The first time I walked into the cafeteria of the inpatient treatment center where I was to spend the next month, a group of men in their 50s took one look at me, turned to each other, and said in unison, “Oxy.”
I was 23 at the time. It was a safe bet that anyone under the age of 40 in treatment was there, at least in part, for misusing OxyContin. While I was there for good old-fashioned alcoholism, I soon understood why they’d made that assumption.
It was January 2008. That year, doctors in the United States would write a total of 237,860,213 opioid prescriptions at a rate of 78.2 per 100 people.
The driving force behind those numbers was Purdue Pharma, the makers of the highly addictive opioid OxyContin, the brand name of oxycodone. The company spent billions of dollars to market the drug without telling the full story, capitalizing on doctors’ fear that they were undertreating pain. (continued)