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How Big Pharma Hooked America On Legal Heroin 499

pigrabbitbear writes "The active ingredient in OxyContin, oxycodone, isn't a new compound. It was originally synthesized in Germany in 1916. The patent on the medication had expired well before Purdue Pharma, a Stamford, Connecticut-based pharmaceutical company and the industry leader in pain medication, released it under the brand name in 1996. The genius of Purdue's continued foray into pain-management medication – they had already produced versions of hydromorphone, oxycodone, fentanyl, codeine, and hydrocodone – was twofold. They not only created a drug from an already readily available compound, but they were able to essentially re-patent the active ingredient by introducing a time-release element. Prior to the 1990s, strong opioid medications were not routinely given for miscellaneous or chronic, moderately painful conditions; the strongest classes of drugs were often reserved for the dying. But Purdue parlayed their time-release system not only into the patent for OxyContin. They also went on a PR blitz, claiming their drug was unique because of the time-release element and implied that it was so difficult to abuse that the risk of addiction was 'under 1%.'"
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How Big Pharma Hooked America On Legal Heroin

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @05:50PM (#41380051)

    That just proves that Rush Limbaugh is part of the 1%.

    • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @06:13PM (#41380391)
      Seriously, how twisted does one have to be to get themselves hooked on heroin, yet thinks pot and people who smoke it, is evil? And people listen to this guy.
      • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @06:30PM (#41380575) Journal
        People who yell the loudest often have the most to hide. He's simply a drug addict who hates himself, his ego won't allow that so he projects his behavior onto others.
        • I think the last time I actually listened to Rush was in 1997, so I really can't remember... does he hate teh gays as much as teh druggies? I'm just asking.

          • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @07:09PM (#41380925) Journal

            The only thing you need to know is that he loves money, and has found a niche that happily pays him plenty of it.

            Frankly, I long ago gave up any hope that any of the major Conservative commentators was being sincere. There's so much money to be made preaching to the choir, and it does matter how over the top the rhetoric they will lap it up, that I think Conservative talk shows are about as real as a carnival side show. Think of Rush as the bearded woman and you've figured out the secret.

            • by demonlapin ( 527802 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @10:25PM (#41382521) Homepage Journal
              If someone tells me that Rush is an idiot, my usual response is to remind them that he probably works about eight hours a day to make millions a year. He might endorse some stupid opinions, but dumb he ain't.
              • Re:Well you know... (Score:4, Interesting)

                by Genda ( 560240 ) <mariet@got . n et> on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @02:55AM (#41383821) Journal

                There is no particular intellectual component to pandering. The fact that the mouth-breathing, knuckle dragging masses that gobble up his swill are less bright than he, only tells me that his IQ isn't in the single digits... there's still plenty of room for profound idiocy, and Rush has publicly uttered inanities that remain classic even to this day. You do remember his verbal assault on Michael j. Fox for "Faking his Parkinson's" after doing a commercial for Democrat in Missouri. By the way, the year before Mike did a similar commercial for a Republican in another state whose voting record on stem cell research was admirable. Because Mike is passionate about curing the disease that will ultimately kill him. Russ is like Samson from the bible. He kills with the jawbone of an ass.

            • The only thing you need to know is that he loves money, and has found a niche that happily pays him plenty of it.

              Frankly, I long ago gave up any hope that any of the major Conservative commentators was being sincere. There's so much money to be made preaching to the choir, and it does matter how over the top the rhetoric they will lap it up, that I think Conservative talk shows are about as real as a carnival side show. Think of Rush as the bearded woman and you've figured out the secret.

              Sometimes I wonder if that's what FOX News is about. Is Murdoch a right-winger, or did he just figure out that there was a big niche to be explopited?

              • Winners (Score:4, Insightful)

                by Kupfernigk ( 1190345 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @03:46AM (#41384145)
                It is said that Murdoch tells his newspapers to support the political parties that look like winning, so that the can then frighten politicians by claiming to be an influence on elections, and get privileges like relaxed media control and access to senior Ministers. But I imagine that in the US, where advertising income is so important, it's more about appealing to the demographic that the advertisers regard as desirable - i.e. well off, sense of entitlement to material goods, and gullible.

                A direct marketer once told me that if he ever managed to get an accurate list of 500 rich, narcissistic and gullible individuals, he would never need to work hard for a living again.

          • by Beardo the Bearded ( 321478 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @07:22PM (#41381055)

            I think the last time I actually listened to Rush was in 1997, so I really can't remember...

            Oh, you're missing out. While Test for Echo was pretty good, that's no way to leave yourself hanging. Rush is still touring, and in fact they released Clockwork Angels in June this year.

      • by emarkp ( 67813 )

        Can you please point to where Limbaugh said "pot and people who smoke it, [are] evil"?

  • by jhoegl ( 638955 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @05:51PM (#41380061)
    They keep the cost low even though other drugs have increased considerably in cost.
    Why is that, one might ask.
    • "They keep the cost low even though other drugs have increased considerably in cost."

      I don't think so. Street value for an Oxy 80 is $80.00 or more. [].

    • by Stickerboy ( 61554 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @06:09PM (#41380337) Homepage

      They keep the cost low even though other drugs have increased considerably in cost.

      Why is that, one might ask.

      Low cost? OxyContin is one of the most expensive PO pain medicines doctors use.

      I have insurance companies tell me all the time that they would rather I use one of the cheaper alternatives if OxyContin comes up.

    • by jersey_emt ( 846314 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @07:14PM (#41380965) Homepage
      OxyContin is many things, but one thing it is definitely not is cheap. A month's prescription costs hundreds of dollars.
  • by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @05:53PM (#41380095) Homepage

    And of course, heroin itself was introduced as a "non-addictive" alternative to morphine.

    From Wikipedia: []

    From 1898 through to 1910, diacetylmorphine was marketed under the trademark name Heroin as a non-addictive morphine substitute and cough suppressant. Bayer marketed the drug as a cure for morphine addiction before it was discovered that it rapidly metabolizes into morphine.

    Funny how history repeats itself.

    • by k6mfw ( 1182893 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @06:34PM (#41380619)
      I cannot help but think of the huge numbers of people in this country are druggies whenever I read articles like this or all these drug commercials and ads. I'm talking about the "legal" ones which I think are higher numbers than your typical addicts that get non-regulated non-prescript from the dealer on the street. And then to think there was a time in China when much of the population were opium addicts which made much of the country dysfunctional and was easily overran by foreign powers (i.e. the Opium Wars). I see the USA going the same route. If I could wave the magic wand, my first would be to prohibit advertisements of prescription drugs on television and internet and magazines. Restrict it to only medical magazines and journals.
      • And how many people are addicted to booze? People are looking for ways to alter their minds. Restricting advertising isn't going to do any good.

        • Restricting advertising isn't going to do any good.

          It's illegal to advertise any prescription drug in Canada. Makes a huge difference. Also makes US television commercials seem unwatchable by comparison. A full third of them seem to be for drugs.

          • by zazzel ( 98233 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @01:43AM (#41383543)

            There's something fundamentally wrong with the "there's a drug for everything!"-attitude in the U.S. I've been brought up by my parents to know that a) most small aches go away anyways, b) medication ALWAYS comes with side effects and c) I should go for the causes of my problems, not the symptoms.

            So, in essence, even for most cases of diagnosed "depression" (not: clinical depression!) these days, I would rather look for changes to my life style (work environment, friends, family, sports, food...) than take medication.

            ESPECIALLY considering the absurd cost of prescription drugs and the insane marketing pressure behind them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @05:56PM (#41380167)

    The vast majority of people who are prescribed opiates do not become addicted to them. Most people who have try heroin or cocaine do not become junkies/fiends who destroy their lives in an attempt to stay high all the time. The "one hit and you're hooked for life" thing is just prohibition propaganda.

    • by sdguero ( 1112795 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @07:20PM (#41381035)
      How many people do you know that have tried heroin and not gotten addicted? How many people do you know that have been "prescribed" heroin? I can think of one person, a roommate I had in college that got violently ill after trying heroin and never did it again. I also know several people that have gone the other route, tried the stuff, loved it, and had sustained heroin addictions for at least a couple months before weaning off. That or they never quit and are now either dead or lost to me. In my experience, heroin addiction is remarkably similar to oxy addiction but is VASTLY different from cocaine (It's not an opiate!!!). The only drug I have seen that is more destructive than heroin/oxy (i.e. opiates) is meth. Meth is really really fucked up.

      Seeing your buddy quit a "mild" oxy addiction cold turkey is enough to make someone never want to touch the stuff. It is brutal.
      • by pepax ( 748182 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @08:06PM (#41381513)
        I tried heroin once. Back in my hitch-hiking days I smoked it (believe it or not) with one of the drivers. It was absolutely wonderful. It felt like I just totally aced a toughest college exam. A complete euphoria. Pure happiness. In fact, it was so wonderful that I decided not try it ever again, because I could see how easily one can become addicted to it. But I did not get addicted. Then again, even back then, I was a motivated student, and my goal was to pursue science. Wasting my life doing drugs wasn't my plan. I might possibly try it again, given a chance, since it's now been almost 20 years. I am not planning on seeking it out, though, and I don't hitch-hike anymore, so I don't think it's going to happen, which is probably for the better.
      • Where heroin is prescribed legally, like Switzerland, virtually all it's so-called nasty side effects are negated.

        People prescribed it don't OD because quantity/quality consistencies are guaranteed. They don't catch things like HIV/HCV because IV equipment availability minimizes equipment sharing. The desire to rob or steal is minimized because prescription heroin doesn't cost much more to make than aspirin.

        Heroin is just a catalyst of morphine, that converts back to morphine in the body, & as such nega

  • lies, damn lies (Score:3, Interesting)

    by craftycoder ( 1851452 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @05:58PM (#41380199)

    The son of a colleague of mine chewed up a few at a party and promptly over dosed. Happy 19th birthday kid, you dead.

  • More hype and angst (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @05:59PM (#41380215) Homepage

    Another Slashdot 'article' full of slant and hyperbole.

    Yep, Purdue over marketed the drug, Pharma always does that.
    No, it was never considered 'safe' - oxycodone has always been DEA schedule II (the most 'dangerous of legal drugs').
    What isn't discussed is that the reason that long acting opiates were allowed by the FDA was the increasing realization that medicine has done a historically poor job of treating pain.

    Now, allopathic medicine has used, and continues to use a very immature and inadequate model both pain control and addiction. The former is hobbled by limited good research on the issue and the fact that the opiates (heroin, morphine, oxycodone and similar drugs) have been the most effective against serious pain while being significantly addictive. The latter hobbled by addiction being both a legal and a medical problem in the US. The legal system and the medical system tend to work poorly with each other and this is not an exception to that rule.

    And I've not even started on the human propensity to stuff whatever it can down it's collective gullet in order to achieve some different level of consciousness.

    Yep, Purdue did some poor marketing and a lot of docs (for some bizarre reason) fell for it, but they are hardly the only players in the game.

    • by aabrown ( 154032 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @06:23PM (#41380511)

      I agree with you for the most part, but... Mr. allopathic: there are two kinds of medicine: medicine and NOT medicine (homeopathic, reiki, acupuncture, and the rest of the (S)CAM stuff). That is all.

    • Another Slashdot 'article' full of slant and hyperbole.

      My thoughts exactly. None of this is news (or even noteworthy) to anyone following the medical industry. Drug patents are not on just a chemical, but on exact formulations and their use to treat specific diseases in specific ways. Double the strength of each pill and have doctors prescribe one daily rather than two, and it's a new patentable drug []. Mix in a practically-irrelevant bit of aspirin and it's a new combination that relieves symptoms and pain!

      It's not that Purdue was particularly evil in their mar

    • by Nursie ( 632944 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @07:17PM (#41380999)

      With you right up until 'allopathic'. The use of that word outs you as an 'alternative' medicine nutjob.

      If the pain model used in medicine is immature and inadequate, it still represents the best we have. I very much hope that if it is immature and inadequate that some serious research is going into that area.

      Because any of the alt-med crap may as well have been pulled out of my butthole. I'd rather have immature than a blend of fantasy and charlatanry.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tinbuktu ( 2725245 )

      Thank you, ColdWetDog

      I find that many people who have not personally experienced years of serious chronic pain tend not have the slightest idea of what they are talking about. For these people Oxycontin=Rush. That's all they really need to know. Nevermind the solid, repeated research that shows only 2% of chronic pain patients on long term opiate therapy become addicted. Nevermind the conflation of addiction and physical dependence. Nevermind the studies showing that when properly managed, long term opi

  • Which is why... (Score:5, Informative)

    by WillyWanker ( 1502057 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @06:00PM (#41380229)

    I won't touch the stuff. My former dentist gave it to me for a toothache to last thru the weekend till I could be seen. Taking the recommended dose for 2 days and I was already hooked enough to experience withdrawal symptoms for the next 3 days. Unbelievable.

    On the next two occasions where I was offered the drug after surgery I said no, just give me ibuprofen. It's just not worth it.

    • I took Oxycontin for kidney stones after increased tolerance from taking opiates over the years for kidney stones. With pain like that, it never goes away, but it made it tolerable. Apparently, I am an exception to the rule, but once the kidney stones were out of me, I felt no compulsion to take anymore. No kidney stones since, and nothing stronger than ibuprofen. Perhaps it is because I haven't gotten "high" off of a pain killer in 20 years. Regardless the reason, it really isn't black or white.
    • by Nadaka ( 224565 )

      The worst I had from taking the things for my dental surgery was a mild hangover like brain fuzz/ache after waking up each day.

      • Yeah, that's the withdrawal. For me it felt like I had the worst flu ever. Massive headache, body aches, chills, nausea. It was pretty awful. I actually had to continue taking it and wean down for 3 days.

  • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @06:00PM (#41380233) Journal
    I don't know how hard is was to introduce that time-release element. However easy it is to defeat it, it might just be a bit harder to come up with than "xyz with rounded corners" or "abc, but on teh interwebz", thus worthy of a patent. And if they indeed patented their proprietary time-release coating rather than the idea of applying such a coating to this specific ingredient, it would seem trivial for other pharma companies to circumvent the patent.
  • CBC The Fifth Estate (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @06:07PM (#41380315)

    If you live in Canada, CBC put out an excellent documentary about Perdue Pharma labs and oxydone marketing:

  • After I donated my Kidney to my son, I was given Oxy for pain management....I hardly used the PCA when I was still in the recovery/observation unit...the nurse had to remind me. So when they gave me the Oxy, I started taking it for a few days on a 6 hour schedule. I decided to hold a dose on the 3rd day I was taking it and the most pain I felt was the punching of the staples (the removed the kidney through my belly using laparoscopicprocedures) I did feel like crap though, run down and a little irritated. T

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @06:22PM (#41380503)

      Why in hell would you throw away a legal supply of opiate painkillers ? You put 'em in the back of the medicine cabinet, and take them with you on camping trips and such, so if a member of your party has a real problem (crushed limbs, deep lacerations, etc.) you have something for the pain on the way back out, or (worst case) waiting for a medevac.

  • []
    Watch it and you'll never touch that stuff without a long pole.

  • by trentfoley ( 226635 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @06:29PM (#41380563) Homepage Journal

    I was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer almost one year ago (7 Oct 2011) and have taken my share of oxycontin/oxycodone. All during chemotherapy, and especially after my surgery, I was taking oxycontin for base pain management, along with oxycodone for 'breakthrough' pain. My tumors responded to chemo wonderfully so that I was a candidate for surgery to have my primary tumor removed, colon ressected, metastatic liver tumors ablated, etc. At this point, I was taking 100mg oxycontin per day and an additional 50mg of oxycodone for 'breakthrough' pain. The narcotic effects slow down one's digestive system so much that I was also taking a shitload of stool softeners... pun intended.

    By the time I finished my chemotherapy treatments (2 Jun 2012) I was thoroughly addicted to oxy. The only remaining pills I was taking were the pain meds and the stool softeners. I decided enough was enough and stopped taking oxycontin. It took a long week before I felt like myself again, escaping the cloudy buzz of oxy. Having gone through so much discomfort, I saw it as just another part of my recovery. Note: 'feeling like myself' is a relative term - after so much chemo, I wasn't myself anymore.

    Now, my cancer is back and I'm starting chemo again this Thursday (20 Sep 2012). Having firsthand knowledge of addiction, kicking a 30+ year smoking habit and an oxy addiction, I will most likely resume taking oxy and get addicted all over again. Why? Because it helped me before. It will help me again. One week of mild discomfort from withdrawal symptoms is nothing compared to the pain and discomfort of chemotherapy.

    • Best wishes on your upcoming therapy, I hope it works for you.
    • by fafalone ( 633739 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @07:16PM (#41380983)
      Well it's nice that overcoming your addiction was so easy, but quite honestly 150mg a day is a very low dose. People with a permanent condition that take it for years, and serious abusers, 150mg might not even be enough to not feel withdrawal symptoms.
      When you take 10-20x that, every day, for years, it's not "part of recovery" and "not feeling like yourself" to stop. It's over a week of vomiting nothing but stomach acid and shitting clear jelly because you can't even keep down a cup of water for more than 10 minutes. when you're not laying in bed screaming, for cold turkey. Tapering from a very high dose is also very different than tapering from a low dose. You'll still feel shitty because you're not taking enough, only it will take 3 or more weeks to get down low enough to stop, and that kind of willpower is not easy.

      Mild discomfort my ass.
  • Here's the problem (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Stickerboy ( 61554 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @06:30PM (#41380567) Homepage

    15-20 years ago, doctors were written up and called out for not treating enough pain. As a profession, we understand intimately the inherent dangers of opioid pain medication, and we were hesitant to use them. But patients were hurting, articles were written, and I'm sure somewhere doctors were sued. So practices changed, "pain management" is now standard curriculum at medical schools and now look, deaths and hospitalizations from prescription pain medication are at all-time highs. Purdue was likely riding the wave of the change in pain management philosophy at the time when they introduced OxyContin. The right drug at the right time, etc.

    • by tsotha ( 720379 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @10:32PM (#41382565)

      15-20 years ago, doctors were written up and called out for not treating enough pain.

      As they should have been. You had people in the last few weeks of life being denied effective pain treatment because submitting too many of some particular government form might be a headache for the doctor. As far as I'm concerned when someone is near death they ought to be able to get whatever they want. So what if the patient is taking more than he needs for the pain. Are we really worried about addiction in someone who's going to be dead in a few weeks?

  • by drwho ( 4190 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @06:30PM (#41380577) Homepage Journal

    After being the victim of a serious accident, I was in an enormous amount of pain. Oxycodone was a real goddsend. Maybe it takes a soul-shattering amount of pain to really appreciate the value of this drug. Yes, there are lots of addicts - but far more people are addicted to nicotiene. These slams against 'big pharma' for the black market in this drug are counter-productive and quite maddening. Doctors are becoming afraid to prescribe painkillers because they'll be accused of being 'pill doctors', so many people who don't know they have to advocate for themselves in this situation have to suffer unnecessarily. Tip: if you get a prescription, get as many pills as you can. Save some for later, because you'll never know when the anti-drug lobby will cut off the supply.

    BTW this isn't news for nerds. Is this the new direction of Slashdot under new ownership? Rage-news in all categories, not just tech?

    • You think going after the doctors is scary? The DEA is trying to shut down pharmacies (Walgreens and CVS) that are filling legitimate pain medicine prescriptions with absolutely NO evidence of diversion. They are trying to simply revoke their license without any hearing or evidence or any procedure of any kind.

  • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @06:47PM (#41380739)

    And the Anti-Drug lobby writes another opinion piece that medicine should not be treating pain and pharma is out of control by providing new pain management options.

    The reason pain prescriptions have gone up is that medicine isn't telling people to take 2 asprin and fuck off. The reason my father has a fucked up GI system is because of the asprin abuse because he was never given the option of real pain management.

    As a chronic pain sufferer I wish every one of these fucktards that think no one should be on pain management could experience a month of what I do every day. The constant thoughts of suicide, the near complete lack of life, enjoyment or any satisfaction in life, the exhaustion and the constant work just getting out of bed every day. There is a reason there is an ex law enforcement organization devoted to campaigning proper pain management and it's because some of those lucky people get to experience real chronic pain.

    Someone that's never experienced chronic severe pain has no fucking idea what it's like.

  • by Fuzzums ( 250400 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @07:00PM (#41380857) Homepage

    So if you push your product to 1.000.000 people, you will get 1.000 very satisfied frequent returning customers.
    Close to 0,999% is still under 1%. I'm sure if it was closer to 0,5% they would have said something like 'about 0,5%'.

  • SO that (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <dnaltropnidad>> on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @07:03PM (#41380875) Homepage Journal

    added something tat makes it time release, thus fixing some of the major issues.
    I am supposed to be outraged..why? Becasue something was out of patent, that made something new and patented it.

    Well, that's how it's supposed to work.

    Shit you should be applauding the successful and proper use of the patent system

  • Chronic Pain. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @07:49PM (#41381343)

    Is Chronic, so why not ACCEPT and MANAGE addiction?

    • by Fjandr ( 66656 )

      From what I've read, the incidence of psychological addiction developing in people who take opiates for chronic pain is actually quite a lot lower than for those who take them for acute pain (post-op, injury, whatever). Unfortunately I cannot remember where I saw the reference to such studies, so anyone interested might wish to dig in that direction.

      Fortunately, cancer pain has so far been relatively insulated from the crackdowns in other areas. I know I'd be non-functional from pain without opiate-based pa

  • by ldunn1958 ( 2733629 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @10:10PM (#41382437)
    Many chronic pain sufferers will tell you that they had never imagined it was even possible to feel so much pain. They live in a universe of pain unknown to most of us. Try to imagine yourself in bed with pain shooting through your body that is so intense that you cannot move. It seems it could get no worse, but any effort to move doubles, triples the intensity. So there you lie weeping but not sobbing because that would hurt even more. Now imagine that you know for a fact that there is a pill you could take that would let you get out of bed and go to work. But you won't get it. Why? Because the DOJ does not trust you not to sell it on the street. How does that make you feel?
  • by WilyCoder ( 736280 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @11:35PM (#41382909)

    The fact that the DEA has any legal ability to interrupt the doctor patient relationship shows how messed up the drug laws are.

    Doctors need to prescribe opiates, they are the only drugs that can really manage chronic, debilitating pain. And then the DEA can swoop in and be like "drugs are bad mkay, enjoy your pain". That is so messed up.

    • Indeed. I can remember the first time I tried oxycodone (wisdom teeth removed). Up until around that time, I was somewhat anti-drug -> purity of mind, all that jazz.

      I never realized that a drug like this existed, one which could treat my more powerful migraines. It was a bit like Neo realizing that he was in the Matrix -> everything I had been told were lies. Looking around in my heavenly mental state of mind, the first time in my life I felt some clarity, I realized that our society was built to not

Computer programmers do it byte by byte.