Two decades after physicians began widely prescribing the drug oxycontin to their patients for everything from post surgical pain to end of life pain management, those in the medical field, state and federal government and addicts and their families are still grappling with the opioid addiction epidemic.
Whether or not addicted individuals are abusing prescription opioids or getting their fix on the street, the opioid problem has continued to expand overtaking the use of other past drug epidemics like meth, crack and cocaine.
Connecticut has been one state hit hard by the opioid crisis. According to numbers released by the state’s chief medical examiner this month, 1,040 people died of accidental drug overdoses here in 2017.
On Monday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced the start of a “Change the Script” public awareness campaign aimed at shedding light on prescription drug and opioid misuse. And federal lawmakers are also trying to bring attention to the issue.
But only recently, have there been serious steps taken to address the problem.
Narcan, a drug that reverses an opioid drug overdose in now available either over the counter or by prescription in 46 states. It is also carried by first responders.
Drug treatment centers are also concentrating efforts on treating opioid addicted people and the epidemic is getting much more attention in the media.
But it is the pharmaceutical companies supplying and promoting opioids that have now come under scrutiny and rightly so.
Class action lawsuits have been filed by cities and towns like New Britain and Bristol in Connecticut, and in other states, claiming drug makers pushed doctors to prescribe the drugs while downplaying the risks associated with them.
While public awareness and addiction treatment is important in fighting the opioid crisis, the focus should be on holding powerful pharmaceutical companies accountable for their irresponsible actions and stopping the flow of opioids into the market.
It is time for Congress and federal regulatory agencies to stand up to “big pharma.” Offering treatment options and lip service to those struggling with addiction just isn’t enough to fight this life or death crisis.