Hooked On Legal Drugs

Ann Silversides explores opioid abuse in Canada and the US, and the failure of drug companies and government in curtailing abuse:

When OxyContin was approved—1995 in the United States, the following year in Canada—Purdue Pharma began to aggressively market the drug for chronic-pain patients. In the US, alarm bells went off within a few years. In 2003, the US General Accounting Office, at the request of Congress, published a report on OxyContin abuse and diversion that noted the company’s marketing campaign. Four years later, the US Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations announced that Purdue had agreed to pay more than $600 million “to resolve criminal charges and civil liabilities in connection with a long-term illegal scheme to promote, market and sell OxyContin, a powerful prescription pain reliever that the company produces.”

One thing worth noticing: the suicide rate from prescription drugs has soared in the last decade or so. For eleven consecutive years, drug overdose deaths have risen in America, from 4,000 in 1999 to 16,000 by 2010, according to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control. An increasing proportion of the suicides are due to prescription drugs – opiate pain-killers like Oxycodone leading the way, but often combined with anti-anxiety medications. 60 percent of all drug overdoses now contain legal drugs. And yet we criminalize a plant that cannot kill anyone.