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Why Can’t We Invent Non-Addictive Painkillers?

A walk through any major city in the U.S. shows ample evidence of our country’s daily technological breakthroughs. On a recent stroll through Chicago, I observed a boy on a hover board, travelers in hybrids and fully electric vehicles. People reading electronic messages on their watch and asking walking directions to their phones are commonplace.

Buildings along the Chicago River are powered by solar and wind and the offices are lit by state of the art LED bulbs that are 500% longer lasting than light bulbs made five years ago. Cell phones held in the hands of adults and children alike are 50 times more powerful than the largest super computers of the 1980s.

Yet a turn down the wrong street led me to scores of heroin addicts, some begging for money, some awake and others somewhere in between. And where did most of these addicts start their downward spiral? With prescription painkillers known to be addictive. These opioid painkillers have been used for 200 years to treat pain. The same pain killing treatment that led to a war between China and Britain in 1839 (known as the First Opium War) is now used by every doctor in the United States.

These massively addictive pills have led to deaths of pandemic propositions. In 2015, for example, the United States experienced more deaths from heroin overdoses than gun violence.

So in the last 200 years, our society has transformed every aspect of society and introduced cars, telephones, TV, radio, X-rays and a million other technologies used daily. But, painkilling technology has not changed, despite the massive death and destruction it causes? Can the same country that produced Tesla, the iPhone and eliminated HIV not develop painkillers that do not render people slaves to addiction?

Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Cuban, Bill Gates — where are the brilliant minds formulating non-addictive pain treatment? Hundreds of thousands of lives are at stake. Where is our hero?

Marc Treitler and his family are the founders and creators of the family addiction education website and the authors and illustrators of My Dad Is an Alcoholic, What About Me?: A Pre-teen Guide to Conquering Addictive Genes.

Learn more about how to talk to your kids about substance abuse at You can also find and connect with the authors on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+.

Marc Treitler

Marc enjoys spending time with his family and their new Yorkie puppy, Coco. He is an executive of a utility company, which keeps him very busy and allows him to travel throughout the country. When Marc isn’t working or on his phone, his hobbies include: embarrassing his wife and kids, convincing his daughter that boys are bad, passing his musical tastes to his son, cleaning-up puppy pee inside the house, and talking politics to anyone that will listen.