Is it the Pharmaceutical Companies’ Fault or Our Own?
Simultaneous to the major increase in opiate abuse was the marketing blitz pharmaceutical companies embarked upon to get their drugs widely prescribed and into the medicine cabinets of households nationwide. Over 15 years later, it’s easy to look at the huge epidemic and blame companies like Purdue Pharma and Teva for the current opiate problem. It’s easy to see the number of heroin deaths skyrocketing and saying it’s the pill mill’s fault.
A mother and father may be seething with frustration over their daughter’s fentanyl and Percocet addiction and blame her doctors. A wife can be angry at her heroin-addicted husband who got started on Roxies found just about anywhere. But does the responsibility really fall onto the doctors, Big Pharma, and pill mills? Or is our own fault? Who’s responsible for this?
On one hand, painkillers have been overprescribed for years and have been way too easy to obtain. After drug reps visited doctors nationwide, “wine and dined” them and gave them kickbacks for prescribing their pills, just about anyone can go into a doctor’s office and get prescribed strong opiates. Additionally, people who had major injuries or surgeries were carelessly prescribed everything from Vicodin to OxyContin without being warned of the potential consequences. When doctors were cracked down on, “pill mills” came into existence to further the peddle these medications, with people coming from out-of-state to buy copious amounts of pills to sell them on the streets back home. And when everyone became addicted, heroin was the next best thing. It’s true, because of questionable marketing practices, pain pills became way too easy to get and new addicts are being created every day. The responsibility for today’s heroin problem could lay in the hands of the pharmaceutical companies, but in the end, it could also lay in the hands of the addicts themselves who choose to take this stuff.
A sheer fact is that opiate users have chosen to take these drugs. The drug reps and Big Pharma never forced anyone to take their drugs. Did they mask the potential risk factors involved in taking them? Yes. Did they woo doctors to over-prescribe their drugs? Yes. But no one ever forced anyone to actually take them. Some people could say they trusted their doctor and they were ignorant of how dangerous and addictive these drugs were. But, as a cop who pulled me over once said, “Ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law” (to my “I didn’t know I was in a 25mph zone”). Maybe everyone should have done their research before taking the new, “cutting edge” medication everyone was talking about.
While my heart goes out to anyone who is addicted, a lot of addicts took a calculated risk when taking their first opiate and others, who ended up taking the drug due to a medical condition, should have informed themselves of the potential risks of taking the drug. I’m saying maybe, just maybe, a lot of this epidemic is our fault, our responsibility. Maybe having a new viewpoint on this thing could change the future outcome of this tragic problem.