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It is easy to blame addicts for their addiction. This is an age-old and tiresome moral short cut for the lazy and those who have been lucky enough to not be touched by the opioid and heroin addiction crisis. From within the world of addiction recovery, we know that addiction is a complex problem that has its root in a set of causes. Genetic, social, familial, and economic factors all work together to dispose a person to being addicted to a substance. The problem of alcohol alone goes back too far to simply place the blame on moral failures. The case of opioids and heroin is even more difficult to pin down.
Much of the research now places the blame in the rise of opioid use on the pharmaceutical industry itself. For many years, doctors were extremely reticent to prescribe opioids for anything other than the most extreme cases and circumstances. The medical establishment has largely reserved these types of drugs for acute pain form traumatic injuries and even then for only short periods of time. Opioids were used for long-term pain management primarily in cancer patients and other forms of terminal illnesses. But in the 1990s, after a concerted campaign from large manufacturers of Oxycontin, doctors started to prescribe these drugs widely.
Addiction to opioids began to rise and continue to rise to this day. In a span of just over five years, the pharmaceutical industry increased their profits form Oxycontin from under five million dollars in the U.S. to over 1 billion dollars. The rise of addiction came right along with this profit driven initiative.
The leap from prescription opioids to heroin is an easy one. Once addicted to the drugs, the availability and cost of prescription opioids becomes impossible to manage. Heroin is readily available on the street and it is more affordable than prescription medication. As we know heroin has no regulations or controls. The heroin on the streets is often tainted with other chemicals, some far more deadly than heroin.
As we look around for who to blame for the addiction crisis, as if that actually helps the suffering addict, we should be sure to point the blame where it belongs. Many of the people struggling with opioid and heroin addiction began by simply following doctor’s orders. These orders included the prescription of highly addictive drugs that were never intended to be used the way doctors prescribed them. As a result, there are millions of people who have fallen into a desperate cycle of addiction.
Ultimately, for the addicted person, the origin of the epidemic of opioid use and addiction does not matter much. For the addicted person what they need is treatment and long-term recovery options. In order to make these options more readily available, it may be useful for all of us to take stock of how the opioid addiction problem came about. As the powers that be debate how to manage this crisis. We should all remind them that it was a simple case of corporate greed that created this monster. And possibly the greedy profit models that made it happen should be held responsible for fixing it.
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