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Former DEA agent: Opioid crisis fueled by greed, Congress

We have seen the opioid epidemic up close. Over the past 20 years, Memphis and communities across America have seen opioid use and addiction skyrocket. The collateral damage has been enormous with as many as 200,000 people killed by their addictions and many more addicts facing arrest and incarceration for opioid-related crimes.

According to the former head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Office of Diversion Control, in its quest for ever-greater profits, the pharmaceutical industry pumped hundreds of millions of opioid pills to pain clinics and rogue pharmacies.

Joe Rannazzisi used to run the DEA's Diversion Control office -- the division that regulates and investigates pharmaceutical companies. Now he's a whistleblower who says the industry and its lobbyist allies and friendly members of Congress all helped create the opioid crisis.

"This is an industry that's out of control," Rannazzisi said on "60 Minutes." "This is an industry that allowed millions and millions of drugs to go into bad pharmacies and doctors' offices, that distributed them out to people who had no legitimate need for those drugs."

He says the drug distributors moved the pills from the manufacturers to the clinics, doctors and pharmacies that fueled the epidemic. They knew of, but ignored the booming illicit trade in opioids, happy to reap giant profits from the growing addiction problem America was developing.

Pharmaceutical giants produced opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycodone, assuring everyone who would listen that the drugs were safe and effective. The bottom line, Rannazzisi says, is that big money was made while lives were destroyed.

If you have been arrested for drug crimes and face the possibility of time behind the bars of a Tennessee prison, you can speak with an attorney experienced in drug defense.

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