It has been well-documented that pharmaceutical companies have knowingly inflated the opioid crisis by funneling a truly horrific amount of opioids towards counties suffering from the epidemic. Vox highlighted a disturbing cause and effect relationship that was unearthed by a research letter published in JAMA Internal Medicine:
Doctors who had just one extra meal paid for by an opioid company were more likely to prescribe opioids than doctors who got fewer free meals.
In six years, drug manufacturers funneled 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills into West Virginia—working out to 433 pills for every man, woman and child in West Virginia. During that same time, 1,728 West Virginians overdosed on opioids. But a new study shows that it’s not just drug manufacturers who are to blame for this genuine crisis that’s killing Americans every day.
The report by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health found that nearly a quarter of overdose deaths in a five-year period occurred among people, mostly men, who work in construction. Farmers and fishermen also had higher-than-average rates of overdose deaths.
The common factor: Workplace injuries occur frequently in these occupations.
The report, released Wednesday, paints a disturbing picture of workers hurt on the job, taking addictive painkillers, and needing those painkillers to keep working at jobs they would otherwise lose.
So we have a situation where pharmaceutical companies are financially incentivized to pump out as much of their highly addictive product as possible, and workers in dangerous industries are incentivized to take them in order to keep their job, because there is no guarantee it will still be there if they take time off to care for their injuries caused by their job. This is the basic logic of capitalism at work, as the needs of owners of capital supersede that of their workers. We are literally performing human sacrifice in the name of the almighty dollar—and yet some people still wonder why Democratic Socialism is on the rise. When the existing system forces people to choose between getting hooked on a highly addictive and deadly drug or losing their job, almost anything else looks better by comparison.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.