In June of 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data that was collected about the rates of prescription medications across the nation. Throughout personal physician visits, emergency room and outpatient visits, over 2.5 billion individual medications were prescribed in the year alone. America has largely become the number one most medicated country on the planet. According to the Washington Post, about 3 in 5 Americans, or 60%, are taking a prescribed medication. 15% are taking 5 or more. The largest percentage of those medications prescribed are for depression, high cholesterol, and diabetes. The data collected obviously says a whole lot about the state of our nation, however, the increasing prescription rates don’t show any sign of slowing down.
Along with the overflow of prescription medications in society comes the fast track to addiction. While many people don’t see their medication as dangerous or addictive, there is a very thin line for people who are prone to self medicating when it comes to overdoing it.
The number one most common reason why people tend to abuse their medication over time is rationalization. It is hard for people to see that what they are taking is addictive or dangerous, simply because, “Well, my doctor prescribed it, I obviously need it.” Therein lies the very thin line. Our society has become increasingly open to accepting everything we are handed, that many of us often don’t think twice about the long-term consequences. Our medication, our food, taxes, etc. We assume that since the higher ups handed it down to us, that it is obligatory that we don’t second guess the decision or ask why. When it comes to self medicating, this has become a massive industry in the US. Children are being prescribed dozens of anti-depressants and mood stabilizers, while adults are readily gobbling down Xanax and Prozac and Adderall, numerous pain killers and don’t see the problem with it because well, it was prescribed by a doctor.
Now this is a horse of a different color. This genre is more of the “back alley pharmacists” aka, those of us who drink or get high to numb the feelings we have. Again, this will inevitably lead to the downward spiral of substance abuse, and many users land flat on their butts, confused at how they got there. The problem with self medicating, is that since we have a good excuse, i.e, family troubles, medical issues, shitty job, or relationship woes, most of us don’t see much of a problem with “unwinding” after a long day. Work was hard? Have a drink and smoke some pot. The family is nagging you? Pop a pill and you won’t mind so much. Can’t stay focused? Pop a different pill and you’ll be good to go! Once we find out that there is a substance that soothes our woes and calms our minds, it’s easy for us to continue to gravitate back towards the quick easy fix.
Down to the Nitty Gritty
Another problem that frequently comes along with self medicating is that for the most part, people are often just masking the greater underlying issues. Not to mention, hospital and doctor bills can get pretty crazy. The two most common reasons behind self medicating are the cost of medical fees and the fear of finding out a troublesome diagnosis. For example, I had a family member who thought she may have had cancer but was too afraid to find out if she did. She never ended up getting tested and tried subsiding her symptoms with over the counter medications and died within the year from cervical cancer. It is actually pretty common for people to hide their illness from family members and friends for fear that they won’t be able to take care of them anymore.
Accidental overdose and death are pretty high up there on the major killers list in America. Many would think it was due to drunk driving or a heroin overdose, but a very large portion of those deaths are caused by overdoing and mixing over the counter medications. It gets even more dangerous when the user adds in a glass of wine or beer to wash it down with. Have you seen the movie Bridesmaids? The scene on the airplane where she mixes a glass of scotch and some anti-anxiety medication? Sure, the movie made it look hilarious, but in reality, that can be an absolutely fatal combination, especially for people with a low tolerance or who may be masking a deeper health issue.
So How Does it Tie Into Addiction?
Well, for starters, addiction is defined by an allergy of the body and obsession of the mind. For alcoholics like myself, the allergy of the body primarily consists of, “once I start, I cannot stop.” So for non-alcoholics, they might not face that issue necessarily. However, anyone on earth can develop an obsession of the mind, especially if, again, the person has underlying motives for why they need to be self medicating in the first place. The medicine will alleviate the problem, and when it fades, the user will re-administer. Eventually, for every human given enough of the same medication repeatedly, our bodies start to build a tolerance, and we start to need more, and more, and more, to feel the effects. Herein lies the slippery slope. Sure, for heroin and crack addicts, it’s plain to see they are addicted to their drug of choice, but for people who use “FDA approved substances”, it is a lot harder to admit that they may actually be abusing their medication.
The safest way to find out if a medication is necessary or even effective is to, you guessed it, go to a doctor. If you have PTSD, drinking until oblivion may not be the safest bet. On the other hand, seeing a therapist will allow the digging up and clearing out of the underlying issues at hand. Sore back? Don’t numb it with booze or drugs, go to a chiropractor, maybe see a physical trainer, retrain your body to heal itself rather than subside it until the drugs wear off. I saw a slogan on a shirt one day that has always stuck with me, it had a tie-dye pattern and in big white letters on the back it read, “Meditate, Don’t Self Medicate!”
Freedom From Addiction
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