Could we have prevented it?
The country talks about the debilitating effects of the opioid epidemic. But had we seen any signs of it being as such, could we have prevented it? The opioid epidemic was a preventable one, according to Beth Macy, the author of the book entitled Dopesick Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America. The book talks about how this opioid epidemic started out as a human-made disaster.
Almost two decades ago, Art Van Zee, a doctor in St. Charles, Va, began writing letters to Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of the controversial drug, OxyContin. He asked the multi-million company to investigate what was happening to their tiny town where people started showing up with severe signs of addiction. He witnessed how young people, once full of joy and purpose in life ended up slumped back due to a drug overdose. Van Zee also began seeing older patients with abscessed in their body from injecting crushed up OxyContin.
The worst opioid epidemic in its history
However, instead of doing a thorough investigation, Purdue Pharma bask in its rising sales up to millions of dollars. While people die because of a drug overdose, their net worth increases. What happened back in 2000, should have raised a red flag of drug addiction, but officials failed to notice it. Now, America suffers from the worst opioid epidemic in its history.
“In 2000, a doctor in the tiny town of St. Charles, Va., began writing alarmed letters to Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin. The drug had come to market four years earlier and Art Van Zee had watched it ravage the state’s poorest county, where he’d practiced medicine for nearly a quarter-century. Older patients were showing up at his office with abscesses from injecting crushed-up pills. Nearly a quarter of the juniors at a local high school had reported trying the drug. Late one night, Van Zee was summoned to the hospital where a teenage girl he knew — he could still remember immunizing her as an infant — had arrived in the throes of an overdose.
Van Zee begged Purdue to investigate what was happening in Lee County and elsewhere. People were starting to die. “My fear is that these are sentinel areas, just as San Francisco and New York were in the early years of H.I.V.,” he wrote.
Since then, the worst drug crisis in America’s history — sparked by OxyContin and later broadening into heroin and fentanyl — has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, with no signs of abating. Just this spring, public health officials announced a record: The opioid epidemic had killed 45,000 people in the 12-month span that ended in September, making it almost as lethal as the AIDS crisis at its peak.”
Read more of the epidemic here.