today, there are very few places on the earth where opiates or opioids can’t be found.
The United States is now awash in opioid use – and abuse. Health officials and medical experts are using terms such as “epidemic” and a “crisis” to portray the magnitude of the problem. For nearly 30 years, rates of drug addiction have been on the rise among the mainstream American population – and addicts are dying:
“The current American epidemic of opioid-related deaths began in the 1990s and has resulted in over 200,000 deaths.”
The hundreds of thousands of people whose lives were claimed by the juice of a foreign flowering plant were not down-and-out “junkies” living in cardboard boxes under a bridge. No, these were every-day folks whose doctors served them as drug pushers for the Big Pharma suppliers. So much for the Hippocratic oath.
“Drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of injury death in the United States,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The current opioid crisis in America began in 1991 when a pronounced increase in the number of opioid pain-relief prescriptions doctors ordered for their patients – young, old, and in-between – was followed by a rise in opioid-related deaths.
The HHS reported a four-fold increase in opioid dispensing by doctors, even though their patients were not indicating that the drugs were doing any good:
“Since 1999, the amount of prescription drugs prescribed and sold in the United States has nearly quadrupled, yet there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report. Overprescribing leads to more abuse and more overdose deaths.”
What prompted U.S. physicians to promote opioid use? Didn’t they know that these drugs are highly addictive, harmful to health, and very hard to stop using?
It is indeed difficult to understand how the American Medical Association (AMA) failed to share with doctors across the land about the medical hazards surrounding opioid use. The task of professional education fell to the drug manufacturers – the companies supplying the pushers:
“The increase in opioid prescriptions was influenced by reassurances given to prescribers by pharmaceutical companies and medical societies claiming that the risk of addiction to prescription opioids was very low.”
This situation is reminiscent of the line of horse hockey peddled by Big Tobacco until they got smacked down with billion-dollar payouts for marketing fraud damages. In March 2003, Philip Morris USA was ordered by an Illinois Circuit Court judge to pay $10.1 billion to members of a class action suit. The company announced in January 2019 that they will phase out tobacco cigarettes and focus on smoke-free products.
How do you rate a medical profession that doesn’t know – or doesn’t care -that opioid drugs are some of the most addictive substances on the planet and continues to push them hard onto an unsuspecting and under-informed public?
Patients are supposed to trust their doctors. Over-prescribing opioids and hooking hundreds of thousands of people on hard drugs undermines that trust, to say the least.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) released this disturbing fact in January 2019:
“Every day, more than 130 Americans die after overdosing on opioids.”
Many of these could have been avoided if the opioid manufacturers operated from a position of good will rather than crass greed. But they are, after all, major corporations responsible to grow the bottom line for their stakeholders.
It is clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that Big Pharma is using financial incentives to encourage doctors to over-prescribe opioids and other medications:
“Surveys conducted in 2004 and again in 2009 showed that more than three-quarters of doctors had at least one type of financial relationship with a drug or medical device company.”
On a positive note, in October 2017, the not-for-profit accrediting agency for health care organizations and programs, the Joint Commission, issued new pain assessment and management standards “that will require hospitals to provide nonpharmacologic pain treatment options including acupuncture, chiropractic care and massage therapy, or educate patients about them.”
To learn more about the opioid crsis and what you can do to help, click here.