To hear the media tell it, everyone using heroin in the United States today started with prescription painkillers. This is not even remotely the case.
If it wasn’t for increased opioid prescribing to treat pain, to hear the media tell it, almost no one addicted to heroin today would have gotten there.
…the media cannot leave the pain connection alone when reporting on any facet of this story.
CNN couldn’t help but make the world a little worse for people with cancer pain at the same time by referring to the drug as the “powerful narcotic used to treat cancer pain.” This is untrue. The fentanyl hydrochloride that generally finds its way into the heroin supply is brought to you by your friendly neighborhood drug cartel, not the pharmaceutical industry and is not the powerful cancer painkiller itself.
Recently, nearly 30 people died in the Pittsburgh area when the heroin/fentanyl analogue combination surfaced there. Bless their poor tortured souls, all 669,000 of them [heroin addicts in NYC -ed]. And bless the poor tortured souls of the 70-100 million people with chronic pain. They are also the victims of an epidemic. And they are suffering and dying too. How many have ended their lives because of pain? Whatever the number, without doubt a solid tenfold more have contemplated it.
A combination of developments, some positive
- abuse deterrent opioids;
- increased use of urine drug testing and prescription monitoring programs;
- better risk assessment and use of tools developed for that purpose;
- legitimate prosecutions of those running “pill mills”),
- humiliating pharmacy policies;
- unfair laws so burdening physicians that they abandon pain management with opioids;
- the unfair persecution of some legitimate members of the pain community),
…have made the world a more hostile place for people with pain, has feasibly chased the opioid abusers (and some innocent non-abusing chronic pain sufferers on opioids) of the world out of doctors’ offices and into the welcoming arms of the drug dealers.
Media driven sensationalized statistics, sometimes even quoted in some peer-reviewed journals have served to inaccurately legitimize misleading numbers, or HALF-TRUTHS.
If only our society had not made prescribers more afraid for their licenses and livelihood and not turned our relationship with these suffering people into an adversarial one.
This is what happens when our solution to every drug problem we have is focused on the supply side. “Cut down access and addiction issues will be solved”. How many times have we made this same mistake?
All the anti-opiate propaganda and overzealous enforcement haven’t put a dent in the addiction problem.
As Dr. Fudin points out, when the supply is restricted, addicts just move on to a different drug. Pain patients don’t have that choice so they are losing access to necessary medications – they are the ones being impacted, not the abusers and addicts.