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The rise of prescription drug abuse

By Ines Morales - 02 Nov 2011 19:16:0 GMT
The rise of prescription drug abuse

Prescription drugs via Shutterstock

Forget about cocaine, heroine, or methamphetamines. At least in the U.S.,prescription drugs are fast overtaking them. A recent national survey found that medical pills rank second in young people's list of preferred drugs, after marijuana, and that this sort of abuse can lead to addiction to other drugs.

The survey also found that the majority of prescription drug abusers get their pills from friends or relatives. Prescription drug abuse is also rising among active duty service members. It's also the form of drug abuse least likely to be discovered and treated.

This prescription drug problem has become so widespread in the U.S. that it has been labeled an epidemic and the White House has recently outlined a program to fight it. The plan builds on research and previous policies, and its proposed strategies range from education to law enforcement.

By teaching people about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, setting up more effective monitoring and disposal programs, and providing law enforcement agencies with more resources so that they can have a better control over prescription drug trafficking and abuse, the U.S. federal government hopes to win the war against pill addiction, or at least some battles.

The federal proposal is extremely detailed, with a lot of common-sense ideas to address the problem. It might even work to some extent. But it has one major drawback - like so many other proposals of its kind, the White House's plan treats the symptoms, not the cause.

It tries to make young people realize that abusing pills is dangerous for their health. It tries to reduce supply. But it never asks the most important question of all: Why are all these people taking prescription drugs?

The truth is we live in a time of crisis. Too many young people today lack a meaningful way to make sense of their lives, or the sort of collective support networks that previous societies could provide. Too many people are vulnerable to the insecurities of a world where expectations may have been set too high and the future seems to be going down the drain.

These deep anxieties certainly don't account for all drug abuse cases - but they are a major part of what fuels the current addiction epidemic. In other words, unless we can dramatically fix our broken social environment, we'll never be able to gain the upper hand in this war against illicit drugs.

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