Pharmaceutical industry

Opioids Don’t Treat Depression, Yet People Turn to Them Anyway

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A man makes his way home from work on a bus as darkness falls on October 10, 2005 in Glasgow, Scotland. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Much of modern medicine does not consider emotions as a root cause of physical pain. It’s as if humans can divide bodies into psychology and neurology, handled by those respective disciplines, and turn to gastrointestinal specialists, cardiologists, and orthopaedic surgeons for fleshly concerns. While sometimes warranted this persistent division of mind and body is unfortunate.

While the cause of pain is not always apparent it’s also easy to misidentify the problem. Sometimes multiple issues converge in your body, each influencing the others. Instead of implementing a holistic yet scientifically credible approach to healing we remain caught in a hamster wheel of specialization. General physicians purposely overbook to maximize profits while minimizing time with each patient, sending them off to doctors who only treat one specific problem or, worse, whipping out a prescription pad before a proper diagnosis is rendered.

And now, with the promise of smart phone apps removing yet another layer of actual communication with doctors, self-prescription is becoming more prevalent. Since we’re not always adept at diagnosing our problems—“you’re your own best doctor” plays more like an excuse than medicine—and since we’re accustomed to a five minute chat before driving to the pharmacy, it turns out many people are treating emotional pain with opioids. As Olga Khazan reports at the Atlantic,

People with depression show abnormalities in the body’s release of its own, endogenous, opioid chemicals. Depression tends to exacerbate pain—it makes chronic pain last longer and hurts the recovery process after surgery.

Relief offered by a temporary decrease in physical pain might lead to chronic problems, such as addiction and deeper depression, as some opioids have antidepressant properties, Khazan writes. On top of the initial problem a whole slew of tragic reactions begin to occur.

This comes during a time when pharmaceutical companies are being sued

Even If Dana Rohrabacher Was a Russian Asset, Would He Know?

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher
Dana Rohrabacher leaves a House Republican Conference meeting on October 7, 2015 in Washington.

Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican who has represented Huntington Beach, California for 14 terms on Capitol Hill, has a bummer of a nickname: Putin’s Favorite Congressman. On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that, during a closed meeting of House Republicans, Representative Kevin McCarthy—another Californian and, like Rohrabacher, a stalwart ally of President Donald Trump—said (jokingly, it seems) “there’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.”

Then, on Friday, the New York Times reported that five years ago the FBI tried to tell Rohrabacher that Russian spies were literally trying to recruit him, to turn the congressman into a Russian intelligence asset. He told the Times not to worry so much: “I can’t imagine someone in a position of power in the United States government not fully appreciating the fact that whoever he’s dealing with who’s a foreigner that he doesn’t know is trying to influence him.”

No biggie! Rohrabacher is totally onto the Russian spies. And for sure, nobody is seriously claiming that Dana Rohrabacher is taking money from or giving secrets to the Russian government. Except his quote to the Times is a little scary in its predictability. Psychology and behavioral economics say that Rohrabacher almost certainly doesn’t know how compromised he might be by years of friendship and meetings with Russians. “People think other people are more vulnerable to conflict of interest than they are,” says George Loewenstein, a behavioral economist at Carnegie Mellon University. And if you show them the numbers that say everyone is vulnerable? “They say, ‘it’s statistics,’ and they always think they’re at the favorable end of the distribution.”

In this, Rohrabacher is Congress’ version of a physician getting called on by a pharmaceutical sales rep. The reps do everything from pay for super-expensive travel to conferences and big-ticket speeches all the way down to handing out pens emblazoned with drug names and buying cheap lunches. And all of it—all of it—increases the likelihood that a doctor will prescribe the drug, no matter how objectively good the drug is.

Now, this fact used to be tough to get at. Studies of conflict of interest…