Opioids are a major killer. This poison has infiltrated every part of the American heartland, especially the post-industrial Rust Belt and Appalachian coal country. Working-class white Americans whose parents and grandparents scorned the recreational drug users of the 1960s are now hopelessly addicted themselves. Trey Garrison and Richard McClure have published an easy-to-read book on this scourge’s origins and human impact.

The plague began with a single letter to the editor published on January 10, 1980 in The New England Journal of Medicine. This letter described a study which claimed that specific types of narcotics were found not to be addictive in most patients who had no prior addiction issues. The letter, however, “wasn’t supposed to be a carte blanche for opioids. It wasn’t even a real study. It was a large case anecdote” (p. 18). Yet, the letter was cited in medical literature hundreds of times to show that certain types of opioids were not addictive. The truth is that the claim only pertained to cases of acute pain where the opioids were being administered in the short term by medical professionals in a hospital, not by the patient themselves over a long period of time.

Then came the American Pain Foundation, which despite seeming respectable was actually a money-laundering front for Big Pharma. This organization pushed to make pain the fifth vital sign. Pain, however, is not a vital sign; it is a symptom of something that is wrong. Nonetheless, this push created a culture among doctors and patients to see pain as something to be eliminated through the routine use of painkillers.[…]

Opiates for America’s Heartland — Counter-Currents