In addition to the cooking lessons at Ballymaloe, we learned about the business of food. Blathnaid Bergin of www.therestaurantadvisor.ie. emphasized the point made by M. E. Gerber in The E-Myth, that though the system runs the business, people run systems. I am veering off the cooking side of my blog today to address what I see as a very ugly side to our health and mental health system in the U.S.
Have you noticed the commercials for medication that helps alleviate “opioid induced constipation?” Like me, did you think, wouldn’t it be better to stop taking opioids? Then I read the Washington Post article, The Drug Industry’s Answer to Opioid Addiction: More Pills. Apparently, drug addiction is big business for the pharmaceutical industry.
Since my experience in September going to Pittsburgh to help my friend through a medically supervised detox from Xanax, a benzodiazepine, I have been more attuned to the toll on Americans’ lives due to drug addiction. Frankly, it’s hard to avoid. A day does not go by without a news headline about overdose and death due to opioids (prescription pain-killers like Vicoden, Percocet, or Oxycodone) and opiates like heroin.
I fell down the rabbit hole on this issue after reading the WP article, which led to another Washington Post article on 10/5/16, about a 7-year-old who told her bus driver at the end of the day that she hadn’t been able to wake her parents that morning. Her parents were found dead from overdose. Still in the house were the 7-year-old girl’s siblings ages 5, 3, and nine months. The article noted that there have been 422 opioid deaths in Allegheny County, where Pittsburgh is located, in the past year—the largest death toll in county history. The article went on to say that in Pennsylvania’s Lycoming County, coroner Charles Keating has begun recording the deaths from overdose as homicides. He is quoted in the article as saying, “They’re homicides. Drug dealers are murderers. They need to be prosecuted as murderers.”
Here is just some of what I gleaned from my readings (rabbit hole), and I highly recommend following The Washington Post articles concerning the issue. I also found other recourses: www.sobernation.com and www.orchardrecovery.com. I learned that 165,000 people in the United States have lost their lives to opioid overdoses since 2000. Somewhere between 227-249 million prescriptions for opioids were written last year! Prescription opioids kill, on average, 52 people per day in the U.S. Americans represent 5% of the worlds’ population but consume 80% of its prescription opioids. I wonder what the other 95% of the world’s population do for pain management? Dr. Tom Friedan of The Center for Disease Control and Prevention summarized the research and found that 1 out of every 550 patients started on opioid therapy died of opioid-related causes, a median of 2.6 years after their first prescription.
“Beyond their addictive potential, research studies show weak or no evidence that prescription opioids are actually effective treatments for chronic pain. In March, Friedan addressed the insanity of the opioid epidemic: ‘We know of no other medication routinely used for a nonfatal condition that kills patients so frequently.’” (Sobernation.com).
Peddling in addiction for the sake of profits is despicable whether you are a drug trafficker, the corner dealer, or sitting in a corner office for a large corporation. Remember what Charles Keating, the coroner from Lycoming said? Why is the drug dealer more to blame than the person(s) at the large pharmaceutical company who saw Americans’ addiction to opioids as potential “growth drivers” and an “expansion opportunity” for profits. The Washington Post article stated, “if opioid addictions disappeared tomorrow, it would wipe billions of dollars from the drug companies bottom line.” I interpret the “aggressive prescribing,” as Dr. Andrew Kolodny described (the pharmaceutical industry’s approach to reap the most profit) as not only failing to alleviate human suffering, but as a pernicious trafficking in human suffering for the sake of profit.
People work for corporations. Real people made the decision that addiction is good for the bottom line. I believe we should be asking the very real people at very real corporations to take responsibility for the callousness and disregard behind their decisions that cause their fellow human beings to suffer and die.
A dealer is a system of one. An industry is a system of many making it much easier to hide. When we hear of a person’s death from overdose, how often do we think, what a waste of human potential. How much bigger a waste of human potential is it to work for a death dealing industry?