Shine That Light BBC – From: A Prescription For Murder To Opioid Addiction
On 26th July 2017, Panorama screened A Prescription For Murder? on BBC 1. The programme highlighted the rare, but devastating side effects linked to anti-depressant drugs as a trigger for mass shootings – particularly in the US. The reporter was BBC Health Scotland investigative journalist Shelley Jofre, who also helped uncover the ‘ghost written’ and now infamous Study 329 back in 2003. Within that Glaxo Study exposé, she helped uncover some 77,000 pages of previously hidden clinical trial ‘evidence’. Today, we still need to look harder for such uncomfortable truths, wherever they lead in our civilised societies.
Further news from across the Pond is not quite “throw your hats in the air” time but at long last, attempts are finally being made to reduce widespread opioid addiction problems. Their scale means that they can no longer be ignored.
These attempts at harm mitigation are in recognition of and response to the opioid addiction crisis sweeping America, said by many to be the leading public health issue facing the Country today. It is a very complex issue with: social, environmental, economic and sickness triggers. The scale and depth of the problem was touched on by reporter Louis Theroux in ‘Dark States – Heroin Town’ as shown on BBC2 last Sunday, 8th October. His style allowed for the toughest of questions to be asked sympathetically, in the sad tale of Huntington, West Virginia – where one in four people are addicted to some form of opiate. His programme conveyed many things, especially the ease with which people with seemingly comfortable lives can slide into prescribed pain medication, addiction. When the pain management opioids are either stopped or no longer accessible people are turning to heroin, or the more addictive fentanyl, which is 100x stronger. As the Police say, when calling on yet another emergency case, “it’s a relief to only find heroin”.
Theroux was his normal amiable self and very light touch about the inactivity of pharmaceutical companies and the reluctance of politicians to take firm action. Clearly, it is complex, but no one can doubt the scale of the problem where drug overdose is the leading cause of death of under 50 year olds, in the US. Huntington itself, has a death by overdose rate which is 13x the US national average – if we can so flippantly call such statistics and lives, ‘average’.
The programme highlighted the human toll of all who are touched by the crisis. From the increasing need for foster homes, to the emergency services, the Doctors, the Dentists and health workers all are collaborating to stem the rising tide of opioid addiction. On the front line is pharmacy chain CVS who in February 2018 will be starting to limit opioid prescriptions to shorter days of supply, for certain conditions and especially to those who are new to pain management. They are also increasing their Medication Disposal For Safer Communities Programme initiative along with the CVS Health Foundation which has pledged $2 million to aid drug abuse mitigation, treatment, recovery and counselling programmes.
This crisis has taken decades to develop and the causes of it will not go away anytime soon, but the oxygen of publicity to get it further up the agenda can only be a ‘good’ thing. Often, we don’t fully appreciate anything until we lose it.