Media Escalates Opioid Abuse and Death Narrative

Kaiser and Media Escalate Opioid Abuse and Death Narrative National Pain Report 11/28/16

Publishing information that is intentionally worded to advance alarmist propaganda is the opposite of what a health organization should be doing.

Kaiser has become a source of Fake News:

The latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll has generated significant media attention, further inflating the narrative about opioid abuse and death.  If all you see are the numbers that hit the press, you’d be misinformed.  

Here are the data points from the Kaiser Poll that fueled the headlines:

  • 6% of those surveyed said they had abused painkillers
  • 25% know a close friend or family member who has abused painkillers
  • 45% are acquainted with people who have used these medications without a prescription
  • 39% know someone who became addicted
  • 16% report knowing a person who died from an overdose of pain medication
  • 9% said they’d lost a relative or good friend to an overdose.
  • 56% of Americans touched by prescription painkiller addiction.

But what is raised is the bigger issue of public perception. Is the whole opioid debate being warped by folks with an agenda?  

Terri Lewis, Ph.D., an expert on Rehabilitation Medicine has this to say:

“Building a survey to confirm the story you want to tell is so easy,” Dr. Lewis continued.

“Most people will respond based on what they’ve heard circulating in the media, not according to their personal experience. A surveyor can make a ham sandwich tell any story they want.  

Kaiser tells you, the reader, that the CDC says “drug overdose” is the leading cause of accidental death.  

Deliberately insinuating that “drug overdoses” are equivalent to “prescription opioid overdoses” is close to an outright lie.

The Kaiser citation shows that the CDC states there were

  • 43,982 drug overdose deaths (all drugs) and
  • only 16,235 related to opioid painkillers in 2013.  
  • The CDC also cites that there were 33,804 motor vehicle deaths in 2013.

This shows numbers misused in service of propaganda.

The Kaiser Tracking Poll states definitely that “Drug overdose ranks as the leading cause of accidental deaths in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

The entire discussion is patently misrepresented when ‘prescription drug overdoses’ are lumped together with non-opioids, heroin, and opiates prescribed and taken as prescribed,” Dr. Lewis said.

This is the central absurdity of the whole “crisis”: it’s only a pain pill crisis if you lump together all deaths from all opioid molecules, prescribed and unprescribed, legal medication and street drugs.

By now, it should be obvious that restricting prescribed pain medication has not and will not reduce the increasing numbers of heroin overdoses. 

With the headlines focused on abuse and death related to prescription painkillers, it’s deceiving that Kaiser chose a figure that relates to all drug overdoses.  

Why?  Perhaps it is because 16,235 is about half as small a number as 33,804.  It seems that the headline, “Death Due to Prescription Pain Medicine Is Only Half That of Motor Vehicle Accidents!!!” wouldn’t do much for reinforcing the message.

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