(CN: Pharmaceuticals, Doctors, Drug abuse, Overdose, Violence, Illness -if these things upset you, perhaps skip this one.)
Also just a disclaimer – I’m not even slightly a doctor, and I knew nothing about Oxycontin before reading this article.
This is a little different from the usual themes of my blog, but I found it a really interesting read. The first article linked is an LA Times piece about the history of Oxycontin in the US. The drug is effectively an opiate, and while it chemically provides pain relief, there are a lot of questions raised about its accessibility; mainly that it is simply too easy to get hold of. Doctors in the US have often caused controversy by prescribing medication too readily, or continuing to prescribe high doses of addictive medication without considering the implications. (Check out Louis Theroux’s documentary about behavioural meds for children). There are a number of cases mentioned in the article where people have been unaware of the addictive quality of the drug and the danger of it, resulting in overdose in the more extreme cases. As well as this, the pharmaceutical company producing Oxycontin made huge profits in the 90s, some of it coming from addicted celebrities such as Eminem.
The fact that prescription drugs are abused by over 2 million people in the USA alone is frightening. Surely the scale of the US means that so many demographics will inevitably have different experiences; but opiate abuse often affects the most vulnerable people in society. The impression I get from this article is that the drugs were actively pushed onto doctors by the company in the 80s, who then prescribed it to as many people as possible – many of whom were previous addicts.
The case studies in this article are shocking, but the comments tell a different story. Some people have accused this piece of investigative journalism of being too biased. Some cancer patients and sufferers of chronic pain are willing to take the risk of addiction in exchange for much needed relief. Evidence also suggests that those without a history of addiction are less likely to develop an addiction to the painkillers simply from taking them ‘as prescribed’. Personally, I feel it is best to read it for yourself. There are also more scientific journals about the research available online (although sometimes you have to wonder who funded the research, and why.)
Maybe the question shouldn’t be about the drug itself, but how education about addiction and drugs in general is treated in the US? Please comment if you have also read it!
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