Thursday, October 1, 2015

Opiate Addiction

I just finished reading Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones and I have to say I was stunned at the story as it unfolded. There were multiple times I just had to stop and process what I was hearing.

The book threads together the story of prescription opiates use in the US in parallel with the rise in the Mexican black tar heroin market and methods. Three things stunned me:
  1. The use of prescription pain killers as a gateway drug into black tar heroin.
  2. The 'corporate' style delivery and marketing of heroin where it is delivered to people who ordered it over the phone and
  3. The extensive use opiates in parts (all) of white, middle class, suburban homes/families.
I still don't know how to properly process some of the points in this book. 

The medical community was led to believe that these drugs were safe and not addictive on flimsy evidence. The pharmaceutical players were pushing these medications because they were huge profit centers.  The doctors in their rushed, more corporate settings didn't have or take the time to validate the claims and the pharmaceutical reps charged ahead pushing the drugs. Some doctors and others setup 'pill factories' where people where quickly processed and given the prescription they wanted. It was a perfect storm where these prescription drugs were prescribed for 'minor' pain events and those prescriptions led to addiction.

The story scared me because we tend to trust these players with our own medical needs. We trust that what we are given, prescribed, and recommended is safe and right. This is the story of a case where it wasn't right or safe.

I had to discuss this with my family over dinner. We've all got to be careful with our health and with pain medications in particular.

Most interesting book. Recommended.

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