I DEDICATE THIS TO THE MEMORY OF A 21-YEAR OLD BEAUTIFUL YOUNG LADY
WHO SUCCUMBED TO FENTANYL THIS PAST SEPTEMBER
By: Victor M. Sternberg, D.M.D.
April 15, 2022
As I mentioned in my last communication, I personally know 12 individuals in our community who have lost their children to drug overdoses. In 2021, approximately 300 people per day in this country succumbed to the scourge of narcotics. Over the last twenty years we have lost far more Americans to legal and illegal narcotics than we lost to Covid-19, or the sum total of all our overseas wars. Drug use and addiction are complicated psychological and medical issues. However, this epidemic has permeated and exploded into every aspect of America. It is a crisis without a leader.
Before I go further I must recommend to you all two books and one documentary.
The documentary is on HBO and is called THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY. It implicates clearly the drug manufacturers, the drug distributors, the Justice Department, the FDA, the inactivity of your congressmen and senators and the medical establishment.
Two books will help fill in all the voids. One is THE EMPIRE OF PAIN. It traces Purdue Pharma in the development of Oxycontin as the pain reliever of choice. The family that was intimately involved with the development of one of the early popular drugs, Valium, eventually developed an empire built on Oxycontin and tragically the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans.
The second book, DREAMLAND, written by Sam Quinones, documents the origins of the opioid epidemic from its inception and clearly implicates all of the players I mentioned but includes extensive documentation on the role of Mexican drug cartels.
On 9/11 approximately 2,900 Americans lost their lives. The act of terrorism led us into two wars, resulted in 10,000 dead American soldiers and hundreds of thousands if not more of combatants in Afghanistan and Iraq, and cost our country trillions of dollars. Yet we have lost nearly fifty times as many Americans this year from a different kind of terrorism. Terrorism that is home grown by big pharma for profits, by political leaders who are directly or indirectly influenced by the lobbying of pharmaceutical companies, by rogue physicians who became wealthy creating pain centers selling nefariously selling narcotics to patients. Add to this the medical establishment that bought into the idea that Oxycontin is not addictive.
In approximately 1990 a study was done in a hospital where a 100 patients were given Oxycontin post surgically to be treated for pain. An article appearing in a medical journal indicated that very few of these patients became addicted. Remember, they received the drug in the hospital under controlled circumstances. The results of that article unquestionably led to the acceptance by the medical profession that Oxycontin and similar drugs were not addictive. That mantra was pushed on doctors around the country who quickly accepted a new paradigm of medicine, that pain is a disease and must be treated and not accepted. Now armed with this new plethora of drugs, patients suffering illness or injury would no longer have to suffer intolerable pain.
On a personal note, I stopped prescribing all narcotics sixteen years ago after attending a seminar when Ibuprofen and Tylenol were compared to Oxycontin and Percodan in a controlled study of dental patients following wisdom tooth surgery. Not only was there little or no difference in the relief of pain, but the non-narcotics produced one-seventh the number of post operative complications caused by narcotics.
I shared this information with many of my colleagues but I ran into a brick wall. It was difficult to dispel the concept that narcotics are not necessary.
Last year I had a complete replacement of my shoulder joint. I left the hospital with a dozen pills of Ibuprofen. A colleague of mine who had undergone similar surgery shared with me that he left the hospital with 180 pills of Oxycontin. A dear friend who was suffering from pain following cancer surgery was prescribed, and this is hard to believe from a major cancer hospital in New York, 300 Oxycontin a month to be taken 12 a day. Long after his pain was gone he was addicted to Oxycontin. It took years to reduce the amount until he finally, 15 years later, he was able to stop taking the medication and go through the withdrawal that was to follow.
Several years ago I met a young man, aged 30, who came in as a patient to have tooth removed. He had not been to a dentist in nearly 10 years and his mother asked me to see him. She shared with me that he had a problem with drugs and was now clean.
The young man sheepishly shared with me that he had recently been released from prison where he had spent the last five years. I asked him how he had become addicted to drugs. He indicated that at 19-years old his friend who had gone to a dentist for a tooth extraction was given Vicodin. The friend said it didn't really help with the pain but it certainly made him feel better. This young man took one of those pills and for the first time in his teenage years he was free of anxiety. That led to a spiral ultimately leading to drug sales and imprisonment.
Several years ago I was asked to go to a local prison to help provide dental care to a young man who was sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes he had committed while drugged out of his mind. The young boy was born to a 17-year old mother who was a heroin addict, surrounded by grandparents who were also drug addicts. The young boy was smoking marijuana before he was a teenager and finally at 17 when he committed a crime was sent away to his grandmother who was the only non addict in the family. Because he had not received dental care during that time he developed severe pain. His grandmother had some Oxycontin in her medicine cabinet and shared those pills with him. That began his journey back into addiction and eventually leading to robberies in order to sustain his habit. During those robberies fatalities resulted and the young man will never see the light of day again.
While I was visiting him trying to ascertain if I could provide him with care within the confines of the prison, he shared with me that his best friend, who was also in prison for selling drugs to sustain his habit, had just died. His friend overdosed in his cell with drugs that were brought in by prison guards. I understand that this is a common practice in many prisons in the United States.
As you peruse the documentary and the books I have recommended you will become as incensed as I am about the failure of our government agencies and politicians, as well as the greed of our pharmaceutical industry which has led to this horrific plague. We have shielded our the pharmaceutical industry and its co-conspirators, the politicians who have looked the other way or have been complicit, the physicians who over prescribed, from prosecution or punishment.
Let me now share one final piece of this scenario leading to the death cycle of so many Americans.
Currently in Mexico, although not only confined to Mexico but primarily south of our border, there are powerful drug cartels. These cartels are importing cocaine, heroin and most seriously fentanyl into our country. Fentanyl is the drug that is currently leading to the preponderance of drug deaths in the United States. Fentanyl was developed as a medication for intense pain, especially in cancer patients. The company that developed it in America had marketed to oncologists and others who were treating patients for home pain relief that was not manageable by other narcotics. It is seen as fifty times more powerful than morphine.
Ironically the drug company that developed it began to market the same drug, fentanyl, to doctors to provide pain relief for all pain, not just terminal cancer pain. These salesmen were encouraged and received significant bonuses for promoting the use of fentanyl. Fortunately that company has been closed down, their assets seized and their officers sentenced to prison.
Turning back to our Mexican drug cartels, not only are they responsible for the vast preponderance of illegal drugs in our country, but they literally control Mexico; 180 journalists have been murdered, politicians, policemen and others who opposed them have disappeared or been found dead. Their ability to bribe the political and law enforcement segments of Mexican society has basically immobilized law enforcement.
As you've seen, El Chapo, who is currently in prison in the United States, was able to escape from a high security prison by bribing individuals to dig a tunnel. Given the choice between taking a bribe or having your family killed doesn't leave many opportunities to say no.
Much of the poverty that exists in Mexico is due to the corruption generated by the cartels. These narco terrorists will prevent Mexico from ever reaching the prosperity that their oil revenues should provide.
These narco terrorists have morphed in other Central American countries. Much of the migration north from Central America and South America is created by the poverty and murders created by the control that narco terrorists exert on their own countries.
Those who attacked us on 9/11 did so for ideological reasons, however distorted and perverse it was that they were willing to sacrifice their lives to bring us down.
The narco terrorists who run the cartels have only one interest; that is money and power. It is estimated that over 100,000 Mexicans were killed last year. There are dozens of students whose bodies have never been found.
If we were willing to go war for less than 3,000 Americans why are we not willing to do the same for the hundreds of thousands of casualties that we've experienced in the last few years.
We have drones, helicopters and missiles in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and previously in Afghanistan . From my perspective, a similar effort should be made in Mexico. Cartels should be destroyed just as we destroyed ISIS. I understand that the Mexican government wants to be independent of foreign intervention, but they have shown that they are incapable of dealing with the cartels. Ideally we should partner with Mexico in dealing with the cartels however, in lieu of that, it is necessary that we act independently.
The sad and main reason that we have not acted in a real war on drugs, nor punished those in our own country who have been complicit is because there are no political points to be made by dealing with drugs. It is not a Republican issue, it is not a Democratic issue. No candidate is going to get elected or not elected on those grounds. Both parties choose their battlegrounds and neither of those involve last year's 100,000 causalities.
Our country has made some very serious errors, beginning in Vietnam and continuing in Afghanistan and Iraq. In all three cases the political support was strong enough for us to act, even if it was inappropriately. When it comes to drugs however, there is no war. There is no punishment. There is no outrage. The victims and their families do not represent a political action group, they are not lobbyists, they don't control corporations and they certainly don't control our government. The deaths go unnoticed every day as did the tragic loss of the young lady who I am dedicating this piece to.
IF WE FOUGHT WORLD WAR II THE WAY WE FIGHT THE WAR ON DRUGS, WE WOULD ALL BE SPEAKING GERMAN
As always I appreciate your feedback.
Dr. Victor M. Sternberg, D.M.D.
By Westchester Center for Periodontal & Implant Excellence
January 25, 2023