Of course drug companies have helped to cause the opioid epidemic. There are other people and investors involved, but because of heavy campaigning, drug companies have brought on a dependence to drugs that can do more harm than good. Bernie Sanders hits the nail on the head when he says that big pharmaceutical companies have more say in what medicines we receive that our own doctors do. I think that if we are to move forward and provide the best care for patients, we need to stop worry about the almighty dollar involved in pharmaceuticals and worry more about what the patient really and truly needs.
There is no real reason to take any sort of medication for longer than a few months. That doesn't spell profit for drug companies. Therefore, they have made it so they could be allowed to advertise, buddy up with doctors, and rule the nation's pharmacies. Thanks to that formula, we became a nation of drug addicts. It isn't really a debate, just historical recitation.
I work at a hospital and I routinely meet with doctors as part of my job. According to those doctors, the actual laws regarding opioid prescriptions are rather strict, and they can only be prescribed for a certain number of days, and then cannot be renewed. Down in the ER, where most of the outpatients we see enter the hospital, the patient has to undergo multiple diagnostic tests to determine the exact source of the pain they came in for; if the diagnostic imaging doesn't show a reason for a prescription, the strongest medicine our doctors are allowed to prescribe is 800mg Ibuprofin. If opioids are given out more liberally than the law allows, that is on the prescribing doctors.
The drug companies hold some blame for the opiod epidemic but the real culprits are doctors who overprescribe these drugs, and lax penalties and enforcement of laws. Our laws are weak in this area because we have always treated drugs that white people take more easily than those that people perceive as plaguing inner cities.