The opioid epidemic is wildly out of control, now responsible for 115 fatalities per day, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. 10% of people prescribed opiate drugs become addicted, half of those then turn to heroin, explaining why 4 out of 5 heroin addicts began with prescription opioids.
To my great surprise, the CBS news show, 60 Minutes, broadcasted a detailed report this past Sunday critical of the drug industry, specifically the opioid crisis and the company, Mallinckrodt, for its role in promoting opioids for many years, then passively fueling the epidemic even when the tide of addiction and overdose deaths became overwhelming. (Over the past 20 years, Big Media has lost its taste for reporting on problems in healthcare, given the huge flow of revenue they enjoy from the flood of direct-to-consumer drug ads that now dominate advertising revenues, so CBS’ report was a notable exception to this awful form of media censorship created by Big Pharma.)
Is the opioid epidemic an exception, an isolated and egregious example of unrestrained profiteering, ignoring the health and lives of people for the sake of profits? Here’s the real tragedy: The opioid epidemic is just the tip of the Big Pharma and healthcare iceberg. There is plenty more beneath the surface, given the cutthroat and predatory practices widely employed by these industries. The opioid epidemic is just one example of an entire constellation of health problems aided and abetted by the pharmaceutical industry and fueled by its insatiable appetite for profit, an industry I regard as a cancer on the American economy, along with the predatory practices of those in healthcare.
Until 50 years ago, epidemics were products of nature, of living in a world inhabited by creatures like mosquitoes and mice that spread infection, and of urban dwelling that led to poor sanitation and facilitated spread of disease. These were the conditions that allowed diseases like malaria, smallpox, measles, and cholera to kill millions of people. Here is where modern healthcare and public health efforts succeeded in eradicating or at least treating such infectious diseases, yielding the impression that modern medicine could yield health, an impression that people continue to hold today.
The world has changed. Infectious diseases have been largely subdued and we have modern plumbing and water treatment that has made modern life much safer. But what is an aggressive and profit-seeking Big Pharma and healthcare industry to do, now that we no longer have hospital wards filled with people with tuberculosis or cholera? We now enter the era of man-made epidemics, widespread deterioration in health due to factors that we have introduced as a society. We also have pharmaceutically-manufactured chronic diseases, conditions that rely on tainted research, flawed advice, and statistical sleight-of-hand to build a franchise. In addition to the man-made opioid epidemic, there is now:
- Obesity and overweight—that affects 2 out of 3 Americans created by modern dietary advice coupled with the predatory practices of Big Food and the fast food industry.
- Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes—now involving over 100 million Americans, also created by modern dietary advice such as the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
- Autoimmune disease epidemic—8% of Americans now have one, if not several, autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, or ulcerative colitis caused, at least in part, by modern dietary advice to create a grain-dominated diet (via gliadin protein exposure and dysbiosis) coupled with factors such as vitamin D deficiency.
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)—Given recent trends in irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease and other autoimmune conditions, there are something like 60 to 100 million Americans with SIBO, by my estimate. Antibiotic exposure, drugs for acid reflux and gastritis, and sugar-free sodas are among the factors leading to this 30-foot long gastrointestinal infection.
- Austistic spectrum disorder (ASD)—While estimates vary, there is no remaining doubt that the number of children with autism is increasing. While genetics play a role, some form of environmental exposure—chemical, electromagnetic, dietary, etc.—is necessary to unmask genetic predisposition, yet another modern phenomenon.
- Toxic exposures—Exposure to organochemicals, xenoestrogens, pesticides/herbicides, GMOs containing glyphosate and Bt toxin, parabens and phthalates in toiletries, lead in lipstick, other heavy metals grow as industry continues to flood products and the environment with largely untested chemicals. Nobody escapes this epidemic exposure. It means that even newborns who have never consumed herbicided broccoli or mercury-contaminated fish nonetheless contain up to 287 different industrial compounds in their umbilical cord blood via maternal exposure.
- Statin use—Around 40 million Americans take statin drugs to “reduce cholesterol” despite a track record of minimal effectiveness. Yes, statin drug manufacturers and doctors who eagerly drink the big Pharma Kool-Aid claim that statins reduce heart attack by 36-55%, but that is simply not true, a reflection of statistical shenanigans called “relative risk.”
There are more. Bottom line: Drug companies, medical device companies, doctors, and hospitals are not your friends. While you may need some of their services or products once in a while after, say, a tumble down the stairs or E. coli food poisoning, you are far better off and healthier staying as far away as you can from healthcare, conventional dietary advice, drug commercials, and people like doctors who are often handsomely compensated by corralling the innocent into revenue-producing products and procedures. You thereby fail to participate in any of the expanding epidemics created by human error and profiteering.