“Get back inside!” the cop screamed. He had his gun out. All of the cops did. Wow! A lot chillier out here than I expected, I thought to myself as I backed away. I think I’ll go back inside.
It started out a morning like any other. Until I heard the gunshot.
It was loud and incredibly close. It made me jump and almost spill my coffee. I froze for a moment, holding the mug a few inches from my face and listened. I heard a hesitant bug screech a little to test the waters — to see if it was safe to resume its business.
People shoot guns in the area, to be sure. But not so close to the houses. Not right outside our windows. I got up to see what happened.
I found out a man had come out of his house buck naked and shot his revolver in the direction of a neighbor’s house and walked back inside.
Just like that. Naked. Why? Nobody knew.
OK. I know what you’re thinking…
Longing for poppycock
Long-time sufferers of LFT know I have an inexplicable (and, believe me, hardly controllable) talent for being in the wrong place at the right time. Close enough to be within range of any absurd, sometimes potentially lethal, action in the vicinity, far enough away not to get killed. Sometimes by just an inch or two.
So consistent is this super power, I’ve been accused of making stories up. Pure fabrications, they’ve said. Just doesn’t happen, they’ve said. “Poppycock” is a word someone used once. Poppycock!
Puh. If only.
The jumpy part of me — that part that now always half-expects an asteroid to land in the bathroom while I’m in the shower or a badelynge of rabid barking ducks to surround me in a metropolitan alleyway in broad daylight or an angry mama black bear to beat down my door and maul the microwave — wishes it were true.
That mostly irrational part of me longs for the poppycock. (No. Wait…)
Constantly expecting the unexpected, after all, is hard business. “Anything can happen” is not a mantra which has much power to put the mind at ease.
After I heard the shot it didn’t take long to hear the sirens. The guy who shot the gun was hiding out in his house. Cops quickly had the place surrounded. A woman walked up near my door with tears in her eyes. I went outside to see if there was anything I could do.
“Get back inside!” the cop yelled from across the way.
Ohio ain’t doing so well
I recently spent a brief stint in my home state of Ohio. It’s seen better days. People don’t seem to know what to do with themselves. So some of them get naked and come outside and shoot guns toward other houses and their wives, scared witless, call the cops.
Others have taken to the latest flavor of the week: heroin.
“This might seem like a small quiet place,” the cop who later came to take a statement said, “but you wouldn’t believe the stuff we see.”
“Like what?” I asked. “What do you mean?”
He shook his head.
He looked distraught. Like he needed to talk to someone. Someone who hadn’t been desensitized by the beat. Someone who would see the true gravity of the situation, like he did.
“We get about three to four overdoses a day. Every day. Believe that? Here! People just dropping. All over. Parking lots. Apartment buildings. And that’s nothing. One city over, they get three to four overdoses every shift. It’s crazy.”
“I’ve seen some crazy, crazy stuff around here.”
“Sounds like it.”
“But it’s not just here. It’s an epidemic. All over. Heroin is killing people everywhere.”
“That’s what I hear.”
A country in crisis
It’s true. Drug overdoses have taken over as the leading cause of death for Americans under 50.
Some people want to treat it like it’s some big mystery — like we don’t know what’s REALLY causing this crisis. It’s too complex for our feeble minds to comprehend, so let’s let the experts pick it apart and get back to us in five years.
Others, like Ray Blanco, say it’s actually pretty simple.
It starts in the doctor’s office.
(Cue the gasps)
Which is why, today, we invite Blanco to the show to explain the opioid crisis — and what’s being done to “fix” it.
The Opioid Crisis, Explained: It’s Profits Over People
By Ray Blanco
On June 5, The New York Times ran a short piece that put the opioid abuse crisis in perspective.
Gun deaths per year in America peaked in 1993, just shy of 40,000. HIV deaths peaked in 1995, around 45,000. And car accident deaths per year peaked in 1972, around 55,000.
Last year in America, 59,000–65,000 people died from drug overdoses.
Yes, that’s correct. Last year more Americans died from drug overdoses than have EVER died in a single year from gun violence, HIV or car accidents.
As recently as 2005, drug overdose deaths were HALF what they are today.
Opioid addiction is the leading driver of this horrific rise in overdose deaths.
The Times article even said, “Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50.” Think about that for a second.
This isn’t about cities versus rural areas. This isn’t about income inequality or education. And this isn’t about age, race, sex, social status or history of addiction.
Americans of all walks of life are dying. In numbers we’ve never seen before. Moreover, there’s no end in sight to the escalating deaths from opioid addiction.
Chances are good someone you know has been touched by this epidemic. You are not alone.
Go to rural Montana, Ohio, South Carolina, Vermont or Arizona. Talk to cops and EMTs.
Go to the posh suburbs of Philadelphia, Dallas, Seattle, Indianapolis or Boston. Talk to emergency room doctors and nurses.
Go to south Florida, the Texas Panhandle, the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest.
Talk to counselors and treatment center workers.
The story is the same.
Americans are dying. People who don’t know what they’re getting into are hooked on drugs they’ll do anything to get.
Now, here’s the thing.
When you see this story on the news, everyone laments the fact that opioid addiction has such a terrible grip on America.
Everyone agrees the problem is severe. Everyone agrees we need more treatment options.
What you don’t hear is how we got here. And what it could mean for the opioid crisis going forward.
“Porter and Jick” — January 1980
On June 2, The Washington Post featured a story about a January 1980 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
This study, conducted by two researchers with the last names Porter and Jick, looked at 12,000 hospital patients treated with narcotic pain medicines.
What the study sought to find out was how often patients became addicted to these medicines.
Out of the 12,000 patients, the researchers found four (yes, that’s right, FOUR) cases of addiction.
Over time, this study would become one of the most widely misinterpreted, misquoted and misunderstood studies in American medical history.
A recent follow-up, also published in the NEJM, found almost 500 articles or citations that failed to examine the real findings of the “Porter and Jick” research.
Namely, Porter and Jick studied hospital-setting administration of pain medication, not take-home pills. But this sentiment was lost. Over and over again.
Quoting the follow-up study, The Washington Post article included this citation of Porter and Jick’s work from 2002: “Medical opioid addiction is very rare.”
And from a 1998 paper, “This pain population with no abuse history is literally at no risk for addiction.”
Sloppy research, bad conclusions and lazy citations in the wake of Porter and Jick’s work provided cover for pharmaceutical companies and doctors.
Pharma formulated, tested, marketed and sold dangerous, ruthlessly addictive drugs.
Doctors, “safe” in the knowledge that the addiction profiles of these drugs were of little consequence, prescribed freely.
And a crisis was born.
I’m not suggesting the opioid crisis is some kind of collusion or conspiracy.
What I am suggesting is you take it for what it is. It is another example of profits over people.
It’s an example of how scientific studies in prestigious, rigorously reviewed journals can be twisted, misinterpreted and used for specific purposes.
It’s an example of how doctors, even with their patient’s best care in mind, can blindly follow consensus and the status quo. With devastating effects.
And it’s an example of how the pharmaceutical industry, never short of drugs that “work,” rarely examine what a drug “working” really means to a broad spectrum of patients.
Now, what do I want you to take away from this?
The Road Ahead
As you may know, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine recently filed suit against five manufacturers of opioid painkillers. DeWine, quoted by CNBC, said that in 2016, 2.3 million people in Ohio were prescribed opioids.
That’s one Ohio resident in five. 20% of the state’s population. Prescribed opioid pain medication. In the course of one year.
Ohio’s only the beginning.
Mississippi has legal action pending also. Counties or cities in West Virginia, Washington and New York have also filed lawsuits against drugmakers.
My takeaway for you is this: The breaking point in the opioid abuse crisis is nearly here.
There’s a major political storm coming.
The race, I predict, for safer alternatives to opioids that still relieve patient pain will be the pharmaceutical boom of the decade ahead.
I predict this for a simple reason. Opioids have failed. They have destroyed lives. They are a national crisis of the highest order.
To solve this, it’ll take doctors, researchers, pharma companies and the government working together. Let’s hope they work quickly.
To a bright future,
Technology Profits Confidential
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