by Jon Biddle


I recently watched the Louis Theroux BBC program on Forbidden America while reading a book about the Sackler family and the OxyContin prescription disaster called Empire of Pain written by Patrick Radden Keefe. Spawning an addiction epidemic which, if you read about the Sackler family in a fictional context, it would read like a Jeffrey Archer style story which would come across as something quite unbelievable.

And yet, in the land of the free, the far right is at some point going to take over the political spectrum, bringing with it many catastrophes. Coupled with an out-of-control opioid addiction; the land of the free will not be that free anymore.

So where has all of this gone wrong?

This is something which is out of control with the guilty parties living a lavish lifestyle on the back end of so much misery. Wrapped up with so much legal protection, there is little hope of seeing any of these creatures having to defend themselves in a court of law.

I can’t believe the numbers. Large swathes of America have been left as a wasteland to the addition of opioids. The deaths are nothing short of staggering, and yet this family, through the use of money, has so far insulated themselves from any personal prosecution. Even to the point of thinking, society should thank the Sackler family for what they brought to the marketplace.

This is an interesting question. In the right hands and with the right marketing, I think OxyContin would have still been a fundamental change in the medical profession. Having a slow release opiate for the chronic pain and terminally ill would have given more life to people otherwise doomed to a life of miserable pain and then an agonising death. The issue here isn’t the drug itself which we have to differentiate from. It’s how they cascaded it to the masses, ‘have a sore knee, here are some drugs,’ ‘stubbed your toe, have some of these,’ ‘sore throat; no problem, take these.’

The addictive properties have nothing to do with an addictive personality, which we know is poppycock. The drug takes hold and spirals the user into a life of addiction and as the body gains an intolerance, the need to that high can only be achieved by upping the dose. This is where the deaths occur. The human body can only tolerate so much morphine (opiate) in the system. If Morphine makes you comfortable during your end-of-life care, the higher the dose, the closer you are to walking through the pearly gates, I see this every day in my work, the agonising dilemmas doctors face knowing when they hit the button, this will probably kill the patient; addicts don’t get let off the hook here.

What happens physiologically, you slump into a deep unconscious state and your respiratory drive stops. Cardiac arrest follows soon after and then you’re dead. The get-out-of-jail free card here is Narcan or Naloxone, a drug which can reverse the effects of morphine in the system. Administered usually by a medical professional, but recently, police officers have started carrying this drug. As the police are ordinarily first on scene, time is of the essence when someone has taken a morphine overdose.

In 2021, 1000,300 opioid overdose deaths happened in the US, the Centre for Disease Control have published the deaths from 1999 to 2020. The deaths total is an eye watering, jaw dropping 841,000 deaths directly attributed to opioid overdose. Of this total, 500,000 result from prescription supplied by a medical professional. THIS IS JUST AMERICA.

Historically, let’s put these figures into context so we know the deaths in the last 25 years show such a sharp rise in numbers. Remember, these numbers aren’t hypothesis, this is quantitative data from the Center For Disease Control.

In 1988, the US recorded 5,000 opioid deaths linked to heroin, 3,000 in 1979. This was at the time considered an epidemic and caused massive changes in the drug enforcement program, another book you should read The New Jim Crow, written by Michelle Alexander which is a bit of a segue, but a book which must be on your must reads. This will pull into context the mass incarceration of black and brown community and the political handling.

Back to the post. Overlay these numbers. In 1979, the deaths recorded equalled to 9 deaths per day, in any day in the US in 2021. This figure is a staggering 284 deaths a day.

When you bring the evidence of media, it’s difficult to shake off the negativity that it creates and not form an opinion.

The current book I am reading is called the Milk of Paradise, written by Lucy Ingles and the world’s fascination and addiction to opium. As a medical professional, opioids and opiates are an incredible drug of choice in the management of pain. The downside is over use which leads to addiction which is not personality dependant. Addiction to the opiate compound creates physical withdrawal. This book is an incredible tale of discovery and excitement. Little did I know anything about opium prior to the 1600s. And yet the opening chapters talks of the Roman Empire. Spanning the known world at the time for nearly a thousand years, used the opium from the poppy to aid pain relief and anaesthesia. Here I was thinking anaesthesia was something quite new in terms of relativity. The Roman Empire ended with corruption, greed, and perversion. Segregation and imperialism infected the core of the Roman Empire. Is it me, or does this sound familiar?

Today, the western world is equally corrupted. Take the Sackler family (other demigod personalities are also available) — which splash across our headlines. As a civilisation, we are greedy. I am, I will hold my hand up. Every year I change my phone. I go on holiday to Dubai or anywhere where the sun shines and, of course; we allow all manner of perversion to dictate our life’s journey. What separates us from the Romans? Have we run our cycle? Are we to self destruct and allow a different, more evolved civilianization to take up the mantle?

I have said this so many times; we do not deserve this earth. And if I am sitting here, in the UK, spring on the way, about to be destroyed by Russian nukes or climate change, please, can the next civilisation learn from ours? We really are a poor excuse for humanity to reflect on.

I don’t know about you, but I am getting really confused about what is right and wrong these days. What they brought me up to know as right and wrong seems to be perverted these days. When I was in training, I was told to trust no one; taking a step back from the world, I think this advice is sage indeed.

Photo by Dziana Hasanbekava from Pexels

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