The Danger of Legal Drug Dealers

Remember how in DARE, they always used to warn you that drug dealers would offer the first hit for free, just to get you hooked?  John Hempton writes today how this tactic has been adopted by pharmaceutical companies selling new synthetic opioids.

This charming example comes from Galena Biopharma, selling Abstral, which is a under-tongue version of Fentanyl.  Fentanyl is not a drug with some potential for abuse like, say, the extremely addictive amphetamines in Adderall.  Fentanyl is Seriously Bad News.  It is insanely addictive and incredibly potent, capable of easily killing someone without an already-high tolerance of opioids.  As Hempton says, the recent rash of heroin overdoses on the East Coast are traced back to a single batch of heroin cut with Fentanyl.  Basically the only safe medical use of this is treating outbreaks of more serious pain on someone (like a cancer patient) who has already been a longstanding heavy opiate user.

For all the hoopla about marijuana legalization, the scale of social problems attributable to marijuana pales next to painkillers.  According to the CDC, painkiller overdoses kill almost 15,000 Americans every year.  Unlike marijuana, these drugs are both highly addictive and extremely dangerous, but are handed out regularly due to their importance in medicine.   Yet it is legal for companies like Galena to hand out free lethal drugs with an extremely high incidence of abuse.  This is behavior that may not cross the line of criminal negligence, but certainly speaks to a lack of concern for human welfare and the consequences of ones’ actions.

Legislators seem willfully blind to one of the largest public health crises in the United States, which is addiction.  Alcohol and drug use are the third-largest cause of preventable death in the United States – behind only smoking and obesity and responsible for 75,000 deaths a year.  Between overdoses, drug-related health problems like cardiovascular disease, and accidents, drugs and alcohol probably kill well over a hundred thousand Americans every year.  And despite the fact that addiction and abuse touch almost every family in America, the topic is elided by politics.  Neither party has evoked even the slightest interest in attempting to actually treat addicts as a public health problem.

There is an interesting book to be written as to why drug addiction has ceased to be a political issue.


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  1. Hot Blogs | Thomas the Think Engine - February 7, 2014

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