This 'Humans of New York' Story Exposes How Big Pharma Preys on the Weak

July 24th 2016

Aron Macarow

Humans of New York posted a photo to Facebook last week shining a spotlight on an issue that Big Pharma would rather hide: its role in prescription painkiller addiction and how it profits when addicts try to get clean.

An anonymous New Yorker's damaged hand appears in the image, along with a construction helmet covered in stickers. The picture is accompanied by a narrative about painkiller addiction, which occurred following an injury in an on-the-job accident. The story has been shared more than 11,000 times and has received more than 100,000 reactions since it went up on July 21.

"I sliced the tendons in my finger while trying to cut away some waterproofing," related the individual whom Humans of New York photographed. "I'd taken a few pain pills before, but I'd never been handed hundreds of them." 

The person said that he was "pretty unstable" at the time, since he was getting a divorce. Eventually, he found that he was "taking 20 pills a day."

The man was eventually able to kick his addiction, but the process was not easy. He said that it took him four years to end his dependency on painkillers, including a trip to a treatment center where he was prescribed a drug called Suboxone that helped him kick the painkillers. The man pointed out that the same pharmaceutical company that produced the painkillers to which he was addicted also made the drug that helped him end his addiction.

"And get this: The same people making the pain pills are making Suboxone. They sell you drugs to get off their drugs," the storyteller said.

Painkillers are highly addictive, and it's been noted before that if you take them long enough, your body will develop a dependency on them that can lead to full-blown addiction.

Some studies show that one in four Americans who are legally prescribed painkillers eventually abuse the drug. Worse, once a person's supply of prescription painkillers runs out, they may turn to heroin, which is cheaper and even more addictive.

The Humans of New York storyteller said that it was his "choice to take the pills." But, he added: "Somebody out there made a lot of money off of my weakness."

The majority of patients who receive painkillers legally for pain management will not become addicts. But there is an important conversation to be had about the role the medical industry and pharmaceutical companies play in addiction cycles and how they should be held accountable.

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