The opioid crisis continues in North America. It’s not a pretty picture by any means, but sometimes the details are a bit different from what you might expect.
Here are 5 surprising facts about opioids and addiction:
1) Even Seniors Are Addicted
The media paints a certain image of the opioid crisis taking place in American cities and towns. Rampant abuse of opioid street drugs such as heroin, is happening in the hands of young people, with horrific results. It’s true, the effect on people and their families is devastating.
But the fact is, no one mentions seniors. Older adults are somehow considered to be less prone to addiction…because they have the brains of aliens, right?
The American Geriatric Society seems to think so. It has gone so far as to encourage doctors to consider using opioids to treat pain in older patients more often- not just for severe pain.
But is it safe?
NPR.org tells of how this has led law biding citizens like retired tax attorney John Evard, into trouble.
Evard is one of many who followed doctors’ orders and have become addicted to pain killers and needed to seek rehab treatment in their 70’s.
2) The Major Problem is Really Painkiller Addiction, Not Heroin
According to National Institute on Drug Abuse, 4 times as many people in the U.S are addicted to opioid pain relievers, as addicted to heroin. Four times!
It was reported in 2012 that 2.1 million people in the United States suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers, and a mere 467,000 were addicted to heroin.
It’s been 4 years since these statistics came out so they’ve likely changed but chances are, the ratio is similar.
3) Today’s Doctors Claim They Didn’t Know Opioids Were Addictive
This one is really hard to swallow. It honestly reeks- sorry, but it does.
Apparently, America’s own surgeon general stated in a speech at the Athens Ideas Festival in Colorado that his friend, a cardiologist in Florida, wasn’t aware that painkillers are addictive.
Apparently in medical school, doctors in the U.S are taught that opioids aren’t addictive if they’re given when a patient is truly in pain. Apparently.
So, surgeons, family physicians and other medical professionals are innocent and unaware of the problems they are causing when they prescribe addictive opioid pain relievers, and keep on doing so.
That’s why the doctor of my friend’s husband bopped him on the head with his own medical folder and said “Nope!” on his last visit. He’d gone in asking for an additional dose of painkillers after knee surgery.
At least some professionals are looking out for the true good of their patients.
4) The drug Company Bayer Gave Heroin its Name
You might imagine it was some thug in Chicago or a swaggering gangster, roaming the streets of L.A that gave heroin its name. Why? Because it made them a “hero” (quotes important.)
Well, it turns out, the ‘hero’ part is right.. but the origin of the name comes from someplace completely different.
It was actually another big bully name- Bayer, the German drug company- that coined the term ‘heroin’.
Here’s the story: diacetylmorphine is what heroin really is. In 1895, Bayer sold heroin legally as an over-the-counter drug, (no prescription needed). It was a cough suppressant.
The company named their product ‘Heroin’ because of the perceived “heroic” results that it brought about.
Bayer “thought” the tonic was non-addictive, but the product soon had one of the highest rates of addiction to medications among those who took it. Funny how that happens.
5) And Even Promoted It as Medicine for Children
Obviously, opioids should absolutely never be given to children, unless perhaps they are suffering from a life threatening illness, and are found to be in their last days of life, and are suffering severe pain and are under constant professional medical care. But that’s another issue.
Giving a child heroin, however, is unthinkable. But, Bayer, again, seems to have done it.
Unbelievably, Business Insider reports on how, in the late 1890s, the German drug company marketed medicines with heroin in them, to children.
The ads ran in Spanish newspapers and BusinessInsider.com describes how one “urging the use of “Heroina” to treat bronchitis in kids, shows two unattended children reaching for a bottle of the opiate across a kitchen table. Another shows a mom spoon feeding it, (heroin), to her sickly little girl. “La tos desaparece,” the ad says — “the cough disappears””.
Really??! Unfortunately, yes.
As the website comments, this serves as a “chilling reminder of what life was like in the early 20th Century when companies were permitted to sell anything to anyone, no matter how dangerous, regardless of the consequences.”
Heavy but true: the opioid crisis is a tangled puzzle, with a difficult answer.
It’s just my two cents, but maybe if the monetary value of opioids was somehow massively deflated, individuals and companies wouldn’t be so quick to prescribe and manufacture them. And we’d all be better off.