Friday, March 31, 2017

Can't We Look At the Big Picture?

The front page of the Virginia Department of Health's web page says:

Learn More

You can find information there about how this issue has been declared a public health crisis (November 2016). New rules are in place that now keep primary care physicians from managing their patients' chronic pain and instead they will have to send them to a pain specialist.

I feel for anyone who loses a loved one for any reason. But opioids are not the only reason people die. People die from gun shots, too. More people die from gunshots, actually, than from opioid overdose.

Many stories I am reading indicate that people with chronic pain issues are being caught up in this government effort to crack down on opioid drug use. However, from what I have read much of the problem is coming from heroin addicts and people using synthetic opioids brought illegally into the state, not people who are receiving prescription medication from their doctors.

Apparently the government is not making this distinction even though their own reports indicate this to be so:

“As we see the nature of drug addiction shift, from prescription opioids to heroin and synthetic fentanyl, we must be vigilant and ready to respond quickly,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dr. Bill Hazel in a news release from the Virginia Governor's Office.

Even the White House thinks the problem is not with prescription drugs - "In a Wednesday press briefing . . . the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, blamed the crisis on "cheap heroin" flooding the market . . ."

So the opioid drug addiction and overdose problem is really . . . what? Prescription drugs or not?

This article from the People's Pharmacy explains how chronic pain sufferers have been caught up in this opioid crack down. "Many patients suffering long-term severe pain are having a hard time getting relief. We have heard from hundreds of people who never abused opioids or increased their dose," The Peoples' Pharmacy writes. The article then lists numerous stories from folks who feel they are now suffering because the actions of others have made it harder for them to receive the medication they need to live a better life.

Here is a chart from the Virginia Department of Health on Opioid Deaths. According to this information, 801 people died in the state in 2015 from opioid overdose.

Here is a chart that lists the number of gun deaths in the state of Virginia, current as of 2014. According to this information, there were 889 gun deaths here compared to 733 opioid deaths that same year.

As you can see, more people die from gun shot wounds than from overdosing on opioids.

However, there is little discussion (practically nothing) on the Virginia Department of Health's website about guns at all.

In fact, in their list of "health concerns" from A-Z, there isn't a mention of firearm safety or guns.

There is stuff on nuclear power plant accidents, fish consumption, and radon. I wonder how much any of us worries about nuclear power plant accidents. I know they don't cross my mind at all.

In the search box, I finally pulled up a .pdf on firearms, apparently last updated 11/10.

It says this on the .pdf -

I don't know if overdose and poisonings are the same thing in the eyes of the VDH.

Here's the whole .pdf, which I snagged as .jpg before it disappears -

I know there is a second amendment argument in the U.S. Constitution about gun right ownership, but I don't see how we can look at one thing that kills people when a similar amount of people - more, even - are dying from something else.

Isn't that like pointing to a pigeon while denying that blue jays exist?

Personally, I do not know anyone who has died from an opioid overdose, or at least I am not aware of it. My husband who is in emergency services sees it and he says overdoses do seem to be occurring more frequently but he says it is due to heroin, not prescription pain killers. Perhaps if there was not a drug available to "bring back" those who overdose, the number of deaths would be significantly higher.
But his squads also run many gunshot wound calls, most of which never make the news. Those folks are also saved by medical intervention, so feasibly gun death numbers would be higher, too, if our medical heroes didn't have so much expertise at fixing up holes in people.

While I know no overdose victims, I know people who have been affected by gun violence. My friend's son was dating one of the victims killed at Virginia Tech in April 2007. He was shaken to the core. One of my husband's firefighters, long ago, killed himself - he was a nice guy and his wife and I had a lot in common. That shook me to the core.

A very long time ago, one of my father's friends accidentally shot himself in the leg during a poker game. I had nightmares about it for years. I sometimes still do.

About 18 months ago, I was watching TV when two local news reporters were shot live on the air. I am friends with some of the staff of that TV station, and they will never be the same. I'm not sure I will be, either. As a print news reporter myself, it certainly has left me thinking twice about whether or not I want to be out in the public, open and available, a target to anyone.

Why are we emphasizing one cause of death and ignoring another? Shouldn't we try to combat all of them in some fashion (including vehicle deaths, which I know someone will bring up, and heart attacks, etc.) 

Let's follow the money to see who gains from this particular war on drugs, because in the USA it's always about the money. Pharmaceutical companies. Here's an article dated 3/29/17 that says Big Pharma is really behind this problem, the result of a concentrated marketing program.

An article in the same publication notes that the remedy to an overdose, introduced in 2002, "has generated $1-2 billion a year in revenues, first for its initial British manufacturer, Reckitt Benckiser, and the Richmond, Virginia-based company that it spun off two years ago, Indivior."

That sounds like a good reason to sell one drug so you can sell another drug to fix the first drug, doesn't it? Billions of dollars.

The article also claims the remedy is as addictive as the drug it is saving the person from. So more sales.

The pain doctors will have more patients. They are specialists so many patients' co-pays for insurance will increase. (In my case, my co-pay would increase from $30 to see my primary care physician to $50 to see a specialist of any kind, as an example.)

Fighting drug wars in America has always been a losing proposition. From LSD to marijuana to cocaine, efforts to remove drugs from communities have only enriched drug smugglers and criminal organizations.

Wars on drugs don't work.

With Republicans in control of the federal government and many states, gun laws are off the table. The Republicans don't even mind if you're mentally ill and you own a gun.

These are not separate issues. These are one and the same. Both of these issues are about people dying and they are about money. Neither is about your right to live or my right to live, because the people who make the rules really don't give a crap about that.

They just care about their big donors, and unless your name is Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, that isn't you.

We already have gun laws. You can't legally own an automatic rifle, or a Sherman tank. You can't legally own a rocket launcher. I don't want you to not have a gun if you want one. I am a crackerjack shot with a .22 rifle.

But stiffer background checks might save a life, just as making it hard for Grandma to get her pain killers might save a life. So why is Grandma suffering while Joe Gunslinger isn't even having to wait more than 20 minutes to pick up his new firearm?

I could not find a chart that compared opioid overdoses to firearms for Virginia. I did find one for Colorado that I want to share with you. It is from the Colorado Department of Health (apparently they do keep track of gun deaths there.)

Personally, I think this chart really says all that needs to be said. We're chasing after farts and rainbows, people.
Somebody, please, stop and think about what is really going on here. FOLLOW THE MONEY. And always remember that your life really doesn't matter to anyone but you, no matter how smooth the huckster talks. Your life sure as hell doesn't matter to anybody in Washington DC or to anyone who runs a drug company. They just want whatever money you have left.
This issue matters to me. It is personal. I know people who are affected by this new "war on drug" episode. They are hurting and will hurt more.
Maybe the government is hoping grandmas and grandpas will shoot themselves when the pain becomes more than they can stand.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting... in some ways I think your last statement may be true, sadly.


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