May 14, 2018
A person dies every 10 minutes in this country from overdosing on prescription painkiller opioids like OxyContin. Five times as many people die of opioid overdose as in the 1990s.
For years, opioids were only given to cancer patients with severe pain. Like the heroin from which they are made, opioids slow down breathing – slow enough to kill – and they become more and more addictive as doses go up.
But pharmaceutical companies exist to make profit. To increase sales in 1996, Perdue Pharma and its competitors began aggressively urging doctors to prescribe opioids to more patients, such as cancer-free people with moderate pain, and to prescribe higher dosages and prescriptions for longer periods of time. The companies flooded doctors’ offices with all kinds of freebies. The number of prescriptions shot way up, four times as many as before.
Recently, opioids were being prescribed eight times every second, an average of one prescription per year for every adult in the country. Predictably, many more patients become addicted, overdose, and die. Those switching to cheaper but illegal heroin or super-strong fentanyl die in even higher numbers.
But pharmaceutical companies keep raking in profits from billions of dollars of opioid sales each year.