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Drug Company Profiteering, Pill Mills and Thousands of Addicts: How Oxycontin Has Spread Through America

Corruption down the line, from Big Pharma to doctors and the war on drugs, builds a growing epidemic and an addiction-fueled empire.

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The neurochemistry of some addicts (and of those who most abuse the drug), might never have been “normal” in the first place, Kellogg notes. Thus, faulty brain chemistry sends potential addicts off on a quest for self-medication, and for that reason, prescription pills are attractive – and addicting.

In regard to suppliers, Twillman says pharmaceutical companies must go to the DEA and report how many pills they will manufacture the upcoming year. The DEA, however, is mandated by law to ensure there is enough medication available for the people who need it. OxyContin is obviously overprescribed, and to cut the numbers of pills manufactured as rates of use rise seems like an obvious solution.

However, because opioids work well for many pain patients, Twillman was leery of suggesting legal regulations that require doctors to use alternate pain treatments. Instead, he supports a crackdown on pill mills and guidelines that recommend treatments like acupuncture, chiropractic, local anesthetic patches, and a wealth of other action.

Taking OxyContin off the market would not only endanger pain patients, but addicts as well. Sick from withdrawal, they would increasingly turn to heroin, which could be impure, and therefore dangerous.

To minimize the surplus of Oxy in circulation, several states, including Florida and Ohio, are passing laws to regulate and stop pill mills. Though laws to regulate pill mills may be a step in the right direction, the government’s reaction to prescription pill abuse is fundamentally flawed. Purdue Pharma intentionally misled the public in advertisements designed to boost demand, profit-hungry doctors overprescribed highly addicting drugs, and parents left excess prescriptions in medicine cabinets. Rather than focus on why addicts use (like naturally flawed opioid receptors in the brain), the government focuses on jailing street dealers and addicts who are in dire need of life-long treatment.

At this point, Pandora’s box is open. Oxy addiction is widespread, and regulating the drug will result in higher numbers of heroin use. As was evidenced in Russia’s attempts to crack down on heroin, addicts will do nearly anything, including injecting flesh-rotting house-held chemicals, to avoid withdrawal. The time has come to pursue legal action against the real dealers – the manufacturers and the doctors in their pill mills – and apply money from lawsuits against them to treat the sick before the death toll rises and thousands more people face addiction that could change their brain chemistry indefinitely.

Kristen Gwynne is a freelance writer and editorial assistant at Alternet.