Newly passed legislation aims to curb drug abuse, especially of prescription opioids
My upcoming novel DEADLY PRESCRIPTION shines lights on the places where the pharmaceutical industry intersects with the criminal underworld. One might be tempted to ask, “Is there any difference?” and, though the humor exaggerates the overlap, we do see more instances daily in which they are one in the same.
Take for instance drug abuse. One typical scenario involves a patient who becomes addicted to opioids such as OxyContin or oxymorphone. As their addiction progresses, they might continue getting prescriptions from their regular doctor, go “doctor shopping,” or simply give up on the pseudo-legal routes, turning to procuring heroin on the streets. The addict’s physical, mental, and moral health often suffers decline, and destructive – even violent – criminal behaviors may ensue.
So, here is a situation where legal prescription drug use becomes illegal street drug use and wherefrom other criminality can often proceed. The heroin trade, at every level, sees everything from petty theft to armed robbery to murder. It’s fascinating to observe the role of the pharmaceutical opioids as a gateway – a term used by both congress and the CDC – to heroin use.
Of course, Big Pharma wants to distance itself from that notion as much as possible. But can it rightfully do so? Certainly hands are dirty which placed Super Bowl ads meant to encourage millions of viewers to explore the possibility of adding opioids to their daily health regimens! There indeed is a very good reason that only two countries in the world (the U.S. and New Zealand) allow direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising (DTCPA).
Theoretically at least, every single person who follows the advice in those ads is a potential heroin addict. Who could argue that the cases of the ones who meet that fate are not inextricably tied to pharma’s pushing? As would be the criminal activity that follows.
And aren’t some Big Pharma executives themselves merely addicts with a different “drug of choice” – money? The drug world, both legal and illegal, blends greed with addiction with cynicism and, sometimes, murder.
The fictional scenes in DEADLY PRESCRIPTION, then, are based in that reality. The reality of pharma executives in crisp Armani suits, perhaps wanting to wish away the blood on their hands. Addiction to money in the corporate suites on high and addiction to drugs in the city alleys low thus perpetuate a symbiotic cycle.
You buy Super Bowl ads touting the benefits of legal opium, and you have just increased the market for heroin. Demand is higher, and armed, often violent suppliers do more business.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration wants little to do with clinical trials of new drugs, much less take action to curb corporate greed and an addiction epidemic.
Fortunately, some public-service-minded people in congress and at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are taking action. Recently-passed legislation called the “Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016” has led to new, weightier CDC guidelines meant to curb epidemic-level heroin use in America by making it more difficult to obtain “gateway” opioid prescriptions.