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Linda_Owl's avatar

Do you think that society should try to stem the tide of prescription overdose deaths?

Asked by Linda_Owl (7722 points ) June 9th, 2012

It has been shown that in the state of New Mexico that there has been an increase of 60% in prescription overdose deaths from 2001 to 2010. These deaths are due to people taking too much of the opioids (pain killers), like oxycodone, morphine, & methadone. These overdose deaths have far out-stripped the deaths from illegal drugs. My question is, are we obligated as a society to try to keep these drugs out of the hands of people who abuse them, especially when laws that would control these drugs would cause undue pain & suffering for those who actually need these drugs. There has to be a point where one has to wonder if trying to control the prescription drug abusers is worth the effort? It gives all of us a heartache when a teenager dies of an overdose, because we feel the pain of the family that looses a child….. but realistically, can society afford to focus its attention on the self-destructive behavior of the individual? Especially if the individual is resistant to seeking help for their addiction? What is your opinion about this problem?

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10 Answers

jerv's avatar

As a person who lost an aunt to an overdose on painkillers (and, shortly thereafter, an uncle who could not bear to live alone) I have to say that I don’t feel that we should have to protect people from themselves. Sure, accidents happen and people sometimes ignore instructions, but that is no reason to turn us into a hand-holding nanny state.

Bill1939's avatar

Accidental misuse of medications can be minimized by providing the user with clear unambiguous information about the potential effect of taking more than the prescribed amount. I think a larger issue is whether government, federal, state or local, should attempt to interfere with the intentional abuse of substances?

lillycoyote's avatar

It think the place to start is for us, as a society, to stop pretending that there is some huge, fundamental difference between prescription drugs and illegal, street drugs. In some cases, of course there is; Adderall and crystal meth are not the same and meth is much more damaging and addictive, but both are addictive and we are O.K. with prescribing amphetamines to 5 year olds.

Chemically, and in terms of the biology and process of abuse and addiction, there really isn’t a whole lot of difference between prescription opiates and street opiates. And very often, people who abuse and are addicted to prescription drugs engage in illegal activities to obtain them. Rush Limbaugh for example. He doesn’t go to jail, he goes into rehab and moves on with his life. Heroin and coke users and abusers generally go to jail.

Also, there is the issue of marijuana vs. alcohol. Alcohol abuse and addiction causes a lot more damage, misery and destroys more lives than marijuana but alcohol is legal and marijuana is not. More damage is done to the lives of marijuana users by the legal system than the drug itself, in my opinion.

And then there are cigarettes … a legal drug … they kill, maim and cause misery and suffering to hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. and millions around the world yet, again, they are perfectly legal.

There is the recreational use of various drugs of all kinds and then there is drug abuse and drug addiction.

All drug abuse and addiction, whether legal or illegal, is a public health issue, and should all be dealt with in the same way, I think, not through the criminal justice system. I think if we saw things that way we could could keep a lot of people from destroying their lives, damaging the lives of their families and killing themselves.

Bill1939's avatar

I agree that criminalization as a means of control is worse than the harm from substance abuse. However, I tend to think of public health issues as harmful things that others bring to us, such as STDs or other communicable diseases, not my neighbor’s penchant for booze. Addiction is a private health issue. Instead of wasting money on the criminal justice system, these funds should be directed to mental health professionals and facilities where non-psychotic individuals can voluntarily go to be detoxified.

Dutchess_III's avatar

They just need to stem the tide of “Here. Take this drug,” for every freaking little ailment, period.

bewailknot's avatar

Maybe my doctor should mentor other doctors. It is hard to get Rx from him for things like pain.

ETpro's avatar

Educate, and otherwise leave people to act responsibly… or not. I am constitutionally against excessive interference with people’s rights to access useful things that a few will harm themselves with. I prefer @Bill1939‘s approach.

More Americans should read about who’s winning Darwin Awards and how they achieved their personal triumph.

Mariah's avatar

I think our power to protect people from themselves is limited, at least without implementing some rather overcontrolling projects. I liked what @lillycoyote‘s had to say, though.

One thing that can be done, I think, is to give less generic dosing instructions. I’m sure most people don’t intend to get addicted to painkillers, but it’s easy enough to do – I’ve managed to myself, and I was following my dosing instructions, but I guess because I’m so small it was a bit too much. Didn’t even realize I was dependent until I tried to stop and had withdrawal symptoms. There need to be more specific instructions based on weight, I think.

I do not think the answer to the problem is to make it very difficult for patients to obtain prescriptions for painkillers. I don’t want to have to jump through hoops to prove I’m really in pain just because other people in my age group can’t seem to use percocet correctly.

elbanditoroso's avatar

No. “Society” has no obligation to do squat. What is “society” anyway? If you can explain who “society” is, then I might possibly maybe begin to agree.

If this is in fact a generalized problem (which I doubt) then maybe there is a role for public education and consciousness.

But I think this is far more of a localized problem – to a family or set of friends – even if it is frequent about different groups of friends. The group is the best avenue for addressing something like this, which is one of the most personal of issues.

I have no doubt that this is a problem to some people; that does not make it ‘society’s’ problem.

zensky's avatar

TL;DR

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