The Opioid Crisis – A Whodunit and Why

opioid epidemic

When this headline appeared under the auspices of MedPage Today, some jaws dropped and others tightened:

Drugmaker ordered to pay $572 million in damages; company vows to appeal

A Whodunit and Why, America’s opioid crisis has damaged the lives of defenseless patients who relied on their doctors to prescribe medications that would safely minimize or end pain. Those suffering members of the public had no idea that they would become addicted to pain-killers that contained more power than they needed or were continued for too long.  Perceived as a betrayal of the urban legend that medical school graduates take the Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm”  – a Hippocratic promise doesn’t even exist (see this comment from Harvard Medical School), the myth and the aftermath of its concomitant opioid addiction problem have ruined, or complicated thousands of lives. Add the number of pill mill proprietors who sold excessive amounts of opioids to fully aware addicts coast to coast, and the thousands of harmed people mushroom into hard-to-calculate numbers of the public. West Virginia’s social services have been overwhelmed by the range of needs among children orphaned by addicted parents. That’s not even the full scope of the damage inflicted by the people who knowingly addicted their victims, or helped addicts to remain dependent on opioids.

I’ve written about the opioid crisis and its ill effects here, here, and here. Rather than scour the media for more information, you need to know how and why the opioid crisis was so easy to cause. Much of the problem is with the hunger for instant relief and solutions to problems. Accustomed to the immediacy of computerized home management tools, research options, digital amusement outlets such as games, music and more, plus online media coverage of world events, people have lost the ability to develop and to tolerate an important aspect of maturity: Deferred gratification. Immediacy is in demand and in ample supply, to the detriment of personal mental health. The overall social cost in lost productivity, income loss for businesses and individuals, wrecked lives and so on, is huge. We’re still learning about all that. As to why the opioid crisis happened, the answer is sadly simple: Greed and laziness. Profits enriched people whose conscience didn’t distress them.

In Texas, 41 people — medical providers, clinic managers, pharmacists, and drug traffickers — were charged with diverting 23 million opioid pills onto the streets of Houston and surrounding areas, and even as far as Boston. Prosecutors said physicians wrote prescriptions to “runners” who filled them at pharmacies involved in the scheme. The owner of one such pharmacy — at which every oxycodone pill was prescribed in the highest dose — was the second highest dispenser of oxycodone 30-mg pills in the state this year. +

To simplify your understanding of the issues, let’s put them in simple terms: Johnson and Johnson corporation has long been trusted with safe baby care, sensible solutions for adult health concerns, and every customer’s comfort. Other health care-related businesses have been in the same circumstances. Doctors and drug company employees – especially the administrators who knew exactly how they and their stockholders were profiting from the opioid crisis being inflicted on people – were similarly entrusted with the public’s safety and happiness. However, they abandoned ethics for income. There’s a painful, necessary life lesson in all this. Each of us is responsible to ourselves and to those in our care. We dare not assume too much about the people and companies involved with our healthcare. And, we need to improve our characters so that we don’t become dependent on anything other than decency. Morals matter. So does having a sound character. Learn to tolerate discomfort in reasonable ways. Monitor your intake of medicines. Insist on being educated about their side effects, the pharmaceutical alternatives to specific medications, and how to use meditation, yoga plus other forms of non-medicated pain relief. The Kids Kicking Cancer group and founder illustrate that this is a viable option.

Demanding instant solutions undermines health and happiness, Your character is a work in progress. Improve on it so that no one can manipulate you, and so that you can cope with adversity in safe, admirable ways that leave you better off than otherwise. If you need guidance about that, consult a licensed, certified mental health professional ready to help you out.