13 November 2014
High on Profits, Death by Opiates
Nora D. Volkow, M.D., Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control states that 2.1 million People in America are currently suffering from prescription opiate addiction (par. 1). The United States is the top consumer of the world’s supply of opiates. Tens of thousands overdose every year from prescriptions such as Vicodin, Hydrocodone, OxyContin, Codeine, and Methadone. Opiate overdose out ranks the deaths of cocaine and heroin combined. With new restrictions being implemented on prescription opiates, there is a fear of users moving on to cheaper and more accessible opiates, such as heroin. Richard Anderson, reporter for BBC, found the average profit margin for pharmaceutical companies is over 17%, far surpassing other industrial sectors, such as oil and gas. U.S. Company Pfizer profited $22 billion dollars followed by Johnson and Johnson with a profit of $13.8 billion in 2013 (par. 11).The companies that are manufacturing and widely distributing mass quantities of highly addictive drugs are profit greatly from said addictions. Meanwhile families are broken and lives are lost due to the overwhelming addiction of prescription painkillers. It is extremely difficult for users to receive treatment due to cost, occupation rate, and insurance discrepancies. If the largely profitable U.S. pharmaceutical industries would provide just one percent of annual profits to specialized opiate treatment centers, the over $360 million dollars would aid the lives of countless addiction victims.
Addiction can be described as a genetically transmitted illness that distorts the persons thought process and makes them feel uncomfortable in their own skin. There is no way of knowing when the disease manifests or at what point a user becomes an “addict”. Some professionals argue the belief of addiction as a physiological disease, and instead deem addiction as a psychological issue. Former head of substance abuse treatment at Harvard McLean Hospital, Lance Dodes, believes addiction to be a psychological compulsion that causes an intense feeling of helplessness (390). This intense feeling drives the person affected to do anything to make the emotion subside leading to compulsive behavior. The standard treatment for any addicts, including opiate users, is Alcoholics Anonymous. This free 12-Step program is believed to have helped countless people overcome addiction and lead sober lives. In recent years AA has come under harsh criticism due to the statistics of Sobriety. Dodes found that in a clinical trial spanning over 40 years, AA and 12-step programs both showed little effectiveness of reducing alcohol dependence or increasing sobriety with only 5-10% of members sober (392). With new advances in medicine, opiate dependent users have a harder time attending AA/ Narcotics Anonymous meetings because they do not meet the requirements of sober living. Many medications are now being prescribed to opioid addicts; such as methadone, that effectively reduce the pain they are experiencing, without giving the intense high. Pharmaceutical companies once again make a large profit from the prescriptions they sell, for a problem they are partially responsible. Addicts under the influence of opioid agonists are not allowed to speak at meetings because of violating the abstinence rule. Many who desperately need treatment cannot afford it. The average cost of a treatment facility runs around $30, 000 per month. Also, most are usually at 89% occupation (Dodes 392). The standard twenty-eight days for recovery is not a Chandler 3 sufficient amount of time to rewire the brain of an individual addicted to opiates. Over half of these facilities do not accept Medicaid. With nowhere else to go, many addicts find it easier to continue using their drug of choice. With the passing of the Affordable Care