Author: Justin Mckibben
Overprescribing of powerful prescription medications is just one part of how the current American opioid crisis came to be. While incredibly dangerous synthetic drugs like fentanyl came pouring in from across the globe, the pharmaceutical industry right in our own backyard thrived off of the devastation it was helping create. And as more people became aware of how prescription drugs were contributing to one of the worst drug epidemics in the country’s history, Big Pharma has come under fire for a number of things over the years. To name a few, we’ve seen arguments against drug companies for:
With recent reports, such as the explosive piece of 60 Minutes last month, we have also been exposed to the corruption, greed and a disregard for the well-being of the consumer.
The Big Pharma propaganda machine has paid out countless dollars for criminal and civil settlements over the years. Now even state officials are resorting to lawsuits against drug manufacturers in the fight against the ongoing opioid crisis.
So how did all this happen? How deep does the Big Pharma propaganda go? Some of this you might already know, but some of it might actually surprise you.
In case you didn’t know, the pharmaceuticals and health products industry spends the most money on lobbying politicians. And not even by a little.
Big Pharma and Health Products spent $3,714,580,815
That means that Big Pharma spends:
- $1,134,783,913 more than 2nd place- Insurance Companies
- $1,717,237,691 more than Oil/Gas Companies
The pharmaceutical industry, including dealers of medical products and nutritional/dietary supplements, is consistently a top contributor more to federal campaigns than any other industry.
In essence, drug companies spend big money on politics.
Whether we can always see it or not, this kind of financial incentive is more than likely playing into our current work on policy. For example, moves to pass legislation earlier this year were called into question by one source who pointed out 13 senators who were trying to push through a bill that would benefit the health insurance and pharmaceutical companies were receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from these companies between 2010 and 2016, including:
- Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch led the way with more than $471,000
- Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell with over $433,00 in donations
FUN FACT- Many lobbyists working on behalf of Big Pharma companies have previously held government jobs.
Truthfully, drug companies spend several years before a drug even makes it to the market on planning a strategy for selling it to you. Part of that strategy is proving drugs have value for treatment. However, according to some industry insiders, a lot of the time there is not enough comprehensive data to prove that value.
What you might also find surprising is that some of the earliest information drug companies have published about their products aren’t actually from credible sources. Ad agencies will hire writers to produce articles on behalf of the drug maker highlighting benefits of a drug. But the data is often cherry-picked and incomplete.
These articles are then sold to the public as ‘scientific’ because they are printed and published by some of the biggest scientific and medical publications, such as the New England Journal of Medicine. Those articles are then picked up by television and other news sources.
So essentially, drug companies often team up with marketing companies to fool not just doctors, but the public into thinking their product provides something that has yet to be proven. Big Pharma propaganda corrupts the research into their drugs and makes people believe their products are safer and more effective than they are.
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Big Pharma’s Billions in Ads
It isn’t just behind the scenes that Big Pharma propaganda takes place. Drug makers spend around $21 billion a year just to pedal products through advertising. One big problem for Americans is that many of their promotional techniques have been called out for being false advertising or misleading, to say the least.
- 2015, the industry spent a record-breaking $5.4 billion of direct-to-consumer ads alone.
- The same year, Americans spent over $450 billion on prescription drugs.
Some sources indicate there are about 80 drug advertisements per hour. While drug companies want people to think it is raising awareness, it is most definitely a commercial to sell you something.
Many pharma companies even have deep financial ties to medical communication companies (MCC) like WebMD or Medscape. This is just one more way they can influence physicians and consumers without people realizing the drug makers are funding the information.
Doctors Recruiting Doctors
But the drug makers don’t stop with recruiting politicians to support them. They also utilize doctors to help them push their products. The main target audience in most of the campaigns pushed by Big Pharma propaganda is not necessarily the consumer as much as it is the person who writes the prescriptions.
Drug companies giving kickbacks to doctors is nothing new.
So drugmakers create an advisory board, where some of the most successful and well-respected doctors are put on the payroll with huge payoffs to help drug companies design a marketing campaign that will help promote the drugs to other doctors. Once these doctors have helped highlight the best ways to convince other physicians these drugs work, they themselves validate the drug in a way that encourages other doctors to prescribe the drug.
Drugs to Treat Drugs
A while back there was an ad that ran during the Superbowl that caught the attention of a lot of people. It was an ad selling an anti-constipation drug for those so dependent on prescription opioids that they were suffering from constipation as a side effect.
This is another huge problem with how drugs are marketed to us… in tandem.
Instead of suggesting an alternative treatment, drug companies want to give you more drugs to combat the effects of other drugs. Doctors will often prescribe a second medication for no other purpose than to treat the effects of the first medication. Big Pharma propaganda can literally sell you the illness and the medicine in the same marketing campaign. A 2012 study published in the journal Annals of Family Medicine describes this as “prescribing cascade”.The study indicates that the practice of using drugs to treat problems with other drugs is a key component to the heavy reliance on pharmaceuticals in healthcare.
Another devastating way this has taken place is when doctors prescribe powerfully and potentially habit-forming narcotic medications to combat illicit drug use and substance use disorder. Heroin addicts are being treated with other strong narcotics, which can actually have their own withdrawal symptoms and side effects. They even highjacked the opioid overdose antidote and several makers gouged the prices to offensive new heights during the rise of the opioid epidemic.
Drug Companies Abuse of Americans
Now let us be fair; modern medicine does provide us with some life-saving resources that can be paramount to the health and wellness of our population. Thanks to great strides in medicine doctors are able to treat some conditions or illnesses that were once thought of as a death sentence. Today, we have some of the greatest opportunities to receive quality care with innovative and well-researched treatments.
However, the fact remains that drug companies have been caught red-handed more than a few times misrepresenting their products, hiding the side-effects, falsely advertising their benefits and even recently some huge names in pharmaceuticals have been accused of bribery and racketeering to sell potent and extremely dangerous drugs.
So, what can be done?
- We can take a closer look at how Big Pharma propaganda influences or elected representatives and their decisions on policy.
- We can pay attention to how the information provided by pharmaceutical companies or marketers is not always as reliable as it may seem.
- Look into excessive advertising for potent drugs
- Do more to combat drug makers from paying doctors to promote their drugs to other doctors.
- Pursue other forms of treatment that don’t require expensive and powerful drugs.
When it comes to drug abuse, maybe we shouldn’t let the drug companies continue to make massive profits from a problem they have a large hand in creating. There needs to be more commitment to finding alternative treatments that don’t rely so heavily on drugs in order to help people get healthy.
Holistic drug addiction treatment is a unique and effective way of helping people struggling with substance use disorder. The fact that powerful drugs help cause addiction, let us not forget the value of offering healing options that don’t require more drugs. Building a strong foundation with personalized therapy and innovative treatment opportunities helps thousands of people all over the nation overcome addiction. Palm Partners Recovery Center is committed to providing quality care for those dealing with drug abuse, whether it is illicit drugs or prescription drug dependence. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Shernide Delva
In areas where bar crawls were once a standard weekend ritual, a new trend is taking over, and it does not seem to be stopping anytime soon. The trend is sober juice crawls, and millennials are flocking all over the country to celebrate. All this non-alcoholic fun has resulted in researchers pondering, is sober becoming the new drunk?
Juice crawls are only one of many booze-free events in the US catering towards millennials who want to ditch the booze for clarity. New York is a prime location for Juice Crawls. At one crawl in the big apple, participants forego alcohol shots in favor for juice shots with names like “Dr. Feelgood” and “Kalefornia.”
The Guardian highlighted this trend by visiting a monthly juice crawl event where participants hop from different shops and sample 19 flavors of juices in a 2 oz. plastic cup. This event is just one of many that have popped up in major US cities to cater to the millennials who are now saying no to alcohol.
The people who go to these events are not all recovering addicts. In fact, it is quite the contrary. These juice crawl groups are full of people who would rather engage in mindfulness activities and indulge in healthy juices then wake up with a hangover. While in the past, cutting booze would have been a significant social change, now events like these are more mainstream.
In addition to these crawls, there are now sober day races, alcohol-free bars, boozeless dinner, and alcohol-free dance parties. There is even a sober social network and a dating app for sober people that became so popular, it temporarily shut down.
In these tough economic times, many millennials are opting to stay away from alcohol. A recent study on millennials in five countries found that 75% of those surveyed drink in moderation when they go out at night.
Auzeen Saedi is a clinical psychologist that spends lots of time with younger patients. She mentioned in an article the biggest fear millennials have about the future is fear:
“I think the pressures are higher because [young] people see that even if you have a great degree, that does not guarantee you a job by any means.”
All of this uncertainty is due to the financial strains millennials have observed the past few years, and understanding that nothing is guaranteed upon graduation. Fortunately, mindfulness and yoga have become extremely trendy, and millennials often use these activities for stress-relief.
“Right now there are all these yogi Instagram celebrities with millions of followers … and they’re not drinking beer, they’re drinking juice,” she says. “Mindfulness, in a way, is the new church.”
Spirituality is becoming a big practice among millennials. Many are opting for meditation retreats to connect to something higher. The great thing about these retreats is that they reduce stress, and allow the ability to go on vacation with a purpose without fear of being intoxicated. The trend has saturated social media. On Instagram, there are celebrities with millions of follows. They are not drinking beer. They are not promoting the drunken party life. They are exercising, meditating and drinking juice.
Of course, not everyone loves this trend. Ross Haenfler became a straight-edge punk in the late 80s and was part of a group that embraced drug and alcohol in favor of political activism. Haenfler believes these new sober groups need to have a bigger message that fights more significant issues such as consumerism, homophobia, and racism. Otherwise, he questions the motive behind it all and whether or not people are participating in it due to the sudden popularity.
Overall, the clean healthy living movement is full of those who rather opt for glowing skin and yoga classes than party like it’s 1999. For most, it is far from a political movement. But regardless of the reasons people do it, more and more people are finding sober outings a more enjoyable experience for the mind, body, and soul than boozing up all night ever was.
The culture of drinking is changing, and more and more people would rather socialize through healthy activities than using drugs and alcohol as a conversation starter. If you are struggling, remember there is life after recovery. It is up to you to discover what that looks like. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Shernide Delva
Gambling can stimulate the brain’s rewards system much like drugs and alcohol can. Gambling addiction is a serious condition that can destroy lives. When gambling becomes addictive, it means you are willing to risk something in order to get something of even greater value. Sometimes this can mean straining relationships you have with your family and friends in order to satisfy the urge to gamble.
There is a state having a huge issue with gambling addiction and this time, it isn’t Nevada. The tiny state of Maryland is home to one of the largest concentrated casino markets in the country. As gambling addiction continues to rise, few treatment centers options are available for resident causing their addiction to get worse.
In 2009, a state survey revealed that an estimated 150,000 residents suffer from moderate to severe gambling addiction. The state’s toll-free hotline for problem gambling has taken 619 calls in the past year from people struggling with compulsive gambling up. This number is up from 431 two years prior. Police were called on four different occasions on account of children and seniors being left unattended in cars while their parents or caregivers were inside gambling.
Clearly, the issue is increasing in severity every day. Over 893 problem gamblers, desperate to free themselves of their addiction, legally banned themselves from entering a casino through the state’s Voluntary Exclusion program. Casinos reported 37 people who were unable to follow through with the ban.
Unfortunately, there are no treatment options in Maryland to address gambling addiction. To make matters worse, most of these problem gamblers do not have health insurance or access to funds to cover private addiction treatment. The funds they could have used were gambled all away.
“When gamblers reach out to us, they’re in crisis … it’s out of control, they don’t have any money,” said Deborah Haskins, president of the Maryland Council on Problem Gambling. “When the person doesn’t have treatment as an option, it’s like you’re putting a brick wall in front of them. You’re commending them for taking the first steps, but then you have nothing else to provide them. It’s very frustrating.”
Each year, casinos in Maryland are required to contribute to the state’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene that addresses problem gambling. The casino’s pay $425 per slot machine and $500 per table game each year. The funds only came to only $4 million last fiscal year. Most of the money ended up going to the Maryland Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling. The program focuses on increasing the amount of gambling addiction counselors and running the addiction hotline, among other services, but it’s not used for actual treatment
Vegas Came To Maryland
So I’m writing this wondering how a state like Maryland ended up so massive on the casino bandwagon. Five years ago, Maryland had just opened its first casino. Since then, four more have debuted and a giant $1.3 billion resort casino, MGM National Harbor, is set to open next year.
From a financial standpoint, Maryland is cashing in big time. The state took in $1 billion in the last fiscal year. Out of that money, the state’s cut was $487 million and $388 was used for Maryland’s Education Trust Funds.
It’s clear the state made a worthwhile financial investment but the consequences for addiction are all too real. Gambling is one of the most deceptive of all human vices. It presents the illusion of easy money but can quickly lead into financial ruin. The odds are never in your favor when the purpose of the system is to make a profit.
As a result of the financial stress gambling addiction results in, often gamblers turn to drugs, alcohol and other addictive behavior to alleviate the anxiety brought on by the gambling lifestyle. They may struggle with drug and alcohol addiction for the rest of their life after years of self-medicating to deal with the stress. The stress of it call can result in strained relationships and isolation.
Maryland’s economy continues to thrive from the casino industry however compulsive gamblers have to deal with the consequences of their actions. These consequences include everything from home foreclosure and bankruptcies to domestic abuse, robberies and embezzlement.
Gambling in America costs the United States between $32.4 billion to $53.8 billion per year. The long term costs outweigh the economic benefits by a greater than 3:1 ration. Maryland has a choice to progress toward providing treatment and solutions to the gambling addiction crisis before it gets out of control. The consequences could overpower the risks.
If you feel you are starting to develop an addiction to gambling, seek help before the addiction takes control of your life. Luckily, there is help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
By Cheryl Steinberg
As much as 90% of the drug and alcohol rehabs in America endorse the 12 Step approach to treatment and recovery and yet, research shows that there’s a better way: combining therapy and medication.
If you are a member of a 12 Step fellowship, you might know quite well the bias against the use of medications in recovery – and I’m not talking about narcotics. I mean things like antidepressants and medications designed to support abstinence, such as opioid blockers. The FDA has approved two different medications for use in the treatment of an alcohol use disorder.
So what are these FDA-approved medications and how effective are they?
The first medication is called acamprosate (brand name Campral) and it has been used for alcohol use disorder treatment since the 1980s in Europe; it was accepted by the FDA in 2004. The way Campral works is this: it stabilizes the initial depression as well as reducing cravings by quieting the feelings of being restless, irritability, and discontent that alcoholics experience when they first quit drinking. Acamprosate is meant to be taken daily for the first 12 months of abstinence.
The second medication is Naltrexone. Although Naltrexone is an opioid inhibitor, is has been FDA approved as a daily medication to be taken at a low dose for the treatment of alcohol abuse. Naltrexone is best if used as an emergency relapse drug. Alcoholics who take it prior to a relapse have reported significantly less negative impact of their relapse. For those who want to be abstinent, naltrexone works as a great emergency relapse drug in combination with acamprosate.
It also functions as a supplement to be taken prior to a planned drink. In fact, naltrexone works so well to reduce relapse that many alcoholics use it to successfully drink on a regular basis with very few reports of high binge drinking. Therefore, it might be entirely possible in the near future for alcoholics to simply carry a bottle of naltrexone with them for drinking occasions instead of attending an AA meeting when the urge to drink hits.
Putting It Into Perspective
If you think of these drugs being used to treat an ongoing disease like asthma, which alcoholism is, then it might make more sense. So, in this example, consider that the majority of asthma sufferers have both a daily inhaler and an emergency inhaler. Therefore, for people with alcohol use disorder, acamprosate is their daily medication and naltrexone is their emergency relapse drug.
Epidemiological Studies and Findings
Currently, clinical trials show that the combination of acamprosate, naltrexone, and cognitive-behavioral therapy have the highest rates of recovery of any system used in drug and alcohol treatment. In fact, this conglomeration of treatment approaches has been studied thoroughly over the past 10 years, revealing abstinence rates of greater than 65%. No other program, not Alcoholics Anonymous, nor SMART Recovery®, comes close to producing these rates of abstinence, and yet very few treatment programs in the U.S. are engaging in this practice.
Treating Nicotine Addiction: A Case for Medication
Abstinence rates for nicotine are at an all-time high of 82% in the United States according to the CDC. Nicotine addiction treatment has been the only drug treatment program to have significantly impacted drug use in recorded history.
So what’s happening in nicotine addiction treatment that isn’t happening in the drug rehabilitation industry?
The answer is pharmacological assistance in quitting addiction, which is to say, involving the use of medication(s) as a vital part in helping people overcome their addiction. First of all, it’s now widely known that nicotine is one of most addictive drugs in existence. Considering just how addictive this drug is, how then have smoking rates decreased so dramatically?
The answer to that is this: the use of a medical-psycho-social model of recovery. A comprehensive study from the Western Journal of Medicine in 2002 made two conclusions after scrutinizing over 6,000 articles on nicotine cessation. The first conclusion was that taking FDA-approved medication for the cessation of nicotine more than doubled success at quitting smoking. The second was that the likelihood of successfully quitting increased even further when anti-smoking medication was combined with evidence-based therapy for behavioral modification, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
There is no study that exists showing that therapy or 12-step programs alone are as effective as a combined therapy and medication program. Knowing this, it’s safe to say that any program that does not prepare recovering alcoholics with the tools of both therapy and anti-addiction medication that can lessen the impact of a relapse is unrealistic and negligent.
Consider this: of those who are attempting life-long abstinence, over 99% will drink at least once within a 20-year period. Therefore, healthcare practitioners are ethically responsible to prepare their patients with alcohol use disorder by providing them with essential information on how to mitigate relapse if it occurs.
Are you seeking recovery for an alcohol or drug addiction? Do you need help finding out where and how to start? Our Addiction Specialists are available around the clock to take your calls and answer your questions. Let us help you. You are not alone.
By Cheryl Steinberg
Chang-Guo Zhan, who is a pharmaceutical sciences professor in the United Kingdom, is working on the first FDA-approved drugs to treat both cocaine overdose and cocaine addiction.
Currently, there is no approved treatment for cocaine overdose, which can occur suddenly and which is potentially deadly. The drugs being developed by Zhan are funded by grant money from the National Institutes of Health and are now in clinical human trials.
How It’s Made
Zhan hopes to develop one drug to neutralize cocaine once in the bloodstream of the user and another drug that would remain in the user’s system that would act as a cocaine blocker, cancelling out the effects of the drug, which would theoretically help break the cycle of addiction. Zhan is doing this by using an enzyme from the bacteria that’s found in the soil where the coca plant, which is the source of cocaine, is grown.
How It Works
The drugs being developed by Zhan and a team of researchers from UK, Columbia University and University of Michigan will help break down cocaine into less harmful by-products. The enzyme, in its naturally-occurring state, decays too quickly to be of use in medicine, lasting only about 12 minutes at body temperature.
Zhan and his team introduced mutations, or changes, to the enzyme in an attempt to preserve the aspects they wanted while doing away with any problems that would make it unstable and therefore unusable as a drug.
So far, the team of researchers has introduced two mutations that can make the enzyme stable for up to six hours and which increase its ability to chemically break down cocaine by 4,000 times.
Narcan-like Drug for Cocaine Overdose in Development
Both drugs should neutralize the effects of cocaine but, the overdose treatment will have to work quickly in order to save cocaine users’ lives. That’s because cocaine overdose can happen in the blink of an eye and with devastating effects.
Cocaine overdose can come on suddenly and with no signs of a problem. Cocaine affects the central nervous system (CNS) which manifests in symptoms such as seizures, tremors, and general shakiness. For those using cocaine for the first time, the substance usually will keep them awake for a long time. Yet, for others, there is less of a wide-awake effect. Seizures and tremors can come on suddenly and without warning, although they tend to occur shortly after use.
Cocaine is dangerous no matter how it is taken. Some of the most common serious problems include heart attack and stroke. Cocaine overdose can occur in long-term users or first-time users.
New Drug for Cocaine Addiction
The other goal is to create a drug that would remain in effect for a longer period of time so that a patient who takes more of the drug will not feel those effects either and may stop the addiction cycle. This would act like Antabuse for alcoholics or Suboxone for opiate addicts. The idea is that, by taking the cocaine treatment drug, the effects of cocaine, itself, could not be experienced and therefore it could interrupt the cycle of craving, obsession, and compulsion to continue using.
Cocaine might be fashionable or enticing to use however, you’re playing with fire. Taking a so-called sober pill isn’t enough but, the good news is that recovery is possible. If you are currently struggling with cocaine use, abuse, or addiction, help is available. Call toll-free to speak with an Addiction Specialist today. We are available around the clock to help. You are not alone.