Massachusetts Doctors: The New Pill Mills
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Massachusetts Doctors: The New Pill Mills


Boston, Massachusetts is known for many things; like rich history, higher education and a sexy accent. It is also home to some of the best hospitals and physicians in the country, which is why I was a little surprised to learn about the latest report by the CDC that my place of birth ranks eighth nationally in the prescribing of OxyContin and other opiates. Et tu, Massachusetts? But I guess it makes sense; OxyContin is a highly potent painkiller and after living through 22 Boston winters, I can definitely confirm that it’s pretty damn painful.

Physicians Need to Get Accountable

Nor’easters aside, experts in the field of addiction say that the number of reported opiate prescriptions should be a “wake-up call” for local doctors who seem to be handing out power painkillers like candy. But will it be? A person would have to have been living under the Tobin Bridge for the last five years not to know that there is a rapidly growing opiate problem in our country—with OxyContin leading the way. At this point, any physician prescribing Oxy should go into at least a little bit of a shame spiral when handing over a 30-day supply towards a potential lifetime struggle with addition. The fact that a wake-up call is even needed tells me that the problem is less about the addicts and more about the lack of morality and poor ethical code in our doctors.

For the last 90 years, Heroin has been an illegal and notorious street drug—taking the lives of many artists, musicians and misguided youths. But its nasty reputation has also warded off a certain demographic of drug experimenters, often noting the drug as a bottom line: “I’ve done it all—except Heroin.” But boy oh boy, how times have changed. Housewives, corporate executives and Ivy Leaguers are now popping up in rehabs all over the country with addictions to Heroin and various other highly potent opiates. How did this happen? An article in The Daily Beast also addressing the CDC’s report says it point blank: Overprescribing physicians are to blame. It’s not like the good old days when a person would choose to get into drugs and naturally escalate from snorting coke to shooting dope—many of these people simply made an appointment with their doctor because they had neck pain and are now completely strung out.

Liberal Politics and Drug Consumption

So what’s going on in Massachusetts? As a coastal state, there has always the issue of ships coming into dock and all the shady activity that goes along with that. But the problem has gone beyond port cities like Fall River and Lynn—where the drugs are as plentiful as the women are easy, baring the old phrase, “Lynn, Lynn the city of sin, you never go out the way you came in.” The Boston Herald article stated that prescriptions for oxycodone, the generic version of OxyContin, have spiked 30 percent over the last three years and state police estimate that 185 opiate-related fatal overdoses have occurred between November 2013 and February 2014, causing Gov. Deval Patrick to declare a public health emergency.

Medical epidemiologist at the CDC, Dr. Leonard Paulozzi, theorizes that the spike in Massachusetts’ opiate prescriptions may be due more to community status quo than negligence. Especially if the physicians have been practicing for many years, they could be accustomed to making decisions based on their opinions and not any set of solid guidelines. But visit any news source in the last few years and you’d be hard-pressed to ignore the negative consequences of opiate abuse; so it’s difficult to imagine a contradictory opinion.

Educational background might also play a part as well. Dr. Andrew Kolodny, president of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing and the CMO of Phoenix House, notes that one of the primary education programs developed by Boston University is funded by the company that makes OxyContin (OMG so busted!). But is it too late to nip this problem in the bud by simply dropping the hammer on the local doctors’ prescription pads? With the highly addictive properties of opiates like OxyContin, The Boston Herald points out pharmaceutical thefts are on the rise with—surprise, surprise—oxycodone as number one on the gone missing list.

D.A.R.E for Doctors

What I find suspect in all of this is the glaring contrast of our country’s war on drug trafficking but lax attitude towards medical pill pushers. Could this be because to the drug money generated from PhD’s going to the right place: Big Pharm? I am not typically one to go all Alex Jones on anything but I have a hard time understanding why most people have an easier time getting OxyContin than Sudafed. Why do we allow highly educated and trained medical professionals to get by on the assumed naiveté to the risks of prescription opiates? If anyone should be aware the dangers of addiction it should be a doctor, right? I don’t know how many math courses are required to become a PHD but when it comes to doctors and their opiate prescriptions, things just aren’t adding up.

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About Author

Danielle Stewart is a Los Angeles-based writer and recovering comedian. She has written for Showtime, E!, and MTV, as well as print publications such as Us Weekly and Life & Style Magazine. She returned to school and is currently working her way towards a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves coffee, Law & Order SVU, and her emotional support dog, Benson.