Tutta Responds: the tired, the poor and the wimps

Ray gets no argument from me about how serious drug addiction is, or about its near-epidemic proportions in the U.S. The reasons for rampant drug use are less clear to me, however. Remembering that making unproven statements about cause will earn one an automatic ‘F’ in any statistics class, I tend to be cautious about assumptions, but how about this for a wild guess: There’s a ton of money to be made by selling drugs – legally and illegally.

Pharmaceutical companies are among the richest of the rich. Prescription drugs sales were about $381 billion in the U.S. last year, averaging $1,157 for every man, woman and child. For a family of four, that’s $4,600 a year. I’m grateful for the careful (and costly) research that makes all our lives longer and healthier, but not fooled about the profit involved. Ads suggesting I “ask my doctor about this drug” possibly aren’t meant entirely for my own good. The day my physician needs my advice about what to prescribe is the day we’re both in trouble, the deep kind.

Drug addiction has changed since the time illicit substances were sold only by back-alley thugs. Streets, parks, schools, offices now make them readily available. That’s not to mention home medicine cabinets filled with pills and liquids, with drug store shelves holding mildly mind-altering substances.

Why so many people like to feel looped and goofy is a complex story involving loneliness, boredom, fear, curiosity and the confusion of broken-up families, among other things. Most people believe they can handle drugs without a problem, and they can, right up until the time they can’t. Then it’s too late.

What cures drug addiction? Nothing, so far, not laws, lectures, threats, promises or religion. People can stop using with help and great effort, but aren’t “cured”. With enough financial incentive, pharma-companies might find a solution – more drugs to solve a drug problem. Think that would work?

What doesn’t work are namby-pamby lectures by naïve, if well-meaning, teachers and passers-by. Kids need clear, specific information about body and brain reactions to drugs, with films of real people in real withdrawal, curled up in a ball, crying, begging for drugs – or screaming, beating on walls.

Another thought: Maybe we could all adjust to occasional aches and pains. Pain should be checked out, of course, but it isn’t necessary to feel terrific every minute. Americans are tough, remember? Determined, resilient. That’s a heritage to keep and pass along. Forget excluding the tired, the poor, and those who can’t speak English; I’m for keeping the wimps out.

As Ray is fond of saying, I could be wrong. If so, please let me know, but I’ll probably stick to it anyway.

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