Writer Chris McGreal and host Robert Scheer zero in on the book American Overdose: The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts in this week’s episode of Scheer Intelligence.
Scheer and McGreal, the book’s author and a correspondent for The Guardian and other news sources, discuss how the opioid addiction crisis is largely an American epidemic. As McGreal notes. “85 percent of the world’s prescription painkillers are consumed in the United States, which has five percent of the world’s population.”
Scheer and McGreal discuss how these legally prescribed drugs are so destructive and arrive at “another unique American aspect” in play, which is that in the U.S., “healthcare is an industry… in which patients are not seen as people but as clients.”
Big pharma looms large in this crisis. According to McGreal, the pharmaceutical industry “persuaded the medical establishment that everybody needed access to these drugs, and so they got them inserted into hospitals through a program called “Pain as the 5th Vital Sign.” And then there’s the FDA, which has lost sight of its stated mission of protecting consumers.
These and other factors—such as insurance companies cutting corners to cut costs, as well as patients conditioned to see themselves as clients and to follow a “pill for every ill” mentality—have exacted an immense cost, whether gauged in terms of health or wealth, in the blatant pursuit of profit. All the symptoms point to a sick system with the drug industry, free from anything resembling effective interventions from government or consumer sectors, at its heart.
Listen to McGreal’s conversation with Scheer or read a transcript of their conversation below:
Robert Scheer: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence, where the intelligence comes from my guests. In this case, it’s Chris McGreal, who’s written a really provocative book called American Overdose: The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts. And I want to broaden the significance of your title, American Overdose. I think in many ways, we can look as a culture, at ourselves as having a culture that overdosed. What is powerful about your book is you have brought the insight, the wisdom, the world of experience, of a major correspondent, international correspondent for The Guardian;