Re: Drug crisis

Theresa Nolan recently expressed her belief that our nation’s drug crisis was not caused by doctors over-prescribing opioids. She supports her theory by citing CDC data which indicates 1) that “only” about 18,000 deaths in 2017 involved a prescription opioid, and 2) that half of drug-related deaths in 2017 involved fentanyl and heroin.

As to the first point, I’ll say this to Ms. Nolan: 18,000 deaths due to overdose of a prescription opioid is not insignificant. 

That figure alone qualifies the opioid overdose crisis in America as an epidemic. 

I am sorry to see that Ms. Nolan does not grasp the severity of the issue and chooses instead to fold prescription opioid overdose deaths in with fentanyl and heroin overdose deaths in order to diminish the impact and severity of the problem prescription opioids actually present in this country.

On the second point, Ms. Nolan clearly has not educated herself on the cycle of drug use and abuse that feeds the opioid epidemic. 

While it is true that many overdose deaths involve drugs like fentanyl and heroin, it is simply not accurate to say that prescription opioids played no role in the death of people who overdosed on illicit street drugs like heroin. 

If Ms. Nolan had actually studied this problem, she would know that the vast majority of people who overdose on heroin became addicted to its effects by way of prescription opioids.

The common cycle generally goes like this:

First, a patient is prescribed a prescription opioid to manage pain.

Second, the patient develops a dependency on the prescription.

Third, the patient’s prescription expires and the patient seeks out prescription opioids on the black market.

Fourth, the patient is priced out of expensive “street” prescription opioids and opts for a cheaper option, like heroin.

Fifth, the patient fully substitutes prescription opioids with heroin and becomes dependent on it.

I’m sorry, Ms. Nolan, but when prescription opioids directly cause 18,000 overdose deaths per year and indirectly cause another 18,000 deaths per year, prescriptions are indeed part of the problem. 

Drug companies knowingly forced this crisis on the American people in the name of profits and must be held accountable for their actions.

Brad Westmoreland

Yuba City

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