Tag Archives: Opioid epidemic

“Shit-Life Syndrome,” Trump Voters, and Clueless Dems, by Bruce E. Levine

The Democrats could greatly help their own cause if they seriously considered why people vote for Trump, instead of just casting aspersion at those voters. From Bruce E. Levine at counterpunch.org:

Photograph Source: Frank Boston – CC BY 2.0

Getting rid of Trump means taking seriously “shit-life syndrome”—and its resulting misery, which includes suicide, drug overdose death, and trauma for surviving communities.

My state of Ohio is home to many shit-life syndrome sufferers. In the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton lost Ohio’s 18 electoral votes to Trump. She got clobbered by over 400,000 votes (more than 8%). She lost 80 of Ohio’s 88 counties. Trump won rural poorer counties, several by whopping margins. Trump got the shit-life syndrome vote.

Will Hutton in his 2018 Guardian piece, “The Bad News is We’re Dying Early in Britain – and It’s All Down to ‘Shit-Life Syndrome’” describes shit-life syndrome in both Britain and the United States: “Poor working-age Americans of all races are locked in a cycle of poverty and neglect, amid wider affluence. They are ill educated and ill trained. The jobs available are drudge work paying the minimum wage, with minimal or no job security.”

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The making of an opioid epidemic, by Chris McNeal

This is an excellent article about the history of the opioid epidemic. From Chris McNeal at theguardian.com:

When high doses of painkillers led to widespread addiction, it was called one of the biggest mistakes in modern medicine. But this was no accident.

Jane Ballantyne was, at one time, a true believer. The British-born doctor, who trained as an anaesthetist on the NHS before her appointment to head the pain department at Harvard and its associated hospital, drank up the promise of opioid painkillers – drugs such as morphine and methadone – in the late 1990s. Ballantyne listened to the evangelists among her colleagues who painted the drugs as magic bullets against the scourge of chronic pain blighting millions of American lives. Doctors such as Russell Portenoy at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York saw how effective morphine was in easing the pain of dying cancer patients thanks to the hospice movement that came out of the UK in the 1970s.

Why, the new thinking went, could the same opioids not be made to work for people grappling with the physical and mental toll of debilitating pain from arthritis, wrecked knees and bodies worn out by physically demanding jobs? As Portenoy saw it, opiates were effective painkillers through most of recorded history and it was only outdated fears about addiction that prevented the drugs still playing that role.

Opioids were languishing from the legacy of an earlier epidemic that prompted President Theodore Roosevelt to appoint the US’s first opium commissioner, Dr Hamilton Wright, in 1908. Portenoy wanted to liberate them from this taint. Wright described Americans as “the greatest drug fiends in the world”, and opium and morphine as a “national curse”. After that the medical profession treated opioid pain relief with what Portenoy and his colleagues regarded as unwarranted fear, stigmatising a valuable medicine.

These new evangelists painted a picture of a nation awash in chronic pain that could be relieved if only the medical profession would overcome its prejudices. They constructed a web of claims they said were rooted in science to back their case, including an assertion that the risk of addiction from narcotic painkillers was “less than 1%” and that dosages could be increased without limit until the pain was overcome. But the evidence was, at best, thin and in time would not stand up to detailed scrutiny. One theory, promoted by Dr David Haddox, was that patients genuinely experiencing pain could not become addicted to opioids because the pain neutralised the euphoria caused by the narcotic. He said that what looked to prescribing doctors like a patient hooked on the drug was “pseudo-addiction”.

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More evidence that the opioid epidemic is only getting worse, by Maria LaMagna

$5o0 billion per year is not chump change. That’s the all-in cost estimate of the opioid epidemic to the US. From Maria LaMagna at marketwatch.com:

The crisis is costing the U.S. more than $500 billion per year

Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Medical care for those abusing opioids can cost $28 billion per year.

The opioid epidemic appears to be hurting white Americans more than any other group.

The rise in fatal drug overdoses is almost entirely responsible for the growth in mortality rates for white, non-Hispanic people between the ages of 22 and 56 in recent years, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Mortality rates for that population rose by 21.2 deaths per 100,000 people between 1999 and 2015, the study found. If drug mortality rates had stayed at 1999 levels, mortality rates would have actually declined for men in that population considerably and risen only slightly for women.

Recent analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that recent increases in drug overdose deaths “are driven by continued sharp increases in deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone, such as illicitly manufactured fentanyl.”

And all races have shown an increase in opioid-related deaths, the CDC found. “No area of the United States is exempt from this epidemic—we all know a friend, family member, or loved one devastated by opioids,” CDC principal deputy director Anne Schuchat said in a statement.

From 2015 to 2016, opioid-involved deaths increased among men, women, people above the age of 15, whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asian/Pacific Islanders, the CDC said. “The largest relative rate change occurred among blacks (56.1%),” it added.

Of the estimated 50,000 Americans who died of drug overdoses in 2015, some 63% involved opioids. That same year, more than 33,000 Americans died of drug overdoses involving opioids, according to a report from The Council of Economic Advisers, an agency that is part of the Executive Office of the President. That’s more than quadruple the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids in 1999, according to the CDC.

To continue reading: More evidence that the opioid epidemic is only getting worse

How to Kill 300,000 Americans with Opioids, by Trey Goff

A step-by-step look at how the government launched the opioid epidemic. From Trey Goff at mises.org:

If someone wanted to kill 300,000 Americans and get away with it, they could not have accomplished it more effectively than our government has accomplished it with the opioid epidemic.

If someone— let’s say good old Uncle Sam—wanted to kill 300,000 Americans, they would go about it as detailed in this step-by-step guide. This also just so happens to be precisely how our government did go about it.

  1. Step 1 – In 1996, Uncle Sam would award a 17-year government patent monopoly to Purdue Pharma to be the exclusive supplier of OxyContin, an addictive and potentially deadly opioid painkiller. This would ensure that they had a massive multi-billion-dollar profit incentive to get as many people addicted as possible without any generic competition to keep this profit motive in check.
  2. Step 2 – To further fuel the use of OxyContin, Uncle Sam would cover the cost of it through Medicaid and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). This would ensure that there were billions of dollars available to fund the purchase of massive quantities of the addictive and potentially deadly substance.
  3. Step 3- For further assurance more people become dependent on opioids, Uncle Sam would enact growth-retardant public policies such as mountains of regulation and exorbitant taxation, exacerbating the link between depression, poverty, and opioid dependence.
  4. Step 4 – Uncle Sam would make pain the “fifth vital sign” and financially penalize any hospital that got poor reviews or ratings for not adequately treating pain, encouraging hospitals to hand out opioids like candy.
  5. Step 5 – Uncle Sam would ban medical marijuana, depriving those in pain of a viable non-opioid alternative.
  6. Step 6 – Uncle Sam would allow doctors to be sued for medical malpractice for not adequately treating pain, ensuring they prescribed even more opioids.
  7. Step 7 – Uncle Sam would then move many opioid painkillers to Schedule 2, which would prohibit refills. This would ensure that doctors prescribed a 30-day supply for patients that needed a 3-days’ supply, just to “keep the patient from having to come back to get a new prescription if they need it.”

To continue reading: How to Kill 300,000 Americans with Opioids

Can We Finally Have an Honest Discussion about the Opioid Crisis? by Charles Hugh Smith

Much is being ignored in current “discussions” of the opioid crisis. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

The economy no longer generates secure, purposeful jobs for the working class, and so millions of people live in a state of insecure despair.
The opioid epidemic is generating a lot of media coverage and hand-wringing, but few if any solutions, and this is predictable: if you don’t face up to the causes, then you can’t solve the problem. America is steadfastly avoiding looking at the causes of the opioid crisis, which is soberly reflected in these charts of soaring opioid-caused deaths:
If we are going to have an honest conversation about the opioid epidemic, then we need to recognize the real causes of the epidemic:
1. The Pharmaceutical industry falsely claimed synthetic opioids were non-addictive, and a complicit, toothless regulatory system did nothing, egged on by politicians who were bought off by mega-bucks campaign contributions from Big Pharma.
2. Our sickcare system is very good at over-prescribing painkillers as a substitute for treating the source of the pain, which is often complex. Our “healthcare” system, much of which consists of endless TV adverts promoting one costly medication after another, is basically a conduit from Big Pharma to poorly informed “consumers” (quaintly referred to as “patients” to mask the actual dynamic).
This system has trained “consumers” to expect a magic pill for every ailment or pain, and any doctor who refuses to over-prescribe is risking blowback from the “patients” and the rest of the system. Americans have been trained to avoid treatments that require effort and changing their lifestyle; they demand a magic pill that works right away, with no effort required.
3. The economy no longer generates secure, purposeful jobs for the working class, and so millions of people live in a state of insecure despair, a state devoid of purpose, meaning, and ways to contribute to their families and communities. People stripped of meaningful livelihoods are prone to finding escape in destructive addictive drugs and habits.

Our culture and economic values share the blame for epic opioid crisis, by Dr. Frank Huyler

About five people in the US are dying every hour from opioids. From Dr. Frank Huyler at nydailynews.com:

FEB. 19, 2013 FILE PHOTO

OxyContin wasn’t a new drug. It was simply a new pill designed to release an old drug — oxycodone — more slowly. Oxycodone was first synthesized in 1916, and is closely related to heroin. (TOBY TALBOT/AP)

In 2017, U.S. life expectancy fell for the second consecutive year. Among all of the disturbing headlines that we’ve seen in the past 12 months, this is arguably the worst, and it should make all of us stop and pay attention.

In countries like the United States, any decline in life expectancy is unheard of. It speaks to very large forces at work, like World War II, or HIV.

In this case, opioid overdoses are to blame. They have quadrupled since 1999, and are continuing to rise. Right now that epidemic is killing more people in the U.S. than AIDS at its peak. About five people are dying per hour — all day, every day.

The story of the opioid epidemic has been told before by the media. But it hasn’t been examined nearly enough. It’s a story that should prompt far larger questions about our country, its values, and its institutions than we have asked.

New York opioid crisis crops up in cemetery where 11 addicts lie

Opioids affect us in complex and mysterious ways . They don’t stop sensation, like local anesthetics. Instead, these drugs work by activating natural opioid receptors in our brains. They change our experience of pain. They replace pain, in part, with pleasure.

Pain thresholds are built into us for powerful evolutionary reasons. Opioids make us feel good in the short term, but they also distort essential mechanisms necessary for survival in a Darwinian world.

Tolerance is the body’s natural attempt to restore those mechanisms. We become less sensitive to opioids, and need higher doses for the same effect. Tolerance is the first step toward physical addiction; the two are linked. As tolerance rises, the risk of overdose and death follows closely behind.

The time it takes for this process to occur is the key to understanding the opioid epidemic. A week or two of opioids may cause euphoria and pleasure, but it will rarely create physical addiction. Given a few months, however, anyone can be made into an opioid addict.