American Runs on Prescription Drugs
The United States of America heavily relies on prescription drug use. In fact, over 131 million adults take some type of prescription drug, which means that there is a high demand and high profit within the pharmaceutical industry. Opioids are a very popular drug that makes doctors and pharmacies large sums of money, and even though the damage from the opioid crisis has been catastrophic, it is still prescribed by doctors because they are being paid to do so by opioid manufacturers. With no other pain reliever on the market that’s as effective as opioids, the pharmaceutical industry believes that the benefits outweigh the deadly cost, and no alternative drug could ever compete. The response from the government about the opioid epidemic has been ineffective, since the crisis has only worsened with the past three decades. With Big Pharma lobbyists within the government, no research is being funded by the government to find a solution. The pharmaceutical industry refuses to consider other types of pain medication and the government’s neglect towards medical research funding caused the opioid crisis.
Opioids are used as pain-relievers, and can be prescribed by doctors for many types of physical ailments. But the United States is in the middle of an opioid epidemic, so the amount of opioid prescriptions should be decreasing or at least be heavily discouraged, but unfortunately that is not the case. In 2017, the Harvard T.H. Chan released a study titled Physicians’ opioid prescribing patterns linked to patient’s risk of long term drug use which explained how “the results suggest that differences in clinicians’ prescribing habits may be helping to fuel the opioid epidemic sweeping the United States.” Doctors are persuaded to prescribe opioids by the manufacturers who make the drug. These manufacturers are trying to make as much money as possible, and will bribe doctors to prescribe opioid medications while being well aware that people die every day due to opioid overdose. Most of these doctors are making thousands of dollars by prescribing opioids, which falsely makes them believe that there is a lot of value in the drug. The doctors are just as corrupt in this situation, and are just as responsible as the opioid manufacturers for causing the opioid epidemic, for continuing to fuel it.
Even though not every person prescribed an opioid becomes addicted, the increase in opioid use inevitably leads to an increased risk of a person succumbing to an opioid addiction. Harvard T.H. Chan’s study also revealed that, “one out of every 48 people newly prescribed an opioid will become a long term user.” Prescription opioid medications are commonly used by people who suffer from chronic pain. Manufacturers capitalize on this, and make opioid medications very expensive since people need it to function throughout the day without pain. The government only helps those who can be covered by medicaid, and has done very little to help the other thousands of people who cannot afford their medications. If people can no longer afford their medications, they might turn to more dangerous options.
The illegal drug market is equally as large as the United States’ pharmaceutical industry, and both profit off people that become addicted to opioids. People who can no longer afford a pharmaceutical medication often replace their medications with an illegal drug. Opioids act as a gateway drug to more deadly drugs like heroin when a person feels like they have no other option that can treat their pain. Heroin is the most dangerous type of opioid and is considered to be a Schedule I drug, meaning that it is not used in any type of medication and is considered highly addictive according to the DEA. Now these regular people who simply wanted to find affordable treatment are involving themselves in illegal activities with potentially dangerous drug dealers, putting themselves in more desperate situations. Even if opioid users do not turn to illegal drugs, there are other ways they can obtain the drug that will relieve their pain and cravings. Some people injure themselves enough to where they can be given pain relievers in the emergency room. A disturbing act like that shows how disorienting opioid use can be, and what lengths people will go to to relieve their cravings.
Addiction is a disease that ruins people’s lives, and the government’s handle on the opioid epidemic makes their lives worse. In an article titled, Are Substance-Use Disorders in the USA a Crime or Crisis? Restorative Justice to Reclaim Voting Rights for Disenfranchised Nonviolent Offenders, writer Tyriesa Howell states that “while many states, cities, and counties are initiating lawsuits against prescription opioid producers for their roles in the opioid epidemic, a federally responsive war on pharmaceutical opioid sales has not been initiated and physicians have only been recommended to reduce overprescribing pain medication through the use of prescription drug monitoring programs.” The government has laws in place that punishes those caught in the act of drug dealing. But putting people in jail does not help them after suffering from opioid abuse, and many people relapse once they are released. Some nonviolent drug offenders are given the option to go to a rehabilitation center, which are effective but expensive. If people had to turn to cheaper and illegal drug alternatives, then it is unlikely that rehab is affordable for them. The opioid epidemic affects more than the health of opioid users, it affects their family, their job, and their reputation. If the government made efforts to eliminate the source of the problem, opioid prescriptions, then no one would be addicted to them in the first place.
Instead of trying to find an alternative drug, the government continues to allow doctors and pharmacies to distribute drugs to people who could be using alternative pain therapy that has less damaging repercussions. Unfortunately, there is little research being done on possible alternatives. There is currently no drug within the pharmaceutical industry that has enough credibility to be a reliable source of profit, and if the industry cannot profit, then they will certainly have no interest in it.
Physicians’ opioid prescribing patterns linked to patients’ risk for long-term drug use. (2018, June 22). Retrieved March 27, 2021, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/opioids-addiction-physicians/
The more opioids doctors prescribe, the more they get paid. (2019, September 16). Retrieved March 27, 2021, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/opioids-doctors-prescriptions-payments/
University, G. (2019, February 13). Prescription drugs. Retrieved March 28, 2021, from https://hpi.georgetown.edu/rxdrugs/#:~:text=More%20than%20131%20million%20people,and%20those%20with%20chronic%20conditions.
Tyriesa, H. H. (2019). Are substance-use disorders in the USA a crime or crisis? restorative justice to reclaim voting rights for disenfranchised nonviolent offenders. Journal of Human Rights and Social Work, 4(2), 103-107. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.rowan.edu/10.1007/s41134-018-0069-0