Americans have a long history of protesting when they don’t like something. It hasn’t been that long since Occupy Wall Street, the Parkland, Florida students, and the #MeToo campaigns, to name just three uprisings. But who would have thought there would be an actual protest against OxyContin? A lot has been written against Purdue Pharma, the drug’s manufacturer, but to actually take to the street over it? Well, it’s happened. Last month, Nan Goldin, a well-known photographer who was addicted to opioids herself once, led a demonstration at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in a wing named for two Sackler brothers whose family owns the company. The group had a symbolic “die-in” there, marched through the halls and also gathered outside. Their goal was to get buy-in from cultural institutions not to accept money from the family, and to fund addiction treatment. They unfurled banners and scattered pill bottles labeled with the drug’s name and the Sackler name into a reflecting pool. MOMA is not the only museum the family has given money to, either.
Previously, a small protest took place in November outside a VA medical center in Florida when six veterans marched outside to protest opioid deaths and show support for medical marijuana. They carried a casket draped in an American flag and then poured “hundreds of empty pill bottles inside the casket.” Most either had a personal story about opioids or knew someone who became addicted. One vet’s young daughter had died from a seizure and he believed she would had lived if she had access to marijuana for her genetic condition. Can you imagine if families that have lost loved ones due to opioids, or who have loved ones that have become addicted decided to them march en masse in major cities? And if those who became addicted themselves joined them and identified and put pressure on perpetrators to provide funding for treatment? That would be something to see. Some people think progress is being made in the fight against the opioid epidemic because a partnership has been established between the NIH and pharmaceutical companies to develop nonaddictive painkillers. But abuse-deterrent doesn’t mean less addictive at all, it simply means pills are harder to crush or do otherwise with for snorting or injecting them.
Also in the category of “Will wonders never cease?”, it seems that Loperamide—Imodium A-D, the diarrhea stopper, has potential for abuse. If you’ve heard of Joe and Teresa Graedon, you may know they’re syndicated columnists with a health column (The People’s Pharmacy) in which they answer readers’ questions and comment on people’s concerns. In their March column in The Seattle Times, a reader wrote in to say he or she has been taking Imodium for Irritable Bowel Syndrome for years, one pill a day, and it has been extremely helpful. The person doesn’t have to be near a bathroom shortly after eating. He or she was concerned because the FDA wants to limit the allowable amount to be sold over the counter to packs of eight pills, an amount good for two days. The writer is afraid that the price will go up and it will be difficult to get the amount he or she needs. (Sound familiar? Like the complaints from people who take opioids for legitimate pain and don’t abuse them, and are fearful that more stringent measures may mean they won’t be able to get what they need? Appears so.) The Graedons explain: “Some people have been using high doses….to ease opioid withdrawal symptoms; others have abused the drug in order to get high.” One problem with the latter behavior is that it may result in irregular heart rhythms or cardiac arrest. Who knew an IBS medicine could be used for other than stopping diarrhea?