How Doctors and Big Pharma Have Fueled the Opioid Epidemic

Written by Chloe Nicosia

The Role That Doctors and Big Pharma Have Played in the Opioid Epidemic

The opioid epidemic in America is one of the biggest health concerns that the United States has faced in recent times. The depth of the problem makes it difficult to find just one solution that will remedy the many areas that perpetuate the opioid crisis.

In this article, we will explore how some doctors and big pharma companies are partly to blame for the current opioid epidemic.

Opioid Crisis Statistics

To better understand the scope of the epidemic, we will look at some of the opioid crisis statistics. According to the CDC’s 2015 report, 52,404 people died because of drug overdoses in that year with 20,101 of them dying as a result of prescription opioids. The number of drug overdose-related deaths for 2016 rose to over 64,000, showing the rapid increase caused by the opioid epidemic. Every day, around 142 people die from substance abuse – this amounts to the same number of people that died in 9/11 every three weeks that the overdose deaths continue.

The Role That Doctors Play

While it is important to note that not all doctors are to blame for the opioid epidemic, it is clear that they are part of the opioid epidemic causes. America consumes more than 80% of world’s opioid supply. This is not because Americans feel more pain than the rest of the world but rather because of the standard protocols that doctors use to treat pain in the country.

In America, it is common for people to be prescribed opioid pain relievers for a wide variety of pain related issues. Usually, these medications are reserved for the most serious of pain such as burns and surgery.

But are doctors the culprits? Certainly, some of them are to blame in situations where there is clear over-prescribing of opioids – many of these doctors have been tried in court for over-prescribing. However, most doctors are operating under the assumptions given to them in school and by big pharma. Through misinformation, doctors are prescribing opioid pain relievers because they are under the assumption that it is a safe and better way to deal with mild to severe pain than alternatives. New rules are being implemented to change the requirements for prescribing opioids, but is it enough?

Big Pharma’s Role

Many people believe that big pharma is one of the leading opioid epidemic causes. In America, the prescription painkiller market is worth $24 billion. Many pharmaceutical companies’ biggest earners are opioid pain relievers. As private businesses with investors, their goal is to make money more so than it is to provide the best treatment for the public.

Instead of promoting less-addictive alternative medications that are just as effective at treating pain without many of the side effects, big pharma continues to push the standard opioid pain relievers to doctors across the country. This is because the less-addictive alternatives are more expensive than the standard medication and many health insurance companies opt for the less-expensive opioids in their care plans.

What this means for the average person looking to find relief for severe pain is that they will likely be given the more-addictive opioid pain relievers even though there are other options to consider, opening up to addiction.

The opioid crisis is an evolving problem that will not just have one solution. It will likely take several private and government agencies working together to reach a positive long-term solution.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, get help right away. Make a phone call that will connect you to a professional drug treatment center. The call you make may save your life or the life of someone you love. Call us today at 1.800.429.7690.

Sources:

https://www.asam.org/docs/default-source/advocacy/opioid-addiction-disease-facts-figures.pdf

https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/index.html