Is the American Opioid Crisis Unique?
The misuse of opioids has become an epidemic in the U.S. in recent years as rates of addiction and overdose continue to skyrocket. There has been plenty of discussion and conjecture about what caused this epidemic and who is to blame for the rampant abuse of opioids. Although the medication is inherently addictive, there are lot of uniquely American cultural factors that may play a role including the development and advertising of pain medication.
In the U.S. opioids have always been used to treat pain and changes in the way it has been regulated have been used to stem the tides of abuse. Heroin was once commonly used as pain medicine in America until it was criminalized in 1924. Opioid use in the form of heroin became an underground drug problem until prescription became popular again in the 1990s.
Pharmaceutical companies heavily advertised drugs like Oxycontin with dubious claims that they were not addictive. Doctors were taught to more aggressively use painkillers to treat various kinds of pain issues under the belief that they were not harmful. The marketing tactics used by Big Pharma are a major reason why opioids became so widespread and started to cause developing addictions across the country.
There are many aspects of American culture that may be to blame for the opioid epidemic including mental health issues, attitudes about pain and how to treat it and problems with regulating medication. One of the biggest causes however is the marriage of marketing and medicine that led to some unscrupulous advertising tactics influencing physicians and patients alike. The culture of capitalistic opportunity at the expense of people’s health is a uniquely American problem that has been a major factor in the abuse of opioids and the developing epidemic in the country.