Prescription drugs on the rise
Published: Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 20:02
There is one statement I will always remember vividly in the aftermath of Whitney Houston's death. The initial reports unfortunately showcased how the prescription drug culture has yet to meet the backlash that it should. The statement read, "Whitney Houston found dead, no illegal drugs found, only prescription." It was so nonchalant, yet it revealed a stunning fact.
As a society we have not yet understood the true perils of prescription drugs. At the current rate it is only a matter of time before the body count becomes too much.
Eerily akin to the deaths of Michael Jackson and Heath Ledger, the tragic death of Houston, the 48-year-old megastar, has again brought up the ugly truth about the prescription drug epidemic that is dominating the celebrity culture. Once again we are faced with a celebrity death where the dark cloud of potential prescription overuse and doctor-enabling hangs over the tragic scene.
It is beginning to read like a bad horror movie over and over again. In the last decade prescription drug abuse has risen by 400 percent and is now the leading cause of fatal drug overdoses in the U.S.
What becomes appalling is the level of abuse. For instance, certain sedatives like Valium, Ativan, Xanax, Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin are all similar in their effects yet many patients have more than one in their possession at a time. Imagine if Whitney Houston was found with heroin, cocaine and acid in her house. We would be shocked. Replace that with less scary prescription drugs and it just becomes a sad story.
But who is to blame?
Physicians and pharmacies must be held responsible if they do not keep track of the medications that are being prescribed. It is no secret that the drug Enforcement Agency is fundamentally flawed and anemic when it comes to monitoring the problem and putting pressure on physicians to restrict their prescribing practices.
The fact that 70 percent of the narcotic painkillers in the U.S. are taken by people other than those they were prescribed for confirms this.
However, in the aftermath of her death it seems that the tide may be changing. Republican Mary Bono Mack, plans to hold a series of congressional hearings on prescription drug abuse. In her CNN interview, Bono Mack said that the "fastest-growing epidemic in America right now is the prescription drug abuse epidemic."
"Doctors need to become a little bit more trained and aware of the abuse prevalence of some of these very, very powerful narcotics. We need to finally get serious about tackling this deadly issue head-on, addressing everything from the over-prescribing of medications to cracking down on pill mills."
Now as the second leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. , it is time to get serious about prescription drug abuse.
The onus however lies on the doctors. Celebrity deaths ranging from Anna Nicole Smith to Michael Jackson have shown the notorious role doctors play as part of a celebrity's entourage. Doctors are often driven by factors that can harm their patients, be it greed or simply the fascination with pleasing their celebrity clients. Doctors who can't justify the prescriptions they write shouldn't be practicing medicine.