**Swallowing a Sharp and Unpleasant Pill**

Pain is intended to intimidate us, serving as a signal that we have suffered harm—a clear indication that something is amiss. While it is a shared human ordeal, it is also deeply personal, making it impossible to fully grasp another person’s experience of it. Most individuals strive to evade pain at all costs.

Recently, I’ve been pondering the distinctions between acute and chronic pain following my mother’s arm fracture last month. Following a complex surgical procedure to mend her fractures, the physician prescribed opioids for pain management, following standard medical practice.

However, given the ongoing opioid crisis in the country, one might question the safety of utilizing these pain-relieving medications. A report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that over 51 million individuals, representing more than 20% of U.S. adults, experience chronic pain. Among them, 17 million adults, nearly 7%, endure high-impact chronic pain that significantly hinders their daily activities.

Notably, chronic pain is more prevalent among older adults than any other age group. Nevertheless, the treatment options available to them pose considerable risks, including the potential for developing an addiction to pain medications.

At the forefront of America’s pain industry are the Sackler family, who own Purdue Pharma, the company responsible for the highly addictive and immensely profitable drug OxyContin. The aggressive promotion of OxyContin played a pivotal role in fueling a devastating and escalating national crisis. Shockingly, from 1999 to 2021, approximately 645,000 individuals lost their lives due to opioid-related overdoses, encompassing both prescription and illicit opioids.

In a significant development, the Supreme Court recently heard the government’s opposition to a multibillion-dollar bankruptcy settlement involving Purdue Pharma. This proposed settlement would restructure the company as a nonprofit entity to address the public health emergency stemming from the opioid epidemic.

As part of the settlement, members of the Sackler family have committed to contributing up to \(6 billion while seeking immunity from future civil liabilities related to opioid claims. This immunity is crucial for safeguarding the \)10 billion that was transferred to offshore accounts in the period leading up to Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy. The Supreme Court is expected to render a decision later this year on whether the Sacklers will be granted this immunity, allowing them to retain their status as one of the wealthiest families worldwide.

In a just society, the highest court would be deliberating whether the Sacklers deserve to face legal consequences for their actions.

A writer for The Bulwark, Saul Lelchuk, posed the question in a 2021 article: Are the Sacklers “the most evil family in American history”? He contended that the Sacklers have inflicted more widespread damage on America’s social fabric and, consequently, caused more American fatalities than any other single family in the nation’s history.

This assertion may very well earn them that infamous title.

I recently spoke with an elderly individual grappling with chronic pain, who shared his experience managing it with opioids. While he had been coping with the pain using a painkiller called tramadol, a potential back fracture led to a spike in his pain levels, prompting his doctor to prescribe oxycodone—a significantly more potent opioid.

Describing his struggle, he mentioned, “Taking sufficient painkillers to reduce (not eliminate) the pain means I do not think clearly unless I make a special effort, on even the simplest of chores, to ensure I am doing it correctly.” Every basic task, such as balancing a checkbook or storing groceries, demands heightened concentration.

This added mental strain compounds the physical distress he endures.

He further expressed, “And being spaced out or snarling in pain really doesn’t help my relationship with my wife.”

Of particular concern was his revelation that the medication provided minimal relief and that as the pain escalated, his dosage increased. He lamented, “The worst part is it is not a pleasant ‘high.’ It just makes me drowsy, and I sleep for two or three hours until the pain wakes me up again. The cycle is somewhat vicious – pain, increasing pain, drugs, sleep, wake up to pain, increasing pain.”

My primary focus is not to alarm my mother regarding the risks associated with pain medication while she is still recuperating from the post-surgery pain. She is already well-informed.

In the midst of it all, the Sacklers await their shield of legal protection.