The Opioid Crisis, the Pharmaceutical Companies, the DEA, the CIA, and Congress

Did you watch the 60 Minutes segment about the opioid crisis on October 15th, 2017?

In case you missed it, 60 Minutes correspondent Bill Whitaker interviewed ex-DEA Agent Joe Rannazzisi, who ran the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control that regulates and investigates the pharmaceutical industry.

Rannazzisi, a whistleblower, said the opioid crisis was allowed to spread — aided by congress, lobbyists, and a drug distribution industry that shipped hundreds of millions of pills to rogue pharmacies and pain clinics across the U.S.

The following week President Trump declared the opioid overdose crisis a national public health emergency. Opioid addiction crosses all boundaries. Age. Income. Location. No one is immune, and over 200,000 people have died.

The United States is not alone—other countries are also struggling with increased overdose rates.

How the Drug Crisis Began

When I was researching my first novel, Busted, I connected with people involved in all facets of the drug war. The conversations I had with one gentleman, in particular, has haunted me. For this blog, I’ll call him Fred.

Fred worked for Pablo Escobar in the nineties, selling cocaine throughout the Southwest. Eventually, Fred was caught, convicted, served time in federal prison, and now runs a halfway house helping inmates transition back into society.

Fred told me the drug trade began during the Viet Nam war, where many in the military used drugs to help them deal with the atrocities. When they returned home, most left their drug habits behind. Some didn’t. When they needed to feed their addictions, the demand for drugs grew.

Allegedly, the CIA believed if they supplied the drugs in the U.S., they could control the flow and fund their “black ops” that congress wouldn’t approve.

What happened?

The demand grew faster than the CIA could supply, which opened the door for Pablo Escobar.

What bothers me is that Fred claims the CIA has become the biggest drug supplier in the world. Because of the constant budget cuts, they supplement their funding through the black market.


A parallel example of the CIA involved in illicit activities for financial gain is the Iran-Contra affair. Remember when Oliver North brokered a deal to sell arms to Iran under the guise of freeing kidnapped Americans, then funded the Nicaraguan Contras?

Back to 60 Minutes

Did the government and pharmaceutical industry fuel America’s opioid epidemic? Bill Whitaker asked Joe Rannazzisi.

The ex-DEA agent said that since the scrutiny on distributors began, 46 investigators, attorneys, and supervisors from the DEA, including 32 directly from the division that regulates the drug industry, were hired by the pharmaceutical industry to lobby congress.


So theoretically, we have a situation where the U.S. is selling drugs, congress is aiding the pharmaceutical’s industry to distribute drugs, and in case you weren’t aware, Jeff Sessions, the current attorney general, is escalating the war on drugs.

Huh? The U.S. is supplying, distributing, and fighting drugs?

What can we do?

In the Drug Policy Alliance’s October Newsletter, the executive director Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno wrote, “arresting and locking up people who use drugs has only driven them underground, making it less likely they’ll seek help when they need it.”

Her solution is that if we are to eradicate the overdose crisis, we first need to end the decriminalization of drug use and possession.

Did you know:

–The number of people in prison for drug offenses today is 10X more than in 1980? One in 111 adults is incarcerated.

–Fifty-seven percent of people imprisoned for drug offenses are black or Latino?


–That heroin deaths have increased 67% in the last ten years? People become addicted to pain pills then switch to heroin because it’s cheaper and easier to get.

–More than $51B is spent annually on the drug war?


What do you think? Do you believe the war on drugs has failed? Did the 60 Minutes report concern you? Are the pharmaceutical companies in collusion? Do you know someone who was impacted by the opioid crisis? I love hearing from you.

Warmest Regards,                                                                                                                                           Michele                                                                                                                                                               Author, Busted                                                                                                                                                                                

4 thoughts on “The Opioid Crisis, the Pharmaceutical Companies, the DEA, the CIA, and Congress”

  1. jesse fortunejesse fortune

    Great Information and an honest angle about the “War on Drugs”

  2. Tina GrantTina Grant

    yes, the war and drugs, has defiantly failed. Is there a solution. I honestly don’t know. when it comes to drug addicts I have plenty of horror stories. My book “Reckless Beginnings” deals partly with living with a heroin addict for 5 years. I didn’t find out until a year into the relationship. It’s a vicious cycle, filled with violence, crime, and fear. I saw a life that was totally destroyed by drugs. But it was also a learning curve. I have zero tolerance for drugs of any kind, knowing what they are capable of. Interesting article Michele. any people do not realize the severity of the drug problem

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