Made from the poppy plant or synthesized in the lab, opioids are a wide-ranging group of pain management medications that are highly addictive. Therefore, the medical standard of care had been to limit their use to patients with acute or traumatic injuries, or to patients with terminal cancer. That ended when the manufacturers, realizing that there was a huge untapped market in patients with long-term, chronic pain, launched a misleading campaign to convince doctors and regulators that those highly-addictive drugs were safe and effective for long-term use. Articles backed by the drug makers and published in medical journals as well as pharmaceutical commercials pushed the drugs as effective over the long-term—something that has not been proved to this day— while downplaying the dangerous side effects, including addiction, overdose, and death. Complicating matters further, most primary care providers have not been trained to identify addiction or withdrawal symptoms, and have been hoodwinked by industry-sponsored “medical” articles counseling them that patients who appear to be addicted are actually suffering from “pseudoaddiction,” the remedy for which is a higher dose of opioids!
That misleading marketing campaign continues to this day, and has caused an opioid epidemic unparalleled in U.S. history, an epidemic that is not only responsible for a tide of addiction, but for a documented decrease in American life spans. That epidemic is also straining public services, damaging local economies, and harming whole families.