Op-Eds Opinion

Is America’s War on Drugs in Focus?

America is losing the “war on drugs.” No, this is not the same “war on drugs” that has been long-fabled since its first mention by President Richard Nixon back in 1971.

Tyler Leahy
Opinions Editor

 

 

 

 

leahyAmerica is losing the “war on drugs.” No, this is not the same “war on drugs” that has been long-fabled since its first mention by President Richard Nixon back in 1971.

A current losing effort, in fact, does not have to do with illicit drug culture. While progress towards sensible drug policy in the United States has been slow, it has been evident. The current approach emphasized by the federal government is still fueled by political blather and criminal justice, however, without the health-based attitude needed for true reform.

Television news has in recent years been dominated by the reemergence of a new heroine epidemic, the debate on marijuana legalization at state levels, and a revived fascination with psychedelic drugs amongst American teenagers.

Such news stories raise important issues of discussion, but only address half of a more expansive issue. What is often neglected the spotlight is a much more troubling drug fascination: the American obsession with prescription medications.

Americans account for 75 percent of the world’s prescription drug use, despite accounting for only 5 percent of the population.

Of course, not all prescription drug use should be vilified. In many cases, prescription medication can be a life-saving method of treating medical conditions, or at least a viable boost to the sustainability of personal health.

Drugs are the most cost effective form of disease treatment and in most cases have positive impacts on the lives of Americans.

However, per the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), “In 2010, enough prescription painkillers were prescribed to medicate every American adult every 4 hours for a month.”

Quite similarly, 1 in 10 Americans takes an antidepressant medication daily.  The U.S. Food and Drug Advisory have warned about a heightened association between antidepressant use and suicide since 2003.

NIDA statistics from 2011 showed that 52 million people have used prescription drugs non-medically.

To say there is a debate about whether or not we Americans are overprescribed would be imprudent. There is without a doubt a pill popping issue. Otherwise, how could one country account for 75 percent of the world’s prescription drug use?

There is an abuse issue that is for the most part nullified as something inconsequential. Personal abuse and over-prescription by healthcare providers should be as troubling as any illicit drug irresponsibility. 

As I see parents on the nightly television news, I feel for their concerns about how their children are greatly exposed to substances such as marijuana and psychedelics in our nation’s high schools. They are important concerns, and by no means should be neglected.

Do not forget that non-illicit drugs can pose just as many issues to our people as their street counterparts, especially with our nation’s youth. Prescription drug abuse causes the largest percentage of drug overdoses resulting in death.

Amongst the most abused drugs are types that are often administered to teenagers without much thought, including antidepressants and stimulants.

Many teens are prescribed antidepressants to treat symptoms of anxiety and depression. It is also common that teens take stimulants to counteract learning impairments such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

How many of these teens are misdiagnosed? Without downplaying the adverse effects of such health conditions, this question must be considered. It must be considered because when improperly used, these drugs can be just as dangerous as any recreational drugs teens are doing with their friends.

We should consider our prescription drug reliance in general. In 2013, a doctor prescribed me a low-dose painkiller for back spasms. The painkiller had such a tiring and debilitating effect on my body that I would often have to clock out of work to go home and sleep. Are these the kind of pills we want prescribed often enough to medicate every American adult every 4 hours for a month?

The point is our hysteria about drug abuse in America only addresses half of a much broader problem. The half downplayed as unimportant is arguably more dangerous, as it affects an even larger percent of our population.

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