Experts dissect the severity of the opioid crisis

At CME Group’s 12th annual Global Financial Leadership Conference, moderator and author Sam Quinones spoke with former U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte and “Dr. Drew” Pinsky about the ongoing opioid epidemic hitting all corners of the United States. 

Backed by his research for his recent book Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic, Quinones asked pointed questions to Senator Ayotte, who also previously served as the attorney general in one of the states hardest hit by opioids, New Hampshire. “99% of the painkillers in the world are consumed by the United States,” she said, noting that other G7 members do not have this same problem. 

During the panel, titled The Opioid Epidemic: The Social and Economic Cost, Ayotte and Dr. Drew agreed that the scale of this epidemic is widespread and not dissipating. While there has been more talk about the problem at the state and federal level, that action has not reached where it is needed most: the addicted users. “We invested in prisons as a response versus rehabilitation,” stated Quinones.

Set against new ways states and agencies are trying to tackle the problem, Ayotte highlighted that “This [topic] is somewhere where there is bipartisanship in Congress” as nearly U.S. House District has similar issues. Highlighting issues from her home state, Ayotte noted “employers still cannot find enough qualified candidates who are drug free.”

As Dr. Drew spoke to the changing population that “regulates emotions with a screen, an opioid, a sugar,” highlighting that “ordinary misery is good” and necessary to build resilient populations. He argues that these hard conversations need to be more freely spoken about in the public realm.

While the user base continues to grow, change may be on its way though, if only at the judicial level. Today there are over 2,000 active lawsuits in the United States suing opioid producers.

Dr. Drew emphatically stated, “There was zero research supporting that opioids were good at treating the illness. If you want to know how it really happened, read [Quinones’] book! I lived it! I was screaming about it then and am still screaming about it!”