IN 2016 a coroner’s office in Ohio had to store corpses in refrigerated lorries for a week because residents were overdosing on opioids faster than their bodies could be processed. This year has been no better: the coroner borrowed space from a local funeral parlour to stow the dead. Largely because of opioids, Ohio has the third-highest drug-overdose death rate in the country. In a recent survey, four out of ten adults there reported knowing someone who has overdosed on prescription painkillers. Ohio blames opioid manufacturers. On May 31st the state government filed a lawsuit against a group of drug companies, accusing them of exaggerating the effectiveness of opioid painkillers while downplaying the risk of addiction.
Until the 1990s, doctors mostly reserved opioids for acute pain or easing suffering at the end of life. Around the middle of that decade, drug companies began a concerted marketing effort to convince doctors that opioid pills were also safe for treating…Continue reading