You injure your shoulder at the gym, a snapped tendon perhaps. A minor surgery follows and as part of your treatment plan, your doctor prescribes painkillers. Normal, right? During every checkup your doctor writes you a Vicodin prescription and nonchalantly asks you, “Would you like something stronger for your pain?” Some even have the nerve to wink at you. He is a doctor, what harm can come out of it? Meh! “Oh yeah, I still feel some pain,” you say. Several weeks later, you are still seeing your favorite doctor and asking for the same prescription of pain medication. This time though, you are seeking a high. Welcome to the United States of Addiction, a land of pain, irony and painful ironies.
Prescription drugs are grossly abused in America. While the United States makes up only five percent of the world’s population, it consumes a mind-shattering 75 percent of the planet’s prescribed drugs. To put this into perspective, in 2010, everyone in the U.S. could swallow a pill every four hours for one month just to reach the prescription threshold that year, and the numbers are still on the rise. Does it mean inhabitants of the great Americas have giant sized nociceptors that detect even the smallest hint of pain? I think not. Something is definitely amiss.
The highest number of people who use pain medication do not even have prescriptions for such drugs. Heck, one does not even need a prescription to get pain medication at some pharmacies, and if all options fail, hello Craigslist. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, most teenagers who abuse drugs get them from their friends or relatives.
A rising trend in drug abuse is also “pill parties,” where party goers go on drug shopping sprees at local pharmacies and put together all the acquired drugs in bowls to be passed around like M&M’s. In order to raise the potency of such drugs, revelers wash them down with alcohol. The risk, just like the euphoria, is exponential. In some cases, attendees pay the ultimate price: death.
Will Self, renowned writer and former psychiatric patient, describes prescription drugs as the new age chemical straitjackets. A large number of doctors have thrown caution to the wind and, in a hunt for profits have dangerously ignored the first rule of medicine: do no harm. Self credits the epidemic of depression and hyperactivity to disease mongering by medics and big pharma. Doctors are on the hunt for medical slaves. Woe unto you if you are young and restless. Treating your pain will not be the last of your problems and doctors as well as pharmaceutical companies know this. Pain medications set off a myriad of side effects including constipation, erectile dysfunction at 25, hair loss, weight gain — the list goes on. Is it any wonder that advertisements on TV have a specific order that lists all drugs that can treat any disease thinkable to man?
Who is to blame? At a time when our lives are dominated by demagoguery, (don’t even get me started on this) we common folk have learned to find someone to blame. We could blame big pharma, doctors, Walgreens, the police, good old Aunt Jemima or even Craigslist, but the buck stops with us. We are continuously seeking out the fastest route to gratification and there are plenty of people willing to sell us the shortcuts. Nancy Reagan taught us to “just say no,” but she did not tell us that we would have to say “no” to the very people we trust most. So say it now or else the next time you are walking with Prince-ly pomp down 34th Street to CVS for that minor headache, think about how in no time you will be dead at 57.