In the media, prescription drugs are sold as miracles that can cure any ailments. But how does a society deal with the fact the solution is becoming a new problem. The wonders of prescription opioids are sold to the public via video news releases created by pharmaceutical companies. VNR are used because they are pre- packaged media that looks more like news and may be more credible than advertisements. VNR’s can include third party advocates who pose or are experts that lend credibility to a media campaign, thus positively influencing public opinion.
Traditionally after surgeries, cancer treatments, and or serious injuries, medical professionals prescribe opioids to their patients to help them manage the subsequent pain. The most commonly prescribed opioids are oxycodone, methadone and hydrocodone. However, lately patients are given prescriptions for opioids as a treatment for chronic pain. Physicians are providing strong pain relievers for patients who complain of back pain, or pain related to osteoarthritis. This phenomenon has led to record breaking numbers of people who either currently are, or are becoming addicted to prescription opioids.
Prescription opioid abuse is on the rise in large part because such drugs are highly addictive. Withdrawal symptoms can occur in people who stop taking them in a matter of weeks. The CDC estimated that in 2014 almost two million Americans depended on, or abused prescription opioids. During the time period from 1999 to 2014, around 165,000 people have died from overdoses associated with prescription/legal opioids in the United States. This statistic is astonishing because in fifteen years’ deaths from legal opioid sales quadrupled from decades prior. In the same time period, sales of prescription opioids had quadrupled, when compared to previous decades in the 20th century. Currently, in the United States half of all opioid overdose deaths are related to prescription opioids.
One death that is attributable to prescription opioid abuse was of the singer Prince. According to the police report, several prescription opioid pill bottles were found at Prince’s house. The day that Prince died, his doctor (a pain and addiction specialist) sent his son to save Prince’s life with buprenorphine. Buprenorphine is a drug that helps people get off opioids. Although there are certain risk factors that increase someone’s chances of abusing prescription opioids, one lesson that can be learned from Prince’s tragic death is that anyone can develop the problem.
Media coverage regarding use of prescription opioids, as presented in various CNN links throughout this article, are conveying the harsh truths about this public health epidemic. However, I do not believe they are addressing the problem. Although, the reports are verified and supported by third party advocates-like doctors and public health officials- they are still not able to convince the public of the crisis. Patients are still asking their doctors to prescribe opioids without any hesitancy. There is a culture in modern American medicine to find an instant cure for an ailment, in the form of a pill. Sometimes a pill is not the answer, but a new problem.
- By : Bushra Raza