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Drug Addiction, Facts About Addiction, Substance Abuse  |  April 21, 2016

Think tanks…  Read those words and one thinks of a room full of really smart people trying to solve the world’s problems – right?

How about if that room full of really smart people isn’t really there in pursuit of truth – but rather because they have academic credentials that make them valuable shills for a particular corporate interest.

What’s a shill you ask?

Webster defines a shill as an accomplice of a hawker, gambler, or swindler who acts as an enthusiastic customer or expert to entice or encourage others to buy or to use.

Now imagine yourself a reporter at CBS or NBC News – and you have a story to do on a particular drug treatment – and you are on a tight deadline.  Who better to call for an insightful perspective on that drug than an “objective” think tank expert?

But are they?

Now to a topic near and dear to us…  the opioid addiction epidemic.

The CDC is calling the heavy reliance on opioid painkilling medications one of the greatest mistakes in medical history.

So how did we get there?

In the mid 1990s, medical authorities began calling for the greater use of painkilling drugs to stem an epidemic of chronic pain.  Coincidentally, at about the same time, a think tank calling itself the “American Pain Foundation” came into being – describing themselves as the nation’s largest advocacy group for patients in pain.  Their consistent message…?  The risk of addiction is grossly exaggerated and opioid drugs are underused.

From 1997 to today, the American Pain Foundation has lobbied legislative leaders and medical professionals while providing the news media with “experts” able to advocate for a greater reliance on pain pills.

The results of their work?

An almost unimaginable increase in prescriptions for opioid painkillers, and with it, soaring rates of crippling opioid addiction and overdose death.

Tragically, there’s just one problem with the American Pain Foundation according the public interest group ProPublica.

The American Pain Foundation is not an independent advocacy think tank at all.  “Ninety percent of its funding comes from the very companies that make the drugs they advocate.”  And not coincidentally – the positions the group has taken mirror perfectly the interests of the industry they serve.

Think tank?  Or front group???

So… now we are left with the “greatest mistake in medical history” – the unchecked and largely unregulated distribution of one of the most addictive classes of drugs known to man.  And with it all – the decimation of millions of American families.

It all begs the question.  In the end, should we think of opioid painkillers as treatments, or narcotics.  Given their proven ineffectiveness for chronic use, maybe opioids for chronic pain should be labeled Schedule 1 drugs (addictive drugs with no medical benefit ) so they are not masquerading as Schedule 2 drugs (addictive drugs with limited medical benefit).