Prescription Opioids: The Root of the Problem…


Natalie Untch, Staff Writer

Prescription Opioids: The Root of the Problem… 

By, Natalie Untch and Penelope Park

Christopher Perrato was 20 years old when he got into a minor car crash. His injuries were minimal but because of this he was prescribed opioids, and that is when he fell victim to the opioid curse. In only five days he had become an addict and later overdosed on this drug-prescribed illness leaving his mother and friends behind. 

This is just one of many stories in the CDC Injury Centers Rx Awareness program around opioid abuse. Unfortunately, we come to find that Christophers’ dive into addiction from doctor-prescribed opioids is not unique. 

The US opioid epidemic began in 1991, and since then there have been continuous spikes in abuse. From 2018 to 2019 there was a 4% increase of overdoses related to opioids. We come to see there has been a constant pattern of addictions and overdoses initially beginning with a simple signed prescription by a trained medical professional.

When first introduced to America opioids were given and advertised to patients the same as Advil or Tylenol would be. Companies and doctors continue to prescribe opioids despite the highly addictive nature of them, leading to the start of them becoming a national health epidemic. 

Tens of thousands of people die every year due to opioid overdose, yet many fail to address the problem at the root cause. PRESCRIPTIONS. Institutions have continuously ignored the effects of opioid abuse; in order to aid the U.S nationwide opioid epidemic, there should be an increase in the regulation of professionally prescribed/advertised opioids by doctors and pharmaceutical companies. 

In a study produced by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) it is uncovered that in 2019 alone 10.1 million people were given opioids by doctors. Out of those 10.1 million, 1.6 million became addicted. This is over 10% of all of the people prescribed opioids producing an illness of addiction from this. This makes it clear that opioid prescriptions are a root cause of the vast number of deaths and addicts from opioids in the United States. 

The opioid epidemic has been rarely addressed by the news or the government. The CDC attempted to fix prescription opioid abuse issues by stating that they should only be given in “need” situations. This has proven to be ineffective because doctors have not only continued to ignore this, but are put in situations where they do not know if their patients “need” the drugs. Considering doctors aren’t given any requirements when distributing opioids, it can lead to people taking seriously addictive drugs unnecessarily. 

Pain is a fairly immeasurable concept because so many people have different thresholds for it. But this is no excuse, fixing pain with pills and drugs that will produce more longer-lasting pain in the future is not a solution. Prescription opioids are a root cause of the opioid epidemic which is why they need to be further restricted. 

Pharmaceutical companies are notorious for corruption and unethical marketing, to make sure their opioids are being sold and taken by patients and doctors. Companies use aggressive marketing techniques to have a large audience of people willing to buy their product. Purdue Pharma, a pharmaceutical company, spent 200 million dollars alone in 2001 to advertise opioids. 

Part of their marketing is hiring and “recruiting” doctors and medical education companies. The purpose for promoting opioids as a “safe” drug proven by medical professions. However, these people tend to be given a script and money for their delivered speeches about the safety of opioids. These strategies were created by PR firms, the same ones that help tobacco companies prompt “safe” smoking. 

The government has done little to step in because they also benefit from pharmaceutical companies through the economy. Their lack of action though has contributed to thousands of people dying from addiction. 

Many pharmaceutical companies have relations with health agencies and firms. Purdue pharma had created and distributed the most commonly used prescription opioids, but has also partnered under the radar with other health companies. Johnson and Johnson is an instance of corruption as they were supplying Purdue Pharma with materials to make opioids. Large webs have been built so there are a multitude of health/medical companies assisting with making opioids and reaping economic benefits. 

Some argue that if we have the resources and medicine (opioids) to take away pain then we should use them, but this level of suffering does not measure up to the pain that individuals would face with addiction. It was reported in an HHS survey that 40% of opioid deaths originated from some form of prescription. While for some the idea of being able to swallow a pill and pain being eased is harmless, especially when given out so often, anyone can fall victim to addiction. The pure percentage of people who are getting prescribed and addicted shows a major flaw in how our current society is managing pain. It is a natural process, and although it hurts, it does not hurt nearly as much as becoming an addict or watching the people around you become addicted. 

Doctors are the ones we trust to make us heal. But unfortunately, in the case of the opioid epidemic, they are a root cause of the issue. Medical professionals and larger pharmaceutical companies time and time again have failed when it comes to keeping prescription opioids at hand. Opioid addiction is not a subjective illness, it targets everyone. 

The United States opioid epidemic is not nearly close to being over, this is why we need to further the regulation of prescription opioids. Christopher Perratos’ story of addiction to death was one in tens of thousands of incidents where a signature from a doctor becomes a death sentence.