West Virginia’s monstrous opioid pain pill/heroin epidemic got its start, according to many, when well-meaning doctors all over the state prescribed to their patients a new medicine for treating their chronic pain — pain many of those patients had developed after years of hard, physical labor for very little reward. Those very first doctors no doubt believed they were adhering to the modern version of the Hippocratic Oath’s admonishment to “apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required,” in order to “experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.”
A medicine, touted by the pharmaceutical industry as the next great way to help patients manage pain — and approved by the Food and Drug Administration to do so — had a shady ancestry and relatives. Its medical predecessors, like morphine, were known to be highly addictive and damaging to those for whom it was not properly managed.
Meanwhile, heroin and illegally acquired pills sold on the streets became an alternative for those whose doctors cut them off once they began to catch on to