Monday, August 20, 2007

Shooting Up in America (without a syringe) and with Doctor Approval

The amount of five major painkillers sold at retail establishments rose 90 percent between 1997 and 2005, according to an Associated Press analysis of statistics from the Drug Enforcement Administration. More than 200,000 pounds of codeine, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone and meperidine were purchased at retail stores during the most recent year represented in the data. That total is enough to give more than 300 milligrams of painkillers to every person in the country.

Oxycodone is most responsible for the increase. It is the compound used in Oxycontin. It became known in the 90's as "hillbilly heroine" for its profound use in Appalachia, but is now as common in St. Louis and Florida as Appalachia.

The DEA figures analyzed by the AP include nationwide sales and distribution of drugs by hospitals, retail pharmacies, doctors and teaching institutions.

One of the reasons for the explosion in legal drug sales is: "The population is getting older. As age increases, so does the need for pain medications. In 2000, there were 35 million people older than 65. By 2020, the Census Bureau estimates the number of elderly in the U.S. will reach 54 million." In my mind this is not a reason, but a rationalization.

Two other reasons cited seem to paint the real picture: Drug makers have embarked on unprecedented marketing campaigns. Spending on drug marketing has gone from $11 billion in 1997 to nearly $30 billion in 2005, congressional investigators found. Profit margins among the leading companies routinely have been three and four times higher than in other Fortune 500 industries.

Thirdly, A major change in pain management philosophy is now in its third decade. Doctors who once advised patients that pain is part of the healing process began reversing course in the early 1980s; most now see pain management as an important ingredient in overcoming illness. See above reason number two. The marketing campaign by drug makers is not just us, but doctors insisting on them pimping their drugs to us.

The number of emergency room visits from painkiller abuse has increased more than 160 percent since 1995, according to the government. An example given in the article is the sprawling area of Myrtle Beach and represents a microcosm of what is occurring all over America. Oxycodone distribution in Myrtle Beach over an eight year period increased 800 percent partly due to a campaign by Purdue Pharmaceuticals of Stamford, Conn. The company plead guilty to lying to patients, physicians and federal regulators about the addictive nature of the drug. Use of other drugs soared in the area, too: Hydrocodone use increased 217 percent; morphine distribution went up 180 percent; even meperidine, most commonly sold as Demerol, jumped 20 percent.

The U.S. attorney for South Carolina secured a 58-count indictment in June 2002 against seven physicians and one employee of the Comprehensive Care and Pain Management Center, in downtown Myrtle Beach.

This is an epidemic in my mind. I visit the local doctor and if I sit there for a half an hour and any number of cheer leading/football frat boy types walk-in with their slick clothes and brief cases pimping drugs to doctors who in turn pimp them to us. Recently my PCP (no, not drugs) Primary Care Physician told me that the definition of addiction has been changed. I said really? Yes, he said no longer do you have to be addicted to drugs, but you have to steal or commit a crime to obtain the drugs. So, as long as you are being pumped full of drugs by a pharmacy, a doctor or a drug company that is ok. But, god forbid you are on the street and steal for it, then you are behind bars. I wonder who had a hand in changing the legal definition.

No wonder Rush continues to soar in the ratings. He is not addicted according to the new and improved text book definition of addiction, he is merely embarking upon "pain management." Although his trip down to the Dominican Republican made him "violate the law" and be legally addicted.

We are truly living in Alice in Wonderland.

No comments: