An Ironic Perspective on the Opioid Crisis

opioid crisis, lynn webster md, the painful truth

Reporting on the Opioid Crisis

I was interviewed by a reporter yesterday for a column that will soon appear in a national online publication about whether naloxone (opioid antidote) should be available for people who may overdose on opioids. Hmm, I thought, who would not support making a life saving treatment available to people we know are at risk of dying without the antidote? However, I was stunned by what she had to say and what her follow up questions were about.

The reporter said that some of the people she had spoken to for the article claimed Pharma profited by intentionally creating an opioid crisis and now wants to profit from selling the antidote. She went on to say that people like me and organizations like the American Academy of Pain Medicine, who receive money from Pharma, are profiting from the harm cast upon society and are now profiting again from supporting the availability of antidote. (I do consult with opioid manufacturers and one company that makes the opioid antidote.)

Since the interview, I have wondered what type of twisted thinking could lead someone to think there was a conspiracy to addict Americans just so they could sell a treatment to prevent deaths from the addicting medications. This sounds like a theme from The Hunger Games. If such a conspiracy were true, it would not only be immoral, but it would be the most egregious type of crime.

Pharma as The Boogeyman

It is easy to make Pharma the boogeyman; they certainly have profited from the ills of society, and have sometimes caused unforgivable harm by not disclosing risks or by advertising false benefits. However, these critics fail to acknowledge or recognize that Pharma is responsible for curing thousands of diseases, including hundreds of cancers, and improving the quality and length of life for tens of millions of Americans and billions of people worldwide.

As we seek to solve the opioid crisis, we must remember that opioids have been used because there have not been any good alternatives to treat acute and persistent long-term pain. As long as opioids are used for the treatment of pain, even it is for only acute pain, the unused medication will bleed into society, contribute to addictions, and overdose deaths. The only way to prevent this from happening is to engage Pharma to solve the problem by discovering safer non-addictive painkillers.

Irony: Pharma Needed to Solve the Problem

It is ironic that the boogeyman may become the hero, because the only way to eliminate the plague of opioid addiction and overdoses while also offering compassionate, safe and effective treatment from pain is to discover powerful non-addictive alternatives to opioids. Public funds cannot do this, nor will platitudes, wishes and accusations.

It will require Pharma to solve the problem.

Isn’t that ironic?


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Copyright 2016, Lynn Webster, MD
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  1. Sherrie Harris on January 31, 2016 at 1:26 am

    That’s very ironic. Why not especially if you know that the pain patient does abuse his or her medication. I believe that you should take as prescribed by your Doctor he writes it for a reason to swallow not crush and snort up your nose. True pain patients don’t overtake or abuse our medications because we don’t want to be without. A addict will take the whole script and in a week or less will be out trying to get something off the street. True pain patients don’t go to the streets for our meds.

  2. Kimberly Johnson, RN, BS. on February 1, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    Until you have been close to the situation, it is easy to sit on your high horse with your golden halo, looking down in judgement on those who “abuse”. But while you’re up there, please keep in mind that everyone has their own story. And all it would take is a fall from that high horse, possibly resulting in a broken back, or other painful ailment, to immerse you in your story. When the judgement stops, when the “holier than thou” attitutes change, when we stop pointing fingers and blaming, when we really find it in ourselves, as healthcare professionals, to get the ENTIRE story, starting at the BEGINNING, only then can this elidemic come to an end.

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