The True Cost of Addiction—Sex, Money and Corruption

Doctor getting cash and favors

I was standing in line at my local coffee house when a fresh copy of The New York Times caught my eye. The front page had a picture of several men standing behind a podium, all in suits, all with red ties. I thought maybe it was the latest blowup over the Mueller report, or perhaps an update on the situation in Venezuela. I sidestepped out of the line to grab the paper, and what I saw made my stomach turn.

The front page focused on a recent case in which federal prosecutors announced charges against no less than 60 medical professionals for the unlawful prescribing of pharmaceutical opioids. When I arrived home later that day, I looked up the New York Times article online, and I found the version I can cite here. Sure enough, 60 medical experts are currently under federal charges for doling out highly addictive and potentially lethal opioid pharmaceuticals for money or sexual favors from addicts, or for cash incentives from crooked pharmacies.

Corruption in the Medical Field—the Details

I want to start by saying that the 60 medical professionals under criminal investigation for illegally handing out opioid pharmaceuticals are by far the smallest of minorities in the medical community. The vast majority of the 13 million health care workers in this country are good people who, if they come into contact with these pills, approach opioid medicines with an ethical and sensible mindset. I know ER surgeons who decry the use of opioid pharmaceuticals except when absolutely necessary, primary care physicians who won’t even allow opioid prescribing within their practices, and nurses who truly believe the opioid racket is just a money-making ploy for 90 percent of its market. But just like in any industry, there are those who will use their position to increase their personal viability—even at the expense of others.

The New York Times article described a nationwide, federal case which involved scores of medical experts and hundreds of individual schemes to distribute millions of pain pills illegally to addicts. Some were doctors who prescribed pills to prostitutes, local addicts, sexual victims, and Facebook friends. Others were pharmacy employees who sold opioid pills out the back door to addicts for cash. One was a medical doctor who opened his home to addicts for the sale and use of drugs within his house.

Doctor prescribing drugs for a favor.

The list of crimes goes on and on. Just one pharmacy in Dayton, Ohio singlehandedly distributed 1.75 million pills—enough pills to medicate every single man, woman, and child in Dayton every day for 12 days. A Tennessee doctor prescribed hundreds of thousands of pills to several people, all for sexual favors. Some instances involved doctors who prescribed opioids for operations that patients didn’t need, but they wanted anyway, so they could have an excuse to obtain a virtually endless supply of opioid pain relievers for “post-operation pain relief.”

The New York Times article contains a direct quote from Brian Benczkowski, the assistant attorney general who is in charge of the Justice Department’s criminal division, which summed up the sheer amount of drug diversion investigated in the case. Mr. Benczkowski said, “These cases involve approximately 350,000 opioid prescriptions and more than 32 million pills—the equivalent of a dose of opioids for every man, woman, and child across the states of Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and West Virginia combined.”

That quote and the statistic it discloses gives us an idea of just how far and wide the crimes of only 60 individuals went. Sixty medical experts distributed 32 million pills illegally. It’s shocking and abhorrent.

Insight into the Overpowering Compulsion of Pharmaceutical Drug Addiction

I was pleased to find, thanks to a final note mentioned in The New York Times article, that there is a plan for the addicts who, looking for their fix, will arrive at the offices and pharmacies of the 60 arrested medical experts, only to find that their doctor had been arrested. Those addicts were not forgotten.

When a doctor who has been prescribing opioids is arrested, and his customers show up to find the clinic shuttered, public health and safety officials will be on site to get those folks the kind of help and treatment that they need.”

Per Mr. Benjamin C. Glassman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, and one of the officials presiding over the federal case, “When a doctor who has been prescribing opioids is arrested, and his customers show up to find the clinic shuttered, public health and safety officials will be on site to get those folks the kind of help and treatment that they need."

That was heartening, and it leads me to the real point of this article. We have already gone over how, in any industry, there is going to be a small percentage of people within that industry who are corrupt and who will go to any length to improve their own condition, even if others suffer for it.

What this story really tells us is just how powerful opioid prescription drug addiction is if hapless addicts will surrender themselves financially and sexually to their doctors to obtain access to opioid pills. How powerful is the control that those pills have over a person if they will go against their tightest of moral standings, just to get a taste?

Let’s also keep in mind that these very same pills are entirely legal. They are FDA-approved and supported by the medical community. They are produced by one of the wealthiest industries in America—the pharmaceutical industry. I find it deeply disturbing that such extremely mind-altering and chemically addictive drugs are so widespread and so encouraged in our society.

It’s time for a change in how we address physical pain. It’s time for a medical and pharmaceutical revolution. When a considerable percentage of the nation’s addicted are hooked on legal pharmaceuticals, and when there are a handful of crooked medical experts ready and willing to exploit them, we know it's time for a change.


Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, MCAP, LADC, RAS



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.