Super Bowl Ad Exemplifies How Bad The U.S. Opioid Epidemic Has Become

February 8th 2016

Ingrid Holmquist

We're in the second half of the Super Bowl as America watches the Panthers and Broncos duke it out at the Super Bowl — or, maybe just the advertisements.

If you tuned in — for football, ads, or Beyoncé — chances are you saw the commercial about a pill that fixes the symptoms of constipation as a side effect of taking opioids. Yes, a drug to cure the symptoms caused by another prescribed drug:


Let’s talk about opioids.

Opioids are legal prescription drugs that help relieve pain. The drug works to reduce pain signals in the brain and works with the part of the brain that controls emotion. Hycrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, and codeine are all opioids.

Stats from the American Society of Addiction Medicine estimate that 21.5 million Americans above 12 years of age abused opioids in 2014. Of those 21.5 million, 586,000 “had a substance use disorder involving heroin.”

Opioids are notorious gateway drugs to heroin addiction.

Unintentional overdoses on opioids have quadrupled since 1999, as the drugs become more frequently prescribed and thus more often abused. According to National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioid prescriptions have increased from roughly 76 million in 1991 to almost 207 million in 2013. United States it the biggest prescriber of opioids, and the U.S. accounts for “almost 100 percent of the world total for hydrocodone and 81 percent for oxycodone.”

The push back against overly prescribing opioids is especially forceful from the pro-medicinal marijuana community, who believe that medicinal marijuana would be a much safer, less addictive alternative to alleviate pain.

In the Journal of the Canadian Public Health Association, researchers Stephanie Lake, Thomas Kerr, and Julie Mantaner found that cannabinoids — drugs containing cannabis — are “unfairly held to higher standards” in comparison to many pharmaceutical drugs, such as opioids. They found that cannabis “undeniably” relieves pain.

“Opioids are killing people right now,” said Dr. Kerr in a Medical Marijuana Inc. article. “There is no association with cannabis and mortality, and yet North America is in the midst of, really, what is a public health emergency associated to opioid overdose deaths.”

Correction: This piece originally embedded the incorrect ad for Movantik that aired during the Super Bowl.