Opioids and Capitalism

July 12th, 2017 by Nick Jacobs Leave a reply »

When we first introduced Integrative Medicine practices at the hospital where I was the CEO, we basically embraced a code similar to the Statue of Liberty. It was, “Give us the patients you’re no longer able to help because if we are doing no harm and nothing else is working, why not?”

There have been more than 19,000 educational and scientific papers written on the efficacy of acupuncture, but there are still those hardline or uninformed who believe it’s somehow a fad or totally ineffective.

Of course, Integrative Medicine doesn’t always work for every individual, but goodness knows that traditional medicine has its challenges as well. The point is never to replace one with the other but to complement one another when possible or effective.

The Joint Commission on Hospital Accreditation has just opened the door to at least considering some forms of Integrative Medicine when dealing with the Opioid crisis. As one of my very closest friends recently wrote, “The failure of Pharma in pain management is monumental, and it is apparent to me that we are at the tipping point.”

He went on to say, “The Joint Commission has endorsed the use of independent licensed practitioners in the pain management journey, and Integrative Medicine brings a philosophy and clinical approach which is not well understood but is being received with greater acceptance. Clearly, economics and power have driven the country into this opioid crisis and have greatly delayed a transformation process that is not Pharma oriented.”

Back in the early 2000s, I had an opportunity to interact with the lead scientist from a major pharmaceutical company. He had visited our research center where we were endorsing both personalized and integrative medicine. As I drove him to the airport to board his company’s private jet, he turned to me and said, “You don’t understand the pharmaceutical industry.” My response was, “Clearly, I don’t” to which he responded, “The pharmaceutical industry is like the movie industry. We are only looking for the blockbusters. We want to give you a pill from the time you’re 5 until you’re 85 that never cures you.”

Well, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams with the opioid crisis. One of my emergency room physicians once told me that as little as one prescription of an opioid can cause addiction. Obviously, it depends on the pharmacogenomic profile of the patient, but some of us are addiction prone and our reactions to pain meds are dramatic.

One of the very sad examples of the savage capitalism involved in getting hundreds of thousands of patients addicted to these meds is that opioids also contribute to constipation. Consequently, pharma has come out with a new drug to sell the addicted that helps them with that drug caused problem as well.”Heal with a pill?”

I recently read a set of statistics that seemed not only overwhelming but also disconcerting and pathetic. The use of Vicodin has grown from 112 million doses in 2006 to 131 million in 2017. Per an ABC News report, the United States makes up only 4.6 percent of the world’s population but consumes 80 percent of its opioids and 99 percent of the world’s hydrocodone, and now that heroin is less expensive than Vicodin or other opioids, we have rampant drug addiction in our country.

More people are dying of overdoses in our country now than auto accidents, and, according to a quote from public health and law enforcement officials, painkillers are now responsible for more deaths than crack and black tar heroin in the 1970’s and 80’s combined.

So, the issue isn’t one of pain. We know that people have pain. The issue is how to treat that pain. The opioids were originally created to deal only with terminal patients.

When will the system recognize that mindfulness, acupuncture, visual imaging, controlled stretching, and other integrative modalities may be part of the answer? How about now?

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