There is a Depressing article in the December 17, 2017 Washington Post that says a lot, not just about pharmaceutical companies, but about a lot of other companies as well.
The skinny: a DEA team was all set to take down a major drug company that was flooding towns with opioids. Once these towns got the drugs, the team contended, it was a simple matter for corrupt pharmacists to distribute them to addicts who came in with bogus prescriptions.
In other words, it was the same old story of a drug cartel distributing its goods to dealers…except this time, the cartel was a supposedly respectable corporation, and the dealers were supposedly respectable professionals.
The DEA was ready. They were going to show that these drug companies were just as bad as drug cartels, and that the damage they were doing was every bit as bad as that of a kingpin who floods a town with crack.
…and then higher ups at the DEA and Department of Justice struck a deal with this company that basically gave them a slap on the wrist. End of investigation.
Yes, it’s depressing, but the real depressing thing about it is that it’s nothing new.
The sad truth is, many corporations in many other fields set out to make us addicts, and get away with it. Perhaps their drug of choice is not OxyContin, but there are plenty of other drugs out there, and plenty of money to be made by getting people hooked. All that necessary is to expand the scope of how we define drugs, and we see that it’s rampant, and that there seems to be little in place to keep it from happening.
I think about all this as I’m in the middle of “Glow Kids,” a great book by psychologist Nicholas Kardaras. In the book, Kardaras argues that screen addiction is in itself a scourge, and that it’s turning our next generation into mental defectives. Instead of prowling the streets for the next hit of crack, they are fiercely addicted to the pleasure that comes with attaining that next video game level, or getting that extra like on Instagram.
As is always the case with this, there will be those that scoff, that say that this is alarmist thinking. Perhaps, but Karadaras marshals a great deal of peer-reviewed studies to back up his claim. Furthermore, he points out that a key book that espouses the beneficial effects of video games—”Smarter Than You Think,” by Clive Thompson”—has no research whatsoever to back up his claims.
It is also worth remembering that there were those that thought that Bayer’s wonder drug Heroin was a risk free godsend when it went on the market over a hundred years ago. And Bayer, of course, made plenty of money off of it.
According to Kardaras, many of the same biochemical factors at play in the burst of endorphins that accompany a session playing World of Warcraft are at play when doing a hit of crack. Furthermore, these things lead to the same psychological terrors that plague addicts of standard drugs: depression, mania, and psychosis to the point of a complete break from reality.
Perhaps the effects, in these cases, aren’t always as apparent. Still, according to Kardaras, many of the studies he refers to show that they’re there.
Of course, however, there is money to be made, so there are many forces at work that seek to fight the concern over these findings.
And there is money to be made in flooding schools with these electronic drugs, for it will create a nation of young addicts, eager for the next fix.
Then there are the food companies, that know that the triumvirate of fat, salt, and sugar creates a fierce craving in the body. Processed foods become a kind of drug, and the body craves more.
How else to explain the success of Lunchables, Oscar Meyer’s harrowing pre-packaged kiddie meal, deemed, in many nutrition websites, to be even more harmful than snack cakes?
Because it feels good to eat them. They’re packaged in a fun way, and the food itself no doubt has the processed mojo that makes it addictive.
And if Lunchables, with its synthetic look and taste, isn’t enough to make us look upon the marketing of food with concern, it is only necessary to read the volume of articles and books that discuss the way fast food companies get us hooked on their wares. No, of course the craving for McDonald’s is far more subtle than the craving for crack or opioids. It is there, however, and it is strong.
And then there’s television and video games. No further comment needed.
So the Washington Post article is not merely about pharmaceutical companies. It is, instead, about all the companies that seek to create a nation of addicts, short of attention span, quick to anger, and eager to spend money on the next fix. And as long as there is money to be made—by corporations, lawyers who empower them, and politicians who enable them—the drugs will continue to flow.