Medicine was supposed to help us, fix us, make us feel all better.

June 6, 2016


Medicine was supposed to help us, fix us, make us feel all better. But like everything good, there’s a dark side to the flip side. Prescription drug overdoses are uniquely America’s massive man-made epidemic. Here we are in the 21st century with a new harrowing statistics. Did you know, drug overdoses now kill more Americans than traffic accidents? Experts report someone in this country dies from prescription drug abuse every 19 minutes. Since 2000, drug overdose deaths have tripled and, the drugs involved are increasingly, prescribed by doctors. Most of these deaths then result from prescription opioid medications. The top three? Hydrocodone, OxyContin and Percocet.

This painful, oft-hidden, and brushed over blight on society doesn’t discriminate, nor does it have an easy cure-all. #WeAreAddicts. Either we are the addict, or we know and love someone legally (or somewhat legally) hooked on something initially designed to help, not hurt.

But as we have all seen in the news, those pills created and prescribed to help us are turning out to complicate things. The plethora of prescription drugs are proving how ultimately tragic things can turn out for us, our families, our friends, colleagues, neighbors — our fellow man and woman.

That’s what humanized the wildly talented, highly disciplined, deeply religious genius that was Prince. He was an unearthly being, a creator beyond our imaginations who lost his suddenly incredibly human life to the complications that ensue when struggling to manage chronic pain and its treatment. Last week it was officially reported that Prince died of an accidental opioid fentanyl overdose. And this, after a year of very public and painful, unexpected deaths, Hollywood actress Jamie Lee Curtis understandably felt compelled to share the very personal narrative of her own survival and triumph over prescription drug addiction. During his most recent weekly address to the nation, President Obama asked Congress to pass $1.1 billion in new funding to ensure addicts can get the treatment they need. He was joined by Grammy award winning singer, Macklemore who himself has battled with drug addiction. But let’s be real here, while Congress has passed laws to help those wrestling with addiction, it’s simply not enough. As President Obama emphasized, and emphasized powerfully, this is the first step for all of us. This is the start of many conversations needed about addiction in order to remove the stigma and embrace the problem.

Like cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and heart disease, this is not a tragedy only rock and movie stars battle. Prescription opioid addiction isn’t exactly for those looking to party and get high. This isn’t fun. They, like you and me, are maintaining. Last month, CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta reported on this pervasive problem in a special with Anderson Cooper. He maintains the need for doctor accountability, that it is up to doctors to lead us in recovery and prevention. While these types of headlines are what get the attention of media, and then society to begin discussing, action comes when we collectively mandate and, hopefully, implement change. Otherwise we will continue to slip deeper into an abyss where negative effects of prescription drug abuse destroys our families from grandparent to grandchild — blind to wealth, race or religion.