Full Disclosure: The opinion essay written below is by a high schooler.
Hello, my name is Ky ****, and before we start today, I would like to start with a little game. Look to the left of you, and then look to the right of you. Get a good look at everyone in the audience. Chances are, you know someone or a family that has been affected by an overdose death. In 2018, 67,367 people died of drug-overdose. Almost 70% of that involved an opioid of some kind, including heroin, morphine, codeine, or oxycodone. A recent study showed that 128 people die a day due to an opioid crisis. With a death rate as high as that, it’s a wonder why something only happened so recently. In August of 2019, Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin, agreed to pay $12 billion to settle almost 2,000 court cases against them.
These class-action lawsuits were filed by families, cities, and even attorney generals. The claims went from deceptive sales practices to supposedly flaming the fires of the opioid crisis. What’s very surprising is that from 1996 – when the drug was released – to 2017, when almost 400,000 died because of the opioid crisis, there was no accountability over the largest opium maker. Purdue Pharma isn’t even one of the top three biggest manufacturers; almost 88% of all pills were made from three companies: Par Pharmaceutical, SecpGx, and Actavis Pharma. It isn’t just the manufacturers that were screwing things up. Over 75 percent of the pills were distributed by only 6 companies between 2006 to 2012: Walgreens, McKesson Corporations, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, CVS and Walmart. These companies knew about the number of pills that were being distributed every year and in every town.
The blame game can go on and on. These companies are blaming the customers that got addicted to the drug, while families are blaming legislation and the companies that didn’t do anything to stop it. And in 2019, opioid-related death decreased 5%, the first decline in almost 2 decades. Public awareness, advancements in treatments, and new medicine, such as naloxone, are responsible for saving more lives. But the war is not yet over, and it looks like a new challenger has arrived.
In the last 5 years, a new drug called fentanyl has killed 95,000 alone. Celebrities, such as Prince and Mac Miller, all had fentanyl in their body when they died. It is 50 times stronger than heroin, and is known to be “the strongest drug known to mankind”. Trust me, that is not an overstatement. It is usually laced into heroin, and can sometimes go for $40 per pill in the streets.. For comparison, OxyContin has a street value of $15. It is a super dangerous drug that shows no sign of slowing down.
Fentanyl has been around in America since 1960, where it was used as an extreme painkiller. There were only 2 groups of people that can be prescribed for it: those who have had surgeries, and those with stage 4 cancer with extreme pain. The FDA, who knew about this drug and the dangers of it, enforced a program called TIRF-REMS, which regulated who was supposed to get prescribed the drug. But instead of regulating it themselves, they instead made the pharmaceutical companies regulate themselves. These companies then outsourced the program to McKesson to run it. Remember McKesson? They are one the largest drug distributors in the world, and they were asked to make sure this high-profiting drug is only prescribed to a very small group of people. Perhaps that’s why a study of the Journal of Medical Association found that 55% of those prescribed fentanyl should have never received it. To make matters worse, doctors who want to prescribe the drug only needed to pass an open-book, multiple choice quiz with 11 questions. With a system like that, it’s a wonder there is not a lot happening to stop this.
A lot of mistakes were made during the opioid crisis. Large corporations thought that money was more important than a human life. The government did little to regulate it. And while all of these companies are now having to shell out millions of dollars to pay fines and lawsuits, the damage is already done. I understand why we need these sorts of drugs. While they are needed to ease the pain a lot more, downplaying the risks and the addiction of these opioids isn’t going to help the crisis at all. Congress needs to have a bigger role in this, by creating laws to have accountability on these pharmaceutical companies. The FDA will have to strengthen their regulations and be a lot more careful when it comes to powerful things like this. Communities both large and small are needed to help out, whether it’s to help out the victim, or to make sure no sleazy sales person tries to give someone with oral pain something went for stage 4 cancer patients. Everyone will have to come together to make sure greedy corporations won’t take another life away, and the journey has only started.
Vaping & Tobacco Intervention Resources:
STATS: 2018 national survey data concluded that 11.7% of high school students and 3.3% of middle school students have used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days.
CATCH (Coordinated Approach To Child Health) Has A Program Called:
My Breath: https://catchinfo.org/modules/e-cigarettes
This program has three intended outcomes: 1) Understand that e-cigarettes are addictive, unhealthy and not as popular as believed; 2) Resist their own curiosity and peer pressure to experiment with e-cigarettes; and 3) Encourage friends and peers not to use e-cigarettes.
Become A Smoke-free Teen: https://teen.smokefree.gov/
Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline
Reliable Source of Free Information on Facing Addiction: https://www.rehabspot.com/
Teen Nicotine Addiction Facts And Resources: https://www.rehabspot.com/drugs/stimulants/Nicotine/
Inpatient And Outpatient Addiction Rehab And Treatment: https://www.okrehab.org/
Substance Use, Misuse And Abuse Treatment: https://delphihealthgroup.com/
Alcohol Abuse and Binge Drinking Community Resource: https://www.graniterecoverycenters.com/alcohol-abuse/binge-drinking/
Find The Best Drug & Alcohol Rehab Center Near You: https://www.addictionresource.net/
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