It’s time to put an end to our “prescription drug culture”

I stumbled across this while reading Gawker: “Teen socialite” Peaches Geldof says the staff at the fashion magazine Nylon prefer prescription drugs over illegal drugs —

What’s the drug of choice at Nylon? “Klonopin” Peaches was definitely the talky one. Why? It’s just a very large prescription drug culture…

This confirms our highly anecdotal evidence of Klonopin as a mini-trend for the creative underclass, maybe better than Xanax — not that our shrink is offering to prescribe us any despite repeated inquiries.

Klonopin, classified as a “sedative-hypnotic,” is prescribed for epilepsy, panic and anxiety disorders, restless legs syndrome and other medical conditions. Unfortunately, such drugs are too easily obtained by young people, who often start taking them by raiding their parents’ medicine cabinets.

As Ritch Wagner of Purdue Pharma (OxyContin), who educates medical professionals and law enforcement officials about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, describes the growing problem:

More prescription drugs are creeping up the list of the 20 most widely abused substances, Wagner said, including the painkiller hydrocodone and methadone, a narcotic commonly used to treat heroin addiction that is now used to treat pain.

Abusers are beginning to learn it can “be more advantageous” to use prescription drugs to get high than drugs such as meth, cocaine and heroin. They are easier to obtain, and people think they are safe because doctors prescribe them.

“In my day and age, it was how many of Dad’s beers we can sneak out of the fridge,” Wagner said. “Now, it’s how many pills can I get out of the medicine cabinet.”

Wagner said children are taking whatever pills they can get their hands on, throwing them into a bowl and taking a handful. They’re called punch-bowl or grab-bag parties.

I think what really struck me about these stories was Geldof’s use of the term “prescription drug culture.” I hadn’t heard the term before.

My immediate reaction was to compare it to the “drug culture” of the ’60s and early ’70s, which we relate to young people — specifically, “hippies.” But upon reflection, the “prescription drug culture” isn’t confined to the young in our country today. It’s pervasive.

It starts with the billions of dollars in advertising that pharmaceutical companies spend to get us to stock our medicine cabinets with drugs — drugs that we might or might not really need.

Before the recent advertising campaign, for example, I’m guessing you’d never even heard of restless legs syndrome — let alone gone to the doctor and asked for Klonopin or Mirapex. The medical use of drugs like Xanax and Prozac have gone through the roof among adults of all ages. And don’t you suspect the Viva Viagra! advertising campaign has made Viagra an object of curiosity not only among middle-aged men, but among teenage boys?

When a teenager’s parents, as well as all of his or her friends’ parents, are stocking the medicine cabinet with these drugs, don’t you think what happens next is almost inevitable?

So, how do we solve the problem? Frankly, as I’ve stated here before, I would put an end to direct-to-consumer advertising by pharmaceutical companies.

Others may disagree with this approach, and that’s fine. But however we get there, we need to reach a point where we don’t expect a “pill for every ill.” Because if you believe there’s a pill for every ill, it’s a short step to believe that prescription drugs are the answer for everything — including having a good time at a party.

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