I want to tell you about the new drug dealer in town. You won’t recognize him because he’s cleaned up his appearance. The new guy traded-in his hoodie and sneakers for an expensive Italian suit and loafers. This sharply dressed dealer is responsible for more deaths than any other drug dealer, yet he’s immune to our laws. He’s on every street corner in what has become the greatest drug distribution network ever devised. He’s cooking his poison right here in the U.S. and there seems to be absolutely nothing you and I can do about it.
The criminal I’m referring to is the pharmaceutical companies, or more specifically, the people who make highly addictive pain killers – legal heroin – and aggressively market their products through our health care system. Please don’t misunderstand my position on modern eastern medicine. I firmly support the development of drugs for disease and even pain management. There are many drugs available today that improve and expand our quality of life. However I would like to see alternatives be examined and – if feasible – be implemented before some of these harsh toxic medications are prescribed.
We’ve become a pill society; there’s a pill for everything. Unfortunately the ensuing result is only the symptom gets treated and not the disease or injury.
I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard from people who had experienced some type of injury – car accident, sports injury, back, job related injury, a slip or fall etc. – were told they needed a procedure, but for whatever reason didn’t get it. They were given a handful of highly addictive opiate pain killers and sent home. It even happened to me once. After a rigorous workout I felt chest pain and stopped at the ER to have it checked. The first thing the nurse did was hand me a pill and told me to take it. Come to find out it was morphine. I told the nurse what I do and asked why she was handing out these highly addictive pills like candy canes at Christmas. Her response: “it’s policy.”
These are just a couple of a plethora of examples of how regular law abiding everyday people are unwittingly get hooked on prescription drugs through no action or “desire to get high” of their own. One might think that a doctor would at least explain to the patient just how addictive these pills really are. The simple truth of the situation is that physicians are in the dark…they really don’t know. Doctors are only required to have one hour of addiction education per year. One hour per year! Even more concerning is that the pharmaceutical companies are responsible for educating the doctors. Nearly three years ago our national drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, stated that doctors lack necessary addiction education and training, yet nothing has been done to correct it.
Not long ago I saw a statistic that hit me like a blow to the stomach. Of all the prescription painkillers made in the world Americans consume eight out of ten of its opioids and 99 percent of the world’s hydrocodone. This is astounding! The U.S. has less than five-percent of the global population but yet Americans are prescribed eighty-percent of all the opiate painkillers in the world, and all of
the hydrocodone. Is there any wonder why we have a drug abuse problem right here in our own home towns when over 600,000 doctors freely write prescriptions for legal heroin that experts say are mostly unnecessary?
Katherine Eban, contributor to CNN Money and Fortune, wrote this regarding her interview with Alan Must from Purdue Pharma – makers of OxyContin – VP for state government and public affairs: Must says, “The idea that our business model is based on getting patients addicted and dependent is absurd,” though he acknowledges it’s “not unusual for patients to become physically dependent.” In the company’s view, Americans have long suffered from an epidemic of pain, and Purdue provides profound relief.”
An epidemic of pain; I can appreciate Mr. Must’s business acumen and marketing views. It’s what you’d expect from an upper management position in today’s business world. They all want to be dominating in their respective industries. But they’re not selling cell phones and video games – this is about grossly overly prescribed legal heroin that is killing people.
However the business side of the opiate painkiller industry does not recognize the difference. Like any good business their sole concern is increased sales and profits mostly by increasing the price, expanding their market share and capitalizing on emerging markets. In that they have achieved.
Results from new research conducted by the University of Michigan revealed that one in ten teenagers receiving emergency medical treatment admitted to abusing prescription painkillers and sedatives like Oxycontin and Valium within the last year (2013). A recent report by Trust for America’s Health says deaths due primarily to prescription painkillers have quadrupled between 1999 and 2010. The number of people addicted to opiate painkillers increases every year and now prescription drugs are killing far more people than illegal drugs. This is what expanding markets and growing market shares look like in the legal heroin business – Pharmageddon.
From USA Today: ”Nationwide, pharmacies received and ultimately dispensed the equivalent of 69 tons of pure oxycodone and 42 tons of pure hydrocodone in 2010, the last year for which statistics are available. That’s enough to give 40 5-mg Percocet’s and 24 5-mg Vicodin’s to every person in the United States.”
In an interview with ABC News in 2011, Drug Czar Kerlikowske said the current culture of writing narcotic prescriptions for moderate pain, which began about a decade ago, needs to be changed and doctors need to be retrained – yet nothing has changed. Doctors continue to write prescriptions for deadly pain killers at an alarming pace. According to CNN, sales of prescription painkillers since 1999 have more than tripled.
To fully grasp what is transpiring, it’s important to keep in mind
that your health has become a huge business – the biggest in fact. Healthcare in the U.S. is 18% of our gross domestic product – nearly twice that of most modern countries – and double what it was in 1980.
Why has our healthcare costs doubled while other modern countries have only seen marginal gains with a near consistent percentage of GDP while they provide better outcomes? There are a lot of opinions but the facts remain. Healthcare costs are on tract to reach twenty-percent of our GDP within the next seven years. Literally trillions of dollars goes to healthcare every single year yet the outcomes haven’t improved.
With so much money at stake it’s not surprising that there is a lot of competition for those dollars. And when the competition heats up, marketers get creative. The healthcare industry is no different. Arthur Sackler, a psychiatrist, earned his way into Medical Advertising Hall of Fame by being the first to market drugs directly to doctors by lavishing them with fancy junkets, expensive dinners, and lucrative speaking fees. The plan was so successful that it is used today – in full or part – by nearly every pharmaceutical company in the country.
So just how much money is going into the local doctor’s pocket? In a recently reported survey of only fifteen drug makers that represents forty-seven percent of the market; over $2.1 Billion Dollars has been given to doctors and/or researches between 2009 and 2012. Could the real figure be closer to $4 Billion Dollars with all drug companies reporting their cash disbursements to doctors? Has a moral and/or ethical line been crossed? I suppose it depends on which side of the line your standing.
In an interview with reporter Linda Hurtado of ABC Action News in Tampa, Dr. James Orlowski, Head of Pediatrics at Florida Hospital, says doctors taking money from the pharmaceutical companies is on the rise. “Doctors are feeling the crunch because the government is cutting back on reimbursement and they’re looking for ways to supplement their income. And pharmaceutical companies are looking for more ways to get more use of their drugs so they can make more profit. So, the two are obviously coming together here and fulfilling each other’s needs.”
Has your healthcare been compromised by this some what ethically questionable financial union between the drug companies and the medical profession? Is your doctor making money from Big Pharma? There is an easy way to find out. The Federal Government is forcing drug companies to disclose the money it’s paying to doctors and their reason for paying them. ProPublica has been tasked with gathering the information on these financial relationships and making a database available to the public. I’ve been on the site and it is very user friendly.
I’m a firm believer in personal responsibility; the duty of making the right choices for ourselves and the people closest to us. Yet the more I see of the emerging world we live in, the more I realize how our choices can be undermined. Perfectly normal and productive people who experienced some sort of injury are handed little innocent looking pills. They’re told by their trusted physician to take one every so many hours for pain. Within weeks many of these unsuspecting souls find themselves craving more painkillers and their live beginning to unravel.
Prescription drug abuse is a raging epidemic that no one wants to talk about. Although it might be great for the economy, legal heroin is killing Americans in droves across this great country of ours. According to the CDC, prescription drugs killed more than 37,000 Americans in 2009 alone! That is triple the death rate since 1990. Its more fatalities than from heroin and cocaine combined. More people are dying from prescription drugs than car accidents.
Certainly there are people with chronic pain who would not have relief without prescription painkillers. That being said, I’m not advocating for the elimination of all opiate painkillers. However, when less than five percent of the global population consumes over eighty percent of the world’s production of opiate painkillers, it becomes perfectly clear that Americans are being grossly over prescribed. Legal heroin starts at the point after those with chronic pain who could not experience relief without pain medication. It’s that area where people are prescribed thirty days worth of painkillers when four or five day worth will do or when eighty milligrams are prescribed as apposed to ten.
How many lives have to be ruined or ended before we accept the fact that most prescription painkillers are nothing more than legal heroin and that grossly over prescribing opiate painkillers is nothing more than distribution of this deadly product? If we as a society are to be honest in our “War on Drugs” efforts, we must take the blinders off and get legal heroin off our streets while instituting new standards requiring more continued addiction recognition and prevention education for physicians.
Much of the pain, suffering and malevolence associated with addiction could be avoid with very little effort. An efficient early detection and treatment program would go along way in reducing drug and alcohol abuse in America today. It would require an on going comprehensive addiction educational program for all physicians, nurse practitioners and nurses. One hour per year is not enough time to grasp even the simplest of concepts much less understand the complexities of addiction.
Another effective method for the early detection and treatment
of addiction would be a screening process. My close friend and colleague Dr. Kenneth Blum – discoverer of the addiction gene – has a system of determining a person’s genetic predisposition to addiction. A simple swab could easily be done in any doctor’s office. This DNA test in combination with an open dialog between doctors and their patients would be a very efficient way to prevent the progression of this deadly disease.
Being realistic, the ‘War on Drugs’ will continue to stall without addressing the makers’ marketing programs. This will not be easy. Asking a painkiller company with annual sales in the billions of dollars to reduce his sales is going to be as challenging as asking his clients nicely to stop taking the pills. But leaving it up to the industry to police its self is like asking an addict to arrange his own intervention. It’s time to start calling our state and federal representatives and ask what they are doing to get legal heroin off the streets. And when you get them on the phone, be sure to also ask them what they’re doing to promote an early addiction detection program and continued addiction education for physicians.
John Giordano is the Founder of the National Institute for Holistic Addiction Studies and Chaplain of the North Miami Police Department. Giordano has contributed to over 65 papers published in peer-reviewed scientific and medical journals. He is the proud recipient of a Doctor of Human Letters from Sinai University in Jerusalem. Mr. Giordano is a recovering addict with thirty years
of sobriety to his credit. He is a therapist, Certified Addiction Professional (CAP), a Master Addictions Counselor (MAC), Certified Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Specialist, Trauma Relief Specialist (TRT), certified Hypnotist and a Certified Criminal Justice Specialist (CCJS). Mr. Giordano also earned a Masters Certification in Neurolinguistics Programming (NLP). He is a professional expert witness for the state and federal government. John is a Karate Grand Master 10th degree black belt and is in the Karate Hall Of Fame.
John Giordano’s website: www.holisticdrugrehab.com (Holistic Drug Rehab)