An Epidemic of Suffering

1n 1986, I was just a Junior in high school. I was a 17-year-old girl with no adult cares other than what to wear to school the next day, who was dating whom, or if I had to work on Friday or not. At the time, those things seemed like big issues. I had no idea while I was living in a teenager’s carefree world of school dances and Friday night football games that the idea for a new drug was in its infancy and that it would someday devastate my life. During that year, a multi-million dollar family and company had the idea to “redefine the nature of pain” because according to them…”living with pain means that we are not our true our best selves” and that living with pain has created an “epidemic of suffering”. The real motive behind “redefining pain” was the fact that the patent for one of their drugs was getting ready to expire and they were going to lose 25% of their sales. Their solution…take the time-release system from the drug that was getting ready to expire and create a new opioid. This new opioid (OxyContin) would be designed to treat moderate pain for long-term use. They hid behind the goal of ending an “epidemic of suffering” when really their goal was to create something new to offset the loss of sales of the drug they would no longer be able to sell. How ironic…they were going to end an “epidemic of suffering” when in reality they created an epidemic of suffering.

The love of money, the Bible says that it is the root of all evil, and what you just read in the paragraph above proves that. The rationalization for the development of OxyContin all centered around money….greed. Isn’t it sickening what greed does to people? Greed created a drug that was highly addictive but was sold under false pretenses, saying it wasn’t as addictive as other opioids. Greed caused an opioid epidemic that has affected people from all walks of life…educated professionals, blue-collar workers, the wealthy, and the poor. Greed has led to over 500,000 people dying from opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2021. My son is one of those 500,000 and I have numerous friends who have children who are a part of that 500,000 as well.

It blows my mind that this all started in 1986. I had no idea that it began that early. The idea was born then and OxyContin hit the market in 1996 (just ten years later). I had no idea that it was available that early either. The opioid epidemic started as early as 2005…that’s right…2005. I had no idea that it began that early. But it was all kept so hush-hush. I mean, the public shouldn’t know about something so deadly…right?? There were people who tried to bring attention to the dangers of OxyContin, but they were shot down before they could even get started. Infuriating..right?

All of this started before Aaron was even born and had become an epidemic by the time he was a freshman in high school. It was the perfect storm and my family, along with many others, was right in the middle of the storm. When I think back on his high school years, so many things come to mind, and I wished that I had known what happening behind the scenes. I can see it all so clearly now…knowing what I know now and the picture is in high resolution. It makes that anger rise up from the depths of my soul again…thinking about how it could have all been avoided. And before you say that he made a choice…I know that…but we all make choices that aren’t good ones. Don’t judge my child because he made an initial choice that led to addiction. Think about that the next time you try to diet and find yourself failing two days in…or when you try to quit smoking and fail after a few hours…or when you take that prescription that may or may not be necessary. We all have our vices and just because yours is prescribed doesn’t necessarily make it ok.

I write all of this to say a false claim to end an “epidemic of suffering” was the perfect storm for creating an epidemic of suffering that many of us are living through. Just something to ponder on….

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