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The Opioid Epidemic & Purdue Pharma

The opioid epidemic is one of the most severe public health crises in American history. Over 500,000 people have died from opioid-related overdoses since 1999, and millions more are addicted to opioids. Addiction does not just ruin the life of the addict, it ruins everything they have. It will destroy family, friendships, careers, and everything else it may touch.

Many things contributed to the rise of opioid abuse in the US, but one leading cause was the rise of doctors overly prescribing the drug OxyContin.

The Drug You Didn’t Know You Needed

According to sources, the rise of opioid abuse in America was already on a steady rise since the 1970s. Still, when Richard Sackler and Purdue Pharma strategically introduced the highly addictive drug OxyContin to the market, it really ramped up the abuse potential.

In 1996, OxyContin was introduced to the world by Richard Sackler, the CEO of Purdue Pharma. OxyContin has the main ingredient (oxycodone) that is derived from the same poppy-seed plant that heroin is. Sackler went through several testing stages with rats and with humans. In both cases, addiction was a leading factor in the trial runs. That is to say, they knew it would be severally addictive but still pushed it to market. They were going to be making a lot of money profiting off one of the most addictive substances in the world.

Pleasure + Pain = A Never-Ending Cycle

Purdue must of know what it was doing when introducing the drug OxyContin to the market in the late 1990s. Acting off the most basic human emotions–pain and pleasure (pain being what causes you to need the drug and pleasure is the feeling you get after taking it–hence repeating itself when the pleasure dissipates and the pain comes back), The team at Purdue Pharma put together a devilish marketing strategy to make sales go through the roof and make them one of the wealthiest companies ever to exist.

Behind an aggressive marketing campaign that pushed doctors to raise the dosage and prescribe more pills, by 2001, OxyContin was the best-selling narcotic pain reliever in the country. One of the critical foundations of Purdue's marketing plan for OxyContin was to target the physicians who were the highest prescribers of opioids nationwide. This led the sales teams to go to specific doctors that would prescribe the new drug more so than others—often leading to over-prescribing and higher dosages.

The higher the dosage, the bigger the bonus for the sales team.

Along with free trial runs of OxyContin, Purdue Phramas sales men and women marketed to the masses as less addictive than all other forms of opioids. This turned out to be a flat-out lie, and Purdue knew it was. They still got approved by the FDA, though.

Also, around this time is when OxyContin began to be abused by those wanting a way to get high. Because the drug was so widely available, those with extra pills from a prescription found they could sell the drug for a big profit. This was the beginning of the prescription drug abuse that is such a problem today.

OxyContin and The Rise of Abuse of Opioids

OxyContin's rapid rise in popularity coincided with an alarming increase in opioid-related deaths. The highly addictive nature of the drug, concealed by Purdue Pharma's marketing tactics, contributed significantly to the crisis. Thousands of lives were lost due to overdoses, and millions more were engulfed in the grip of addiction.

It was all too often the case that when someone would get prescribed OxyContin, they would become addicted to the medication after using it for a while. Once the dosage was no longer helping, the doctor would increase it. This was unsustainable. The user would eventually be cut off from the doctor and be unable to cope with the withdrawal symptoms by themselves. The cheaper, readily available street version of oxy is Heroin.

Accountability and Legal Actions

In 2007, Purdue Pharma faced criminal charges for misleading the public about OxyContin's risks. The company paid a hefty fine, but its executives escaped individual accountability. The question of accountability for the opioid epidemic and the damage it caused remains a contentious issue.

As of 2019, Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy as part of a settlement with state and federal governments. The company agreed to pay $8 billion to fund addiction treatment and research.

However, the Sackler family, who owns Purdue Pharma, were not compelled to contribute financially to the settlement. This decision has been a point of contention, given the vast wealth accumulated by the Sackler family from the sales of OxyContin.

Sackler Family Wealth and Current Status

Matthew Broderick as Richard Sackler in the 2023 Netflix Series, "PainKiller."

The Sackler family's immense wealth, derived from Purdue Pharma's profits, has raised concerns and criticism. Despite the bankruptcy filing, questions about their accountability for the crisis persist. Their current financial status and ongoing controversies surrounding their involvement continue to be subjects of public interest.

As of the last available information, the Sackler family's control over Purdue Pharma's operations has diminished due to the bankruptcy and legal actions. However, specific details regarding their level of involvement and influence require updated research.

The opioid epidemic and Purdue Pharma's role in it are sobering reminders of the devastating consequences of deceptive marketing and unchecked corporate behavior. As the nation grapples with the aftermath of countless lives lost and communities shattered, the need for accountability, accessible addiction treatment, and public awareness remains paramount. The opioid crisis serves as a stark lesson on the importance of ethical business practices and responsible pharmaceutical innovation to prevent such tragedies from occurring in the future.

If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid addiction, contact us today for the help you need, for the help you deserve!

(844) 777-5287

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