Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The pursuit of #cheppiness

Yet another potentially depressing article on the opioid epidemic in the U.S. – this time in Time Magazine.  It says on average 46 people are dying every day from an overdose, with over 2 million addicted to the deadly painkillers and hundreds of thousands hospitalized for drug abuse every year. Many addicts have taken to shooting as a more efficient drug delivery method, and there have been outbreaks of AIDS and other needle-sharing diseases. So how did it get to this? The article says “it took a tragic combination of good intentions, criminal deception and feckless oversight to turn America’s desire to relieve its pain into such widespread suffering.” The FDA and medical associations trumpeted the benefits of opioid painkillers, and over 20 states passed legislation intended to boost prescriptions. So I was going to say “positivity bias” (a.k.a. "optimism") played a role, too – but perhaps it should not be overestimated. Even after the deadly potential of the drugs had become apparent, the FDA continued to approve ever more potent formulas. And the pharmaceutical companies producing them continued to engage in aggressive marketing practices, occasionally crossing into illegal deception. Their business plans, of course, depended on getting as many customers to use as much of their products as humanly possible. Back in 2012, the libertarian fundamentalists at Reason Online fretted that “the government’s medical meddling hurts pain patients.” Their more recent solution to the “problem”? Let marijuana free!