❝ The U.S. opioid epidemic left roughly 30,000 people dead in 2014 — with overdose deaths outnumbering fatalities from car accidents in 16 states.
In his book, “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic,” Sam Quinones, a former reporter for the Los Angeles Times, traces the history of this epidemic, and the forces that fueled the crisis to grow, unnoticed and unabated for years.
❝ The story begins in the “ranchos” of one small Mexican community, continues at paid speaker training seminars in Boca Raton, Fla., and slowly unravels in places like Portsmouth, Ohio; Huntington, W.Va.; and Denver.
Quinones met with addicts and others who’ve witnessed the crisis up close. He spoke with scientists, physicians, marketing representatives, and former drug dealers. He spoke with MedPage Today (MPT) about his quest to answer the question — how did this epidemic happen?…
❝ MPT: What surprised you the most when you spoke with healthcare professionals about the opioid epidemic?
Quinones: I guess how many of them actually bought the idea that you could prescribe [opioids] without any consequences. That was weird…but when you have forces of economics and law and culture and peer pressure all in play, things like this can happen…
❝ MPT: What about the environment physicians were working in as the opioid epidemic began to grow?
Quinones: Being a doctor in certain areas is a withering, wearying job, because you are constantly confronted with people whose health is part of a much larger issue — lack of work , maybe a culture of poverty, poor diet, there’s a long list of things. People tend to look at these doctors like keys to life strategies; a linchpin to a survival strategy: ‘Get me workers comp.’ How do I get [supplemental security income]?’ The only way you can get that is with a doctor…
❝ MPT: What responsibility do healthcare providers have for the opioid crisis, and how can they help to resolve it?
Quinones: I feel for doctors. They were in a very difficult place. If they didn’t give people these pills, then people might be in horrible pain, and if they did, they might risk addiction.
RTFA. There’s a lot more – covering a broader analysis. Maybe you should read Quinone’s book.
My central criticism of the epidemic reflects the use of doctors to perform means testing to satisfy conservative creeps in Congress. The concept of healthcare as a privilege, not a right, permeates our politics. It’s lousy economics. It’s lousy politics. Neither of which means much to the beancounters Americans keep electing and re-electing.