Thursday, May 05, 2016


Political Mayhem Thursday: Prince and Opioids

It's now apparent that Prince died just as he was seeking help for an addiction to opioids.  We don't know the cause of death yet, but the context is becoming clear.

It is a tragedy that is far too common. Death of a drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, and it is opioid deaths that are driving the tragedy to new heights.

I have worked on this issue for several months, talking to doctors, patients, and others. From that, I have come to realize that it will take real political will to overcome this problem. One reason is that unlike street drugs, the makers and sellers of drugs like OxyContin have huge marketing budgets and hordes of lobbyists. Some of what they are doing is downright insidious. I have noticed that when I write about the problem and the need to limit prescriptions, I often get comments from people I have never heard of, who talk about how important opioids are to controlling their pain.  

Curious, I did some research on these commenters. Some were apparently using fake names. A few others were affiliated with patient groups funded by the drug companies. It appears that the drug companies are paying people to comment on social media and push back against reforms that might limit the number of pills a person can be prescribed.  

Now we have two candidates left for president. Will either take up this issue, and be effective?

First Off: I am not surprised that the drug companies have caught up to the now ubiquitous policy of cooking social media and other public opinion barometers. An agit-prop shop in charge of this kind of PR is now almost essential in running a political campaign or dodging one. I cannot tell you how often I am disgusted by the seminar callers on CSPAN or obvious orchestrated comments on blogs and the like.

Secondly. Drugs. I cannot tell you how much I hate them (and hate them more everyday). I am convinced the far too many of the problems I see in my community college classroom are the result of our generally permissive societal attitude toward drugs (although I cannot prove this, mostly as the result of our criminally negligent dearth of data).

We have done a wonderful thing shutting down cigarette smoking and other unhealthy behaviors, but too many opinion leaders (including my fellow teachers) continue to joke and clown around about drugs. We ought to get serious. And I am talking about everything from marijuana to meth to opioids.

I am all for entertaining all serious ideas offered in aid of combating this national scourge on all levels. I look forward to seeing what you come up with.
First - I post as anonymous due to work issues. I will happily PM Professor Osler my identity if it is kept confidential.

Second - Having had multiple surgeries (including three knee replacements over 25 years), mostly orthopedic, I can attest to the need for opioid painkillers for weeks after the surgeries, during the physical therapy period. Not being in pain makes the recovery much faster. that can be easily confirmed with a bit of research.

Third - I always have several doses left over after recovery, so have no problems with addiction. I can also attest to the itching caused by vicodone, morphine, etc. Oxycontin does not have that side affect. That may sound trivial, but trust me, severe itching is no joke.

Fourth - prohibition never works - remember Prohibition? Funding methadone clinics and treatment programs does. We have spent untold billions on the war on drugs, to little or no avail. Spending that money on drug and mental health treatment would be a much more productive use.

Fifth - Marijuana is not a deadly drug, and has many medical uses. Even our neanderthal Texas legislature admits that, and legalized the use of the oil for seizures.

Sixth - All the horror stories about marijuana legalization have failed to come to pass, and those states are making a huge tax windfall, not to mention depriving the violent Mexican cartels of millions of dollars in revenue.

Pass all the laws you want, and grow the prison population and spending on enforcement, and people will still use drugs illicitly.
We have seen this over the years in the USA. Professor Osler's passion for sentencing reform is a badly needed baby step toward a more rational policy. I agree that the current ban on drug research has been very harmful.


Unless laws change the opioid peddlers are here to stay. Wait, not just stay... flourish! With a new array of side-effects products like opioid constipation laxatives, boldly [in a very creepy kind of way] promoted during none other than the Nirvana of ads…the Super Bowl! One would have thought it was a fluke with an exorbitant price tag… but no, creepy Super Bowl opioid constipation laxative ad has been replaced. A better more relatable ad flooded network TV, starring opioid constipated soccer mom. Seriously?! If it were not so dead serious it'd make great fodder for crude jokes.
As for your question, not so sure about Hillary, but I’m sure Trump would negotiate something...perhaps a bigger, better laxative, one that would make America Great Again.
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