Jack Shafer explains why the latest report on overdose deaths attributable to prescription drugs is mostly exaggerated.
We’ve seen this all before. Shafer debunks a media account of a study on prescription drug overdoses in Florida. Florida is also where the OxyContin panic started back in 2003–due in part to drug warriors and the media making the very same mistakes about a similar report from same Florida Medical Examiner’s Commission. People who died of drug overdoses with OxyContin in their systems were marked up as overdoses attributable to OxyContin. Never mind whatever they myriad other drugs that may have been present.
Because Oxy scripts had taken off at the time (do to its effectiveness, not to a glut of corrupt, drug-dealing doctors), naturally there would be an uptick in people visiting emergency rooms with OxyContin in their systems. There would also be an uptick in plumbers, city workers, and TV repairment with Oxy in their systems. Nevertheless, the narrative that emerged was that Oxy was “accidentally” addicting people, then killing them.
This led to full-blown media hysteria, a series in the Orlando Sentinel that was later retracted, legislative hearings, and all sorts of onerous legislation and investigations and regulatory and legal harassment of legitimate pain doctors and their patients. The lingering result is that it’s more difficult for pain patients to get a drug that actually works at the dosages they need.
Point being, these lazy media reports can have dramatic, real-world consequences.