In the now two-decade-long opioid epidemic in the U.S., pharmaceutical opioid manufacturers, pharmacies, and doctors have all come under fire for the role they played in the surge of opioid addiction and death. One group, previously unnoticed and only just now coming under investigation, bears mentioning. As reports have shown, pharmaceutical distributors had just as critical a role in the opioid epidemic as other bad actors.
One of the findings in the CDC’s 2020 Cause of Death report was that overdose deaths caused by fentanyl were the leading cause of death for adults ages 18 to 45. At first, this key fact went almost unnoticed. Only now is this critical issue getting the attention it deserves.
For much of the 2010s, fentanyl addiction and overdoses surged in regional areas like the Northeast, Appalachia, and the Southeast. At the time, many experts believed fentanyl addiction and overdose would remain a localized crisis, not a national one. Unfortunately, recent reporting has indicated that the scope of fentanyl addiction and overdose has largely broadened, with the Midwest, Southwest, West Coast, and Pacific Northwest now being ravaged by fentanyl addiction and overdose deaths.
There were multiple organizations, groups, operations, and factors at play in the inception and promulgation of America’s opioid epidemic. Pain clinics played their role, much to the devastation of countless American families. That’s why it is so crucial that such organizations be held accountable.
Words and terms like “epidemic,” “pandemic,” and “national health emergency” have become commonplace in American society. These terms often make one think of the dangerous spread of communicable diseases and illnesses. Yet with almost 200,000 deaths in 2020 from drug-related causes and alcohol-related causes, is it time to look at addiction as America’s next National Epidemic?
In the wake of the ongoing opioid addiction and overdose epidemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published conservative prescribing guidelines for U.S. doctors to follow. And while there have been some welcome reductions in prescribing as a result, physicians should go a step further and offer patients alternatives to addictive pain meds.
Public health experts usually agree that preventive efforts should be used as a front-line defense against health problems. In the case of drug and alcohol addiction, Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs are useful preventive tools that states can use to reduce the diversion of pharmaceuticals into the hands of addicts.
When one drug is banned, illicit drug manufacturers just go looking for another drug to manufacture—one that hasn’t been banned yet. For a while, at least, their product may be legal, no matter how deadly it is.
There is compelling evidence that suggests opioid addiction and overdose rates soared during the Covid-19 pandemic. Was this a direct result of Covid-19? Or was it a continuation of America’s opioid addiction epidemic?
The foremost commitment of any medical practitioner is to do no harm, and the vast majority of physicians hold to that. But what happens when the very drugs doctors prescribe are harmful?