Epidemic starts with pain medicine

If the laws of this land are intended to produce the greatest good for the greatest number of citizens, then certainly justice is not being served when it comes to opiate-based pain pills.

According to readily available data from federal government agencies:

l Heroin addiction has increased by more than 50% in the last decade.

l 80 percent of heroin users started with legally prescribed opioid pain pills.

l Big pharma began aggressive marketing of opioid pain pills in the 1990s

l General physicians receive financial incentives for prescribing opioid pills.

l More Americans die from opioid overdoses than car accidents

l Pain pills cause more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.

l Oxycodone prescriptions increased 886% since 1997.

On Feb. 27, Ohio’s Attorney General and former U.S. Sen.Mike DeWine graciously held a town hall-style meeting in Warren to assuage area residents’ growing concerns over the statewide epidemic of heroin abuse. However, DeWine’s closing remarks did little to disguise his meeting’s intended therapeutic purpose, “Well, we didn’t expect to have all of the answers here today. It’s not easy. If it was that easy it would have already been done.”

Truly, it isn’t always easy to do the right thing, especially when the opioid pain pill industry has recently grown into a $13 billion annual juggernaut, but we have no morally acceptable alternative. Please write to your state and federal representatives admonishing them to write tougher laws regulating opioid pain pills.

Ironically by the end of the meeting nobody had mentioned changing our laws to drastically limit over-prescribing the most dangerous drugs on the market in spite of an obvious conflict of interest between our healthcare system’s hippocratic oath and pocketbook.

It is unconscionable, and therefore it should be illegal, for any physician’s expert medical opinion to be whored and seduced by pharmaceutical companies with lavish junkets to resorts or lucrative training “stipends.” Therefore, it wouldn’t be that hard to turn this spigot off, would it?

At the meeting in February, I stood up and very loudly made the above points known. I guess I was a little too passionate because I offended an elderly gentleman suffering from severe arthritis. He suggested I was trying to kill him because he couldn’t live without his pain pills. I promised him “Nobody wants to keep medicine from the relatively few people who honestly need it.”

But considering that America uses 80 percent of the world’s opioid pain medicine and makes up only 5 percent of the world’s population … our health care advocates have obviously abandoned their primary cause to advocate on behalf of their bank accounts!

A local addiction expert from Trumbull Addiction and Rehabilitation Services, Sharon Norman, told me, “You don’t have a clue what addiction is about.” She adamantly claimed “laws can never make addiction go away.” We had a spirited discussion before I admitted I have a lot to learn and asked her to please teach me what is at the heart of addiction.

Sharon explained “the heart of addiction is the lack of self love” and continued, “We need to teach parents and children to accept themselves as they are before it’s too late.” Interestingly, the more she explained it, the more my spirit discerned the empty heart of addiction …

America’s addiction problem stems from our society’s spiritual confusion of what constitutes self-love in the first place. We have all been brainwashed by an ever-rising perennial flood of consumer advertisements that deceive us into believing “it’s all about me.’ Addiction is a reality check exposing the mindless lusts of our flesh to be the exact opposite of self-love. Besides, our most meaningful life experiences are always selflessly shared.

True self-love means getting in touch with your incorruptible soul by selflessly communing with our Creator through acts of brotherly love. First, the soul must transcend the body. Common sense even tells us true love requires much more than your flesh.

This brings up the greatest irony of our nation’s opiate-based disaster. All of the suffering and loss caused by our collective attempt to avoid pain and suffering ultimately gives us a chance to show our love, one for another. For where there is great pain and loss there can also be great compassion and many opportunities for forgiveness. After all, when this life is said and done, every tear we shed out of our hearts will be worth far more than all of big pharma’s billions and this nations’s earthly laws.

Maybe it’s not as difficult as the bean-counting politicians are making it seem.

“To your strongest convictions add morality, wisdom, self-control, perseverance, brotherly love, and compassion. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep your soul from meaninglessness in your walk with God.” (Herm’s translation) 2 Peter 1: 5-8.

Herman is a Warren resident. Email him at editorial@tribtoday.com