The Problem of Doctor Prescribed Drug Addiction
Posted June 24, 2012
The United States is being overwhelmed by an epidemic of addiction to prescribed synthetic opiates such as OxyContin, hydrocodone, Percocet, Lorcet, Lortab and
Vicodin. What should be done? The quick answer: Take the profit out
First, there should be additional pain drug education for all doctors and a whole new curriculum for any doctor who would be allowed the privilege of
prescribing potent, addictive pain medicine.
Second, health education in middle school should pound home the
message that just because a doctor prescribes a drug, does not mean
it is "safe." Furthermore, the fact that perception of pain is a
matter of mood and context must be taught. (Childbirth pain, for
example, will be experienced differently by supported mothers when
the baby is wanted compared to isolated single moms who are unhappy
to be pregnant.)
Third, scientific research for promising nonaddictive pain
medications should be funded, and when effective reasonable cost
substitutes for the synthetic opiates are found, the addictive
medicines should then be banned. In March 2007, for example,
ScienceDaily.com reported that scientists came up with UFP-101,
which "avoids many of the side effects of morphine, currently the
'gold standard' in pain reduction." Given that drug firms will not
even admit - until circumstances force them to - that their drugs
are addictive, banning an existing pain-relief drug will be a tall
Fourth, drug companies which market addictive medications must be
required to package them in the least addiction-creating ways
possible (e.g., time-release patches rather than pills) and in ways
that are difficult for criminals - who would repackage the active
ingredient in a way that will create addiction - to tamper with.
Fifth, allow practitioners of effective alternative pain
treatments to practice. Three proven alternatives are acupuncture,
hypnotism and micro-electronic implants. Of course, any practitioner
of anti-pain arts should have to prove, to some extent at least,
that their practices do indeed work. But, having provided such proof
that should be it - no further barriers to practice (promoted by now-
mainstream practitioners) should be allowed.
Sixth, encourage skepticism about the (mostly for-profit) pain-
industrial complex. Scientists may love to split hairs about what
"really" constitutes addition, but for-profit drug companies have no
bottom-line reason to cooperate. Indeed, addiction obviously
increases sales. Doctors can keep many patients content by merely
prescribing "happy pills," and established detox and treatment
centers do not want to close their doors.
There are combined approaches to manage problems with addictive
substances that society has decided should be legal. Cigarettes and
liquor, for example, are subjected to advertising and age-use
restrictions. There are a variety of programs to counter illegal
addictive substances, such as crop eradication and border guards to
interrupt smuggling routes.
Now, without question, alcohol and nicotine kill and incapacitate
many, many people, and black market cocaine and heroin activities
flourish. But, however expensive or ineffective such prevention
efforts may be, they do exist and they are scrutinized and evolving.
By contrast, so far, efforts to control synthetic opiates have been
limited to reclassifying some of them as Schedule II drugs (Schedule
I being the most dangerous). There is, in fact, no multifaceted
approach to handle this ballooning problem.
Such reclassification, welcome as it may be, is not nearly
proportionate to the problem. Recently the Gazette reported that
Toyota was reluctant to expand in West Virginia because those whom
they might employ would be addicts. It was also reported that West
Virginia ranks high in births of babies whose mothers were addicted
to prescription drugs.
that unintentional deaths from prescription opioid analgesics now
outnumber such deaths from cocaine and heroin combined. That was not
so a decade ago.
Palmer is a retired business and economics professor.
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