It should come as no surprise that more than half of all Americans (57%) believe that pharmaceutical companies should be held responsible in some way for the opioid epidemic sweeping America. In fact, more than 70% say that drug companies should have to pay the cost of addiction treatment in addition to covering the cost of naloxone, which is a drug used to revive patients who have overdosed. Pharmaceutical companies have, of course, profited hugely from the opioid epidemic and may have even been a contributing factor in causing it. But to place the blame solely at their feet does little to nothing to solve the actual problem.
WHAT IS THE REAL PROBLEM?
In 1971, it was estimated that roughly 15% of all troops stationed in Viet Nam were heroine addicts. Heroine is another opioid similar to the painkillers fueling the current epidemic. At the time, the US government feared the outcome of that many opioid addicts returning to the US. In response, they instituted a policy named “Operation Golden Flow” in which US soldiers could not return to the US until they were able to deliver a clean urine sample. Soldiers that could not were sent to detox until they could.
Needless to say, it would seem inevitable that once the addicted soldiers returned to the US, they would simply fall right back into old habits. Shockingly, only 5% of all of those treated relapsed within a year and only 12% relapsed, even briefly, within three years. What was even more astonishing was that according to the Department of Health and Human Services as many as 78% of those admitted for heroin use had been in treatment at least once before.
Studies of this phenomena have made one thing clear. Environment and life circumstance play an incredibly strong role in addiction. During the Viet Nam war, soldiers were exposed to a potent combination of boredom and the sudden atrocious horror that resulted in a kind of psychological whiplash. Once they returned to the more mundane, stable and steady rhythm of life in the US, they simply lost their need to numb the psychological pain created by their environment.
While there is no doubt that pharmaceutical companies played a significant role in supplying the epidemic, the truth is, until we address the underlying cause of the epidemic, there is likely to be no relief from it.
Lorne Cross, MD is a healthcare professional from Portland, Oregon, who specializes in Addiction Medicine. It’s no secret that the United States is facing an opioid crisis. There are more lives lost to overdose deaths each year than were lost in the entire Vietnam War, and new data shows that opioids now kill more people each year than breast cancer. Understanding and treating the opioid crisis is of utmost importance to this country, and Dr. Cross has chosen to specialize in Addiction Medicine and focus all of his professional attention on this critical problem.
As the Medical Director of the Willamette Valley Treatment Center, Dr. Cross is the leader of a team that provides Medication Assisted Treatment to patients with Opioid Use Disorder. Lorne Cross, MD also serves as the Medical Director of a new Opioid Treatment Program in the Yamhill County Jail. Focusing on the treatment of opiate addiction, rather than punishment, can help to prevent relapse, decrease the rate of overdose deaths, and help to lower recidivism in the jail population, putting inmates on the right path upon release. Giving patients a path to recovery ultimately sets them up for more success in their futures.
Dr. Cross is hopeful as he looks into the future of treatment opportunities for opiate addiction. He sees the expansion of treatment into jails and prisons as a necessary step towards treating the opioid crisis and preventing unnecessary overdose deaths. Treating addiction with a rehabilitative approach is one of the best ways to reach out to those who truly need it most.
Senior Medical School Class Officer
Scholastic Honors Program Graduate
John Philip Sousa Award 1988
Years' Experience in Healthcare
Years Serving as a Major in the U.S. Army Reserve
Published Research Articles
From the time he was a child, Lorne Cross, MD was always fascinated by medicine and the natural sciences. By the time he reached college he knew he wanted to attend medical school and pursue his medical degree. He graduated in the top third of his class from Loma Linda University School of Medicine and completed his medicine internship and his anesthesiology residency at Loma Linda University Medical Center. Loma Linda University is a coeducational health sciences university located in California. He is also a Magna Cum Laude graduate of the Scholastic Honors Program at Southwestern Adventist College, where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Biology. Southwestern Adventist College is a small college, with an undergraduate enrollment of around 800 students, located in Texas.
Outside of work, Lorne Cross, MD likes to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle. He is an avid cyclist and bicycle racer, while actively pursuing many other sports. Outside of spending time exercising, he also loves to travel to new locations and spend time with his two teenage children and family.