I'll begin this post by making a confession--over the past year I have become what some people would consider a drug addict. What that means is that I take continual doses of Dilaudid--synthesized morphine--all day, every day. That is not to say I am doing anything illegal, as my dosages are well within the limits set by my prescription. However, because of what has been diagnosed as moderate-to-severe neuropathy in my fingers as especially my feet, a fun little aftereffect of the chemotherapy that helped save my life, I need the drug just to get through the day without screaming. Yes, I am aware that there are other drugs and methods for treating peripheral nerve damage. Problem is, none of them have as yet been able to do squat to relieve my constant pain and discomfort. Maybe medical marijuana would be right for me, except it will be a truly chilly day in Hades before Virginia ever deigns to legalize it and asshole Obama, fake liberal fuck that he is, is every bit as hard-hearted a drug warrior at the federal level as any of his Republican predecessors.
But I didn't come here today to whine and complain about my own ailments. I only wrote that last paragraph so that everyone will know where I am coming from with the rest of this, and that obviously I have every bit of empathy in the world for people who truly are in pain.
That said, do you know what the number one cause of "accidental" death in America is these days? Drug overdose. And the leading form of drug overdose is...drumroll please...prescription drugs. Sorry, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but heroin doesn't even rate.
I'll throw another little fun fact at you from the article I just linked. Despite having the only 5% of the world's population, America consumes an astounding 83% of the world's prescription opioids. Even considering that half the world's population is living in subsistence level poverty with little or no access to decent health care, that is an astounding figure.
Clearly, lots of people in this country are in pain for whatever reason. And just as clearly, there are lots of people out there whose lives have become so desperate and hopeless that they manage to kill themselves while trying to kill the pain.
The latest scare tactic media campaign--and that's another area where America proudly leads the world, using fear of drug abuse to scare the shit out of the "straights" who vote--features teevee ads telling adults to secure their prescription medications lest their drug fiend children and grandchildren get ahold of them and promptly kill themselves. One of the ads I saw recently featured a middle-aged gent standing in front of his bathroom mirror, calmly taking his meds while his teenage daughter stared back at him in the reflection doing the same thing. Made me laugh, because this bozo would have had to be pretty out of it not to notice his pills are disappearing twice as quickly as they ought to be, and with the tighter controls on prescriptions these days he's gonna run out of that shit well before he can get a renewal.
Maybe, as is usually the case, good parenting is a better strategy than keeping a padlock on the ol' medicine cabinet. That's not to say there aren't teenagers out there abusing prescriptions drugs, most certainly there are, but just that there is no better way to get those same straights all fired up about an issue than telling them it's for the good of the children.
As is usually the case with any supposed "crisis" our media decides is worthy of its very short attention span, nobody ever pauses to ask WHY this has become a problem. Why are so many people killing themselves with painkillers? Why do some teenagers feel compelled to try and escape reality for a few precious moments through the abuse of them? Actually, I think I may know the answer to that last one--it comes straight from a quote from a retired DEA agent in the linked article:
“I’m better at picking out drug addicts than anyone you’ve every met,” Stutman told the crowd.
Still, he can’t spot opioid abusers. His prime example: Talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, who confessed to being an Oxycontin addict for years while hosting a nationally syndicated show every morning, and nobody knew. The same can happen to kids.
“They’ll get A’s in high school until they’re dead, or so close it doesn’t matter,” he said.
Do you suppose it might be the pressure to GET all those A's, knowing that if they don't a truly grim future working the counter at the local Panera franchise awaits them, or that even if they do manage to get the grades it'll mean admission to a college that'll saddle them with debt they won't be able to pay off until they are well past their parent's age that might have led little Jane/Johnny to seek the solace of all those painkillers? Perish the thought.
This all should come as no surprise to any thinking person. America is a sick society in so many ways, and it just continues to get sicker every day. It's in everything from our poisoned politics, to our poisoned media culture and right down to the poisoned "food" so many of us consume in massive quantities. All of it causes pain, either physical or psychological--and once you have the pain we'll give you even more poison to help kill it.
But hey, it's all good for the corporate bottom line. And that's all that REALLY matters, amirite?
Bonus: I wish it hadn't been my destiny