I have never been a fan of the various heavy duty prescription pain killers for a number of reasons. The first and foremost is that there is really no sort of FDA or corporate responsibility for their distribution (they are available without much effort to virtually any one). Secondly they do not solve the problems and in many cases cause more. Third they virtually create a "drug culture model" for many who take them.
I have written about this before on the personal blog in 'Rehab? - I said "no, no, no"...'.
What's interesting is that this brings the US opioid overdose death rate in line with US homicide rate (see 'The "Risk" of the Cure...') and no one really seems to care.
Now from personal experience I have had the pain of dealing with a close family member being taken by homicide and the repercussions of a homicide can last decades or a lifetime for the surviving family members.
But then there is opioid overdose. Now what is not reported in this article is who is affected. By who I mean that in some cases these deaths are of the elderly and some cases are kids hooked on these drugs.
My guess is that a fair number of elderly people are afflicted with this problem - opioid dependence - and suffer a death as a consequence. This all being part of the "big pharma" model associated with the modern medical establishment like I describe in "Rehab?" My guess is that this is associated with situations like inadvertent confusion about prescriptions, multiple prescriptions, etc. that can plague elderly people. Their faith and trust in doctors leads them to believe that the cures these doctors offer do not need them to carefully supervise the use of these drugs. Similarly family members taking care of an elderly relative often do not comprehend the seriousness of these drugs.
This is also a problem for the rest of the population and it comes through addiction.
Recently a friend of mine disclosed that he was receiving about 90 OC-80's a month. We were standing in the parking lot before a gig...
"What for?" I asked - though he had had several heart attacks he was in relatively good shape.
"Oh, they just give them too me..." he replied.
"Why?" I asked.
"Well, I have problems with my legs now and then..."
"They are bad news," I said.
"I know," he replied, "I never take them... I just sell them."
"Oh," I replied.
"Yeah - its a good income, five dollars times ninety ($450 USD) a month."
He was on disability to begin with and this made a huge difference in getting through the month.
"Who buy's them?" I asked.
"Some high school kid."
This took me back about six or seven years. I was sitting in a stall in a bathroom in a high-end Chi Town suburban hotel. Some high school students came in as part of a prom or something. One said to the other:
"Yeah, I think I'll just smoke some heroin later..."
"Wow" I thought to myself.
Leaving the stall I noticed these looked like average high-end high school kids - well dressed, natty, arrogant. Probably from rich suburban neighborhoods - they probably had their own cars, computers, and cell phones.
So from my perspective there is little wonder the death rate is accelerating. Heroin is probably hard and messy to get (or at least relatively hard) and mom and dad night stand (or grandma's cupboard) is probably a handy and plentiful source of OC-80s.
While there is outrage about homicide and we even have a big, complex justice system to manage that no on seems to care much about opioid pain killer deaths.
According to the MediPage article industry produces"710 mg of prescription opioids per person in the U.S" - enough to "medicate every American adult with a typical dose of 5 mg of hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab) every four hours for one month".
How troubling is that?
Its really, really, really hard to imagine that the companies producing these drugs are not profiting the addiction and deaths of others. We really need that much medication like this?
Yet no one cares, no one complains.
Just like the 65 mph speed limit I wrote about in "The "Risk" of the Cure."
The MediPage sites some comments from a study that says basically "a few irresponsible doctors" are creating this problem.
They'd need the OC-80's themselves for the writers cramp needed to write that many prescriptions.
There are 330 million people in the USA and 661,000 or so doctors.
Each doctor would have to write five (5) pain killer prescriptions per business day each business day (200 per year) of the year to distribute that many prescriptions for pain meds.
If only 10% of these doctors are "bad" that's 50 prescriptions a day.
No one notices this?
If only 1% are "bad doctors" then that's 500 prescriptions per day.
Gives one pause, doesn't it...