Laudanum used to be a common painkiller in 19th century America. It was the equivalent of today’s vicodin, except much more potent. But it was hardly regulated. In fact, even in the famous mining town of Deadwood, back in the 1870’s, the local populace began to see the proliferation of opiates as an issue. In this rough and tumble frontier town, the ad-hoc government came together and passed an opium ordinance, to control the spread of opiates – you know, preventing an opioid epidemic.
How come, in 2020, we’ve yet to show the same responsibility or initiative as the citizens of the outlaw city of Deadwood?
Oh, wait. That’s right. It’s because opiates are the new gold.
For years, the U.S government has been on the case of one of the largest opiate producers in the world; Purdue Pharma. Since after World War 2, Purdue Pharma has been pumping American cities full of opiates; in some states such as West Virginia, so many pills are provided that every single citizen in the state could overdose on a given day. Tens of thousands of Americans die from opiates every year.
Finally, after years of being protected by antiquated laws and lobbyists, Purdue Pharma has faced a reckoning. After damning evidence showing that the FDA and Purdue knowingly downplayed the horrendous cost that opiates would take on the American populace, Purdue finally plead guilty to a case covering collusion, deception, and greed. An 8.3 billion dollar fine was placed on Purdue – a fraction of their profits in the previous decades. But no amount of money will help those who have lost loved ones or have themselves fallen victim to the terrible embrace of addiction.
Purdue developed Oxycontin, a powerful opiate. It was marketed as a miracle drug, of sorts. The FDA chose to overlook the risks, and Purdue was only happy to cherry-pick the studies to present in Oxycontins favor. None of these studies touched on the terrible risk of addiction or overdose.
While opiates do have a place in a medical setting, their proliferation in the American public is staggering. Purdue raked in billions – as did key certifying members of the FDA – as Americans, trusting their well meaning doctors, continued to consume opiates at a staggeringly high clip. Sprained ankle? Tummy ache? Headaches? Try some Oxycontin.
But soon, the opioid epidemic took hold. A veritable crises, the epidemic has seen hundreds of thousands of Americans die, weather by overdose, turning to heroin after their scripts run dry, or a combination of medications which spelled their doom. All the while, the FDA whistled their tune, and the Sachler family – owners of Purdue and relentless supporters of mass opiate distribution – found their own addiction to money growing out of control.
After pretending for years that the opioid epidemic was not happening, this ruling is an explicit recognition of the deception employed by Purdue Pharma – and others, though Purdue blazed the trail – and the apathy displayed by the FDA. It is the first step in reducing the horrendous cost of this national epidemic.
Various owners and marketers of Purdue now face their day in court, and are being met with contempt. As more information is revealed, Purdue finds themselves running short on alibis. The more cynical among us would say that Purdue knew their product was golden exactly because it was dangerous and addictive. They didn’t need to market it. They just needed to set the line and get suckers like sick Americans hooked.
Thankfully, the American public now knows the truth. Doctors are prescribing opiates in far fewer situations. And incredibly, kratom is providing a miraculous boon for the epidemic; many opiate addicts are able to quit because of the growing knowledge of kratom, and the opportunities of offers both medicinally and in terms of recovery.
As those some 150 years before us learned, hopefully this will be a lasting lesson. Opiates are not to be trifled with, and those who push them onto the public by guise of medical expertise are no better than the average street dealer.