The opioid is one of the most abused drugs in America. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health Survey, they conducted an extensive survey and discovered that in 2012 more than 16.7 million people age 12 and older in the United States abused prescription drugs, and within the 16.7, around 2.1 million people abuse prescription drugs (National Survey on Drug Use and Health Survey, 2012).
In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is a U.S. federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services, and they reported that more than 42,000 people in 2016 die from an overdose on opioids. 40% of those deaths were caused by a prescription opioid. At the rate it’s going, the problem will worsen as time endure. Ben Goldacre, who is a physician, claims that a major cause of deaths from medication is due to the ignorances doctors have to what they are prescribing to their patients (Ben Goldacre, 2012). However, the ignorances of doctors can be explained by big pharma companies.
According to Marc A. Rodwin, a professor of Law at Suffolk University Law School, wrote a paper exposing the corruption of the pharmaceutical industries, claiming, in order to promote their products, big pharma will reward physicians with money in either form of kickbacks, gifts, or an increased salary just so they can prescribe their patients with their products (Marc A. Rodwin 2011). Rather than fully understand the precaution of medication, doctors will just simply fulfill the request of these big Pharma companies and give their patients the medication. Therefore with the opioid epidemic being such a big problem, should Big Pharma companies be solely accountable for the problem? Corrupt Pharma: Dr. Nora D.
Volkow who is the director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse wrote an article “America’s Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse”, and stated one of the factors that caused the opioid crisis is due to the intense marketing by pharmaceutical companies (Dr. Volkow, 2014). The extreme push of advertisement can cause an increase in the use of opioid and hence a higher percentage of the opioid use. In a BBC News report, Professor Judith Feinberg who focuses on the implementation of opioid overdose prevention stated that “mass-marketing of drugs has an effect” to the point where patients will come to her and say “I saw this on TV – can you give me this drug” (Feinberg, 2017). That’s just the picture frame to what Big Pharma does. In the same BBC report, Professor Keith Humphreys who teaches Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences reported that “When you’re a doctor in the US, these detailing people (salespeople) come in from the industry”. He further explains that big pharmaceutical companies will give out gifts to everybody, host dinners, they sponsor conferences, and etc., to convince these doctors to push their medication on to their patients (Humphreys, 2017).
When all comes down to it, the pharmaceutical industry only cares about money; the more they sell, the more money they make, and the more powerful they get. Ignorant Doctors: Dr. Christopher Jones, who is the director of the Division of Science Policy at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, wrote a paper called the “Sources of Prescription Opioid Pain Reliever by Frequency of Past Year Non-Medical Use”, and discovered that in 2012 and 2013 it show that more than half of the nonmedical users of opioids ages 12 or older got the prescription drugs from a friend or relative for free, but more than four in five of these nonmedical users indicated that their friend or relative had gotten the drugs from a doctor (Dr.
Christopher Jones, 2014). The fact that these drugs are destructive to people and doctors are still recommending them to their patients expose where the true problem lies. We can further see this in Martin A Makary, who is professor of surgery, Heidi N Overton, a resident surgeon, and Peiqi Wang, in their paper “Overprescribing is major contributor to opioid crisis”, and they inform their readers that doctors are overprescribing every patient, usually giving them a bottle of 30-60 highly addictive opioid pills. They used an example of the most commonly prescribed pill which is oxycodone that is written with instructions to “take 5-10 mg as needed every 4-6 hours for pain. But if patients follow these instructions, they will be taking up to 90 MME (morphine mg equivalents) a day, which is a dose that nearly doubles the threshold” (Makary, Overton, and Wang, 2017). Therefore one can see the problem in that, with more doses of these addictive drugs, more of a chance to get addicted, and more of a chance to die from an overdose. The Myths of Addicts: When evaluating drug users, most of us believe major of them are addicted. But that’s not the case, in fact, according to Dr.
Hart who is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at Columbia University stated in his TED Talk “Let’s quit abusing drug users”, that 80-90% of illegal drug users aren’t actually addicts (Dr. Hart, 2015). In addition Dr. Kevin Vowles, who has a Ph.D. in Psychology stated in his paper featured in the April 2017 APA “Monitor on Psychology”, that only 8 to 12 percent of patients who took opioids for chronic pain get addicted (Vowles, 2017). But then, the remaining question is, what is the cause of the 10% who actually addicted? Dr. Stanton E.
Samenow who received a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Michigan stated in his article written and published on Psychology Today, that people who become addicted is not caused by “the substance or its availability from physicians who prescribe all too liberally. The crucial matter is the pre-existing personality of the addict” (Dr. Stanton E. Samenow, 2017).
Essentially the problem is not caused by the doctors or big pharma selling their products, it’s the behavior of these drug users themselves that are causing the problem. To solidify that point, an experiment conducted by Christopher Evans who has a Ph.D. in Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, and Catherine M. Cahill who has a Ph.D. in neuroscience on the “Neurobiology of opioid dependence in creating addiction vulnerability” discover that a “withdrawal from opioids creates associative memories that opioid drugs can provide relief”, and therefore people will take more opioid to deal with the withdraw, hence the relapse of addiction (Christopher Evans, Catherine M. Cahill, 2016).
Conclusion: When considering the opioid epidemic there isn’t source to blame, rather we need to consider multiple other causes and see things in the big picture. Although Big Pharma is contributing to the opioid crisis, we must also consider the other causes. As seen by many scientists, the opioid crisis is caused by the big pharma, doctors, and the addicts themselves. Therefore big pharma shouldn’t be solely responsible for the opioid epidemic, rather it’s the whole system of medical health that is causing the problem. If big pharma aren’t money hungry, they wouldn’t be pushing these pills on people and the doctors. If doctors aren’t money hungry either then they wouldn’t be pushing unknown medication to their patients and hospitals. Therefore without these influences, the people wouldn’t be addicted in the first place and the opioid epidemic wouldn’t be such a big problem.