Today, more than 2 million Americans are addicted to opioids. And of those addicted to heroin, 80 percent of those started off with prescriptions.
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So, what’s the opioid crisis, and how bad is it?

Dave Aronberg, the State Attorney of the 15th Judicial Circuit in Palm Beach, Florida, recalled an event from many years ago when he had been working for Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth. Butterworth had asked him to look at a magazine article that showed how Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin, was packaging their products as if it were Advil. As a result, many people died. That is when Aronberg “got his start,” and decided to start figuring out how to banish the opioid crisis from America. But through all these years, Aronberg said, we are just seeing more of these drugs. Sometimes in the form of Oxycodone, and other times as straight-up heroin. Aronberg went further: “Today, more than 2 million Americans are addicted to opioids. And of those addicted to heroin, 80 percent of those started off with prescriptions.”

Aronberg’s op-ed published in The Hill

Aronberg’s op-ed piece in The Hill discusses how the pharmaceutical industry has a reckoning of sorts coming their way. As Aronberg put it: “They are going to have to pay the piper.” Big Pharma recently has been the subject of many local and state government lawsuits, and Aronberg said he believes those lawsuits will be successful (in favor of the people). Aronberg said 200 people will die today of a drug overdose in the United States. The drugs are easier to get, cheaper and stronger. “This is not your father’s heroin,” Aronberg ruefully joked.

There is a sober-homes task force in Palm Beach County that has developed innovative ways to combat the problem. Aronberg said that since this task force has been introduced, there has been a huge decrease in the number of drug-related deaths compared to 2017. Aronberg is traveling the country hoping to spread the word, relay the statistics and galvanize other cities and towns to implement their own sober-homes task forces.

Because the system works on a fee-for-service program, there is an incentive for these industries to keep people addicted to drugs. They want more drugs no matter the risk when it comes right down to it. What happens is that doctors push pain pills because they are in the pocket of Big Pharma. This needs to change. If not, we have to work from the grassroots level with one hand tied behind our backs, Aronberg said.

Why attack Big Pharma now?

Especially when these drugs were wreaking havoc on the populace for many many years? The people seemed content enough to ignore the “pill mill” problem. So what exactly has changed? Aronberg conceded that it may appear to be a random time to start caring, but, in fact, the new addiction to heroin is far more dangerous than the pill-popping of 10 or 20 years ago.

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Posted 07.11.2018 - 10:00 am EST