The Opioid Epidemic [will include intro later]. Although opioids can be necessary and beneficial for people, the increasing corruption and presence of the opioid crisis have led to the public’s safety inevitably declining over time. With the increasing use of opioids in the United States leading to a greater presence in the black market, many are turning to it for prescription opioids. Lisa McElhaney, president of the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators, described how fentanyl, often times made to appear like oxycodone or Xanax, is present in the black market (Terrell).
Typically, illegal opioids are produced in foreign underground laboratories, then shipped to the U.S. for the black market. Trying to stop these efforts, Operation Disarray, a partnership between the DEA and FBI, aims to lower underground sales of opioids by targeting online channels (“Opioid Crisis”). However, the rising addiction of opioids has led to an increased presence of prescription painkillers in the black market through a variety of channels such as theft (“Opioid Crisis”). In the 2000s, the prevalent presence of OxyContin led to more heroin in the black market, especially in rural areas. People who desired OxyContin but barely had money for it turned to heroin because it was cheaper (“Should the Government Take?”). The greater use of OxyContin has created a major presence of heroin in the black market for individuals, especially those with a lack of money.
Health care providers abusing their authority has further exacerbated the opioid crisis in the United States. In 2017, according to Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, innocent patients who are in dire need of opioids are harmed when one blames companies and doctors (“Opioid Crisis”). However, physicians have been accused of prescribing opioids irresponsibly rather than prescribing less potent drugs. For instance, thousands of people have become addicted to drugs after being given an opioid prescription (“Opioid Crisis”). Some believe that doctors have neglected the dangers of prescribing opioids to patients. In 2016 after three patients died from overdosing on painkillers, a California court sentenced a physician to 30 years in jail (“Should the Government Take?”). An example of corruption is pill mills, which are clinics that have physicians who write legal opioid prescriptions for patients who don’t have a medical necessity for it. A physician who still has a license will see patients who have peculiar medical pain complaints. They then prescribe the patient opioid painkillers in exchange for money (“Opioid Crisis”).
Specifically, Florida and West Virginia have pill mill cases where doctors saw many patients daily who pay them money, and doctors who gave patients prescriptions without meeting them (Sullum). When patients overdose, doctors typically encounter criminal charges. According to CNN, the number of doctors who were chided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has skyrocketed (Terrell). In 2017, according to Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, innocent patients who are in dire need of opioids are harmed when one blames companies and doctors (“Opioid Crisis”). However, healthcare representatives have misconstrued the consequences of the drug to have a higher sale (“Opioid Crisis”).
Regulation is necessary because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has worked with multiple U.S. states and District of Columbia to form the OPIS program, one that utilizes monitoring methods to detect areas with increased presence of opioid overdoses. This program has been incredibly successful in states removing pill mills especially (“Opioid Crisis”). Big Pharma, large pharmaceutical companies are known to be incredibly influential in business, economics, and politics, have further aggravated the opioid epidemic in the United States. People argue that lowering the availability of opioids could endanger people who actually need them for pain remedy. Punishing pharmaceutical companies regarding the opioid crisis will not stop the issue, especially because these companies are aiming to create more abuse-deterrent pills (“Should the Government Take?”). However, specifically, Purdue Pharma has heavily promoted OxyContin to physicians, so sales skyrocketed from $48 million in 1996 to $1 billion in 2000. (“Opioid Crisis”).
In 2007, Purdue Pharma was guilty of misbranding OxyContin by downgrading its true harms. Later, the Food and Drug Administration allowed for a new form of the drug, which was created to make it more difficult to snort or inject it (Sullum). Maura Healey, the Massachusetts attorney general, issued a lawsuit in court describing various aggressive marketing methods of Purdue Pharma. The owners, the Sackler family, apparently told salespeople to pay more attention to doctors who prescribed a lot of opioids, targeting them with frequent calls telling them to prescribe more in higher doses. (“The Opioid Epidemic”). Additionally, in 2018, Puerto Rico and US states had sued Purdue Pharma of promoting OxyContin, a drug that contributes to the opioid epidemic. In 2017, health care industry sources said that Purdue Pharma had sold almost $2 billion worth of the drug (“Opioid Crisis”). However, rather than the pharmaceutical industry focusing on controlling pain, it has expanded to harmfully promote more drugs to treat secondary effects of previous ones.
For example, Suboxone is promoted by the government as a better alternative to methadone (Cha). The increasing reliance in opioids from the black market, abusive healthcare providers, and Big Pharmas has led to an addiction to other drugs. The symptoms of opioid-induced constipation give pharmaceutical innovators many opportunities. Because so many Americans are dependent on drugs, this allows for a market of new meds to aid the side effects of previous ones (Cha). Rather than the pharmaceutical industry focusing on controlling pain, it has expanded to promoting more drugs to treat the secondary effects of previous ones. Physicians have been accused of prescribing opioids irresponsibly rather than prescribing less potent drugs. For instance, thousands of people have become addicted to drugs after being given an opioid prescription (“Opioid Crisis”).
For example, Suboxone is promoted by the government as a better alternative to methadone (Cha). For instance, according to Colony, a chief medical officer to Phoenix House, a nonprofit organization that has substance abuse treatment in various states and the District, many patients get to sleep from opioids, so typically they are given amphetamines. However, the amphetamines make them more worried and sweaty, which leads to more drugs like Ambient or Lunesta (“Cha). On the other hand, according to psychological expert Stanton Peele, despite popular belief narcotics don’t attract most people. He found research proving that patients who can give themselves pain medication usually takes less than people who typically get it.
In 2018, very few who had prescription pain medication after surgery experienced signs of opioid misuse. Very few get addicted to opioids even when using it to ease the pain (“Sullum”). However, if a doctor prescribes an opioid to a patient, then he/she can become reliant on it and try to find black-market alternatives like fentanyl once their prescription comes to an end. These alternatives are often incredibly harmful and illegal (“Should the Government take?”).
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