The war on drugs is over. Big Pharma won

The companies that got America hooked on drugs are creating new ones to kick the habit.

For years the government's "war on drugs" focused on stopping the production of illegal drugs in countries like Bolivia, Peru, Mexico and Afghanistan.

While that effort was pretty much a failure, the U.S. pharmaceutical industry, the tobacco industry and the alcohol industry were producing record numbers of their products at home. As a result, more Americans now die from tobacco, alcohol and prescription drugs than all illegal drugs combined.

There is no doubt that drug companies and physicians share responsibility for the current opiate and heroin epidemic. The primary cause of the current drug epidemic is the overprescribing of prescription pain medications by physicians, who get very little training regarding the disease of addiction but are often the salespeople for new medications.

Now that America has recognized that the opiate and heroin epidemics do not discriminate and have struck middle-class communities, we are not ready for a real "war on drugs." So guess who is coming to our rescue?

Yes, the pharmaceutical industry is producing more drugs to combat our drug problem — a problem it helped create.

It doesn't make sense to me, and even Pope Francis was quoted as saying "you can't solve a drug problem with more drugs." But that is exactly what we are doing.

The pharmaceutical industry has created drugs such as methadone, buprenorphine, naltrexone and vivitrol to combat opiate addiction. The drug Narcan, which will reverse an opiate overdose, is now widely available. And lets not forget the many remedies to help stop smoking, including the nicotine patch, gum, lozenges and nasal spray. Disulfiram and naltrexone are popular medications now available to treat alcoholism.

While abstinence-based treatment programs struggle to survive and receive almost no government funds, and support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotic Anonymous continually get criticized, the so-called war on drugs has been won by the American pharmaceutical industry. As Dupont used to say: "Better life through chemicals."

Mike Gimbel

The writer, a recovering addict and addiction experts, is the former Baltimore County drug czar.

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