What is Australia’s ‘opioid epidemic’ ? How is it a rort for the treatment of pain that also involved many local doctors and pharmacists (as well as ‘big pharma’)? Will Australia repeat the full-blown US opioid crisis? And what you should know and why you should be concerned about this?
Until recently most people seeing their GP (doctor) about chronic pain were just simply subscribed some opioid treatment like codeine and panadeine– or stronger opoids like fentanyl, endone or even methadone. Because the ban this year on over the counter opioids has not been explained very well, many people are very upset with the government for allowing the tighter regulations on both doctors and pharmacists (1). These other opioids are not just in the same class as heroin but we now know have often similar addictive and damaging effects: ”According to the ABS, prescription opioids were responsible for twice as many drug-induced deaths as heroin in 2016” (2). Opioids are not just very addictive, but also often cause ‘mental and behavioural disorders’ which can also contribute to related poisoning effects (3)
People think over the counter codeine is basically harmless, but in many people can lead to terrible effects. Conversely many doctors and also pharmacists are just interested in quick fixes and profits. And if you add to that ignorance about the true damage being caused both mentally and physically, you can see how and why many have become just as careless about inappropriately over-prescribing opioids as their patients are about taking what can easily become a damaging addiction. At the time of the ban earlier this year, around 5000 Australian doctors were thought to have been doing this. In this way it was also estimated that 73% of patients describing pain to the doctors were being carelessly prescribed opioids (4).
Nowhere has this wanton lack of culpability been demonstrated to a greater extent than in the US where just one easily obtained over the counter opioid (Oxycontin) is reported to be killing 200 people every day (5). Because of this, in the last week the super-wealthy Sackler family behind this have been targeted with possible criminal fraud and racketeering charges to get them to be more responsible and to stop exploiting for profit the addictive tendencies of the dangerous drugs they are peddling. Indeed, if Australia does not act, then we could easily repeat the US mistake with not just opioids but all kinds of addictive drugs and other similar ‘magic pills’ instead of integrated quality medical treatment (6).
At the end of the day, doctors (and the medical fraternity in general) have got to stop the basic scam here of giving a little ‘magic pill’ to patients without any proper individual or typical consideration of their symptoms and their larger or wider health needs and requirements. Ultimately non-steroidal and anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen are little better for the treatment of pain than the opioids discussed (7) – and they can also damage the lining of the gut, wreck gut bacteria (i.e. the ‘biome’ which really is critical for good health), and cause strokes. There are range of non-opioid pain relief medications that can be used in conjunction with other related treatments such as physiotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, acupuncture, massages, relaxation techniques, and so on. And they must be encouraged and doctors must be prepared to look into the real needs of patients on ‘a case-by-case basis’ – which will require an attitude shift also away from convenience and profit to offer relevant solutions to all doctors and pharmacists as well as all patients and the community in general.
All in all, it is clear that the opioid epidemic and/or crisis is just part of a wider ‘big pharma’ scam to gouge and profiteer while convincing people they cannot take responsibility for their own health, and to use cheaper and even free natural remedies to maintain or regain good health (9). Indeed, governments are even starting to realise that (10). Meanwhile, we should all be aware of how pharmaceutical companies like that run by the Sacklers are indeed the instigator of what might be recognised as basically criminal activity by people who profiteer on the basis of other people’s pain and suffering.
– CKR 25/11/2018