What is the Opioid Crisis?


Webmaster’s comments:  I read the Seattle Times Newspaper daily and so am fully aware of the Opioid Crisis, but I had never seen it as completely described as in a recent novel by David Baldacci, “THE FALLEN”, recounting the adventures of my favorite fictional FBI agent, Amos Decker. 

Decker is drawn into the investigation of a series of murders, which possibly are related to a string of deaths by opioid over-doses (ODs). 

As the characters attend a funeral, the a DEA agent named Kemper, described the effect of Opioids in the community and though-out the US.

 “Dollar to donuts you’re looking at ODs there,” said Kemper, pointing to some young people getting out of cars and heading to one of the gravesites. “Over eighty thousand people in Americas this year alone,” she added.  “More than died in Vietnam and the wars in the Middle East combined.  And far more than die in traffic accidents or by guns, and it’s only getting worse.  Next year we’ll probably be looking at over a hundred thousand dead.  The opioid crisis is actually responsible for the life expectancy in the country starting to go down.  Can you wrap your head around that?  Nearly a half million dead since 2000. Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of fifty.  We had a recent study done at DEA.  Life insurance companies value a human life at about five million bucks.  Using that number and other factors, our people project the economic loss to the country each year due to the opioid crisis as about a hundred billion dollars.  A third of the population is on medication for pain.  And they’re not getting addicted on street corners.  They’re getting addicted at their doctors’ offices.”

“From prescription painkillers.”

“Right.  Back in the eighties we had the crack crisis.  The government’s position was just say no and if you didn’t you went to prison.  So we locked up millions, mostly men from the inner cities. Then came the nineties and Big Pharma decided that Americans weren’t taking enough painkillers.  The sort of made pain the fifth vital sign. Spent billions on ads, payoffs to doctors, used legit-looking organizations and think tanks to make it all seem aboveboard.  ‘No possibility of addiction, no long-term negatives’ was the mantra everyone was spouting.  Turns out all of that was based on either faulty research or no research at all.  It’s ironic but a lot of opioids were initially given out to combat lower back pain.”

“Why was that ironic?” asked Decker.

“Because Opioids actually are pretty ineffectual with chronic lower back pain.  Last year doctors wrote nearly a quarter billion prescriptions for painkillers. It’ a miracle we’re not all hooked.  And the numbers we see now, bad as they are, are just the tip of the iceberg.  It’s beyond a national crisis and no one is doing a damn thing about it.  Because of our position on crack cocaine in the eighties, we built a lot of prisons but not many treatment centers or addiction protocols.  So now this crisis is filling hospitals, prisons, and’—she waived her hand in front of her—“cemeteries all across the county.  And to top it off, last year about twenty-five thousand babies were born with what’s called neonatal abstinence syndrome because their moms were opioid users while pregnant.  What kind of life will they have, do you think?”


While this is a fictional story, Baldacci’s characterization of the Opioid Crisis is real and accurate. And you may be gratified to see some recent headlines.

In the News

Doctor who operated oxycodone and fentanyl diversion scheme sentenced to 5 years in prison (July 02, 2019)

Ten-year prison term imposed for a fentanyl distributor (July 01, 2019)

Colorado doctor pleads guilty to distributing oxycodone for no legitimate purpose (June 26, 2019)

NJ/PA doctor indicted for accepting bribes and kickbacks in exchange for prescribing powerful fentanyl drug (June 25, 2019)

And in the greater Seattle Area, as doctors limit opioid prescriptions and other drugs are less expensive, overdose deaths  from Methamphetamines are now greater in number than ODs from opioids.

David Baldacci’s book, “THE FALLEN” is a great yarn with great characters in small-town America.  I rated it as a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10. 


Happy reading,

Floyd Else, Webmaster




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