I come from a background of healthcare and I have seen my fair share of people displaying drug seeking behavior, and people who were treated unfairly because they take a certain medication (usually narcotics). Is it fair to assume that people who take a controlled substance medication are drug addicts, or is our society to plagued with rules and regulations? Could it be possible that all the rules and regulations are creating more crime, and actually hurting more than helping? Back in the day, you could buy an array of drugs over the counter and it was even encouraged to use a medication such as cocaine or heroine to treat a cough. I'm not saying we should have heroine readily available for anyone who has money for it, but maybe doctors need to be a little more realistic when it comes to prescribing these medications.
There's a Pill for Everything
You want to be more awake? There's a pill for that. Happier? Pill for that too. Sleepier? You bet your sweet behind there is a pill for that. You're in pain and need something stronger than an aspirin? Nope, you're a drug seeking junkie.
Basically if you are from America and over the age of 18, you have been to the doctor and they have tried to get you to take some miracle drug that first hit the market. I've been prescribed everything from Zoloft to beta-blockers (why, I don't know, doc thought it was a good idea). Tried them and they didn't work for me, they actually made me extremely sick. I'll never forget the time I hit my head so hard I had to stay the night in the hospital and when I voiced that Motrin was not working for me, the nurse looked scared. I didn't know why the problem was. She left for a moment and sheepishly brought me back a Vicodin. As she hands it to me she recites, "now this is a very powerful narcotic, and it is not something we usually prescribe for this type of injury." She made me feel like an idiot for talking to her about my pain level, something they ask you to tell them about. It's like she felt like she was doing a bad thing handing it to me. I almost didn't want to take it. I took it though, and it did help with the pain, but I didn't understand why I was treated like a criminal for it. Once I started working in healthcare a short few years later I started to understand why.
How Can Doctors Tell Your Pain Level?
One thing I noticed while volunteering at my first doctors office was how uncomfortable patients were asking for refills on a narcotic medications, and how uncomfortable the staff was. It even made me feel a little weird to be honest. It was like if the patient didn't say the medication in the right tone of voice, or with the right look on their face, the doctor would not fill the prescription, even if the patient was due and wasn't showing any signs of abuse. I even saw a patient demand Seroquel once (a very heavy drug that I have known someone to die of), and the doctor just handed it over, because it wasn't a narcotic. The FDA has the doctors so scared of losing their licenses that they don't even want to help people in pain. I even had the office director tell me, "if a new patient describes any pain symptoms, tell them that we can't treat them." So basically, if you are in pain, you are being discriminated against. I'm not saying every doctor is like that, or that it is even their fault, but that seems to be the way it is, and it's sad.
How Can This Change
I think for one, we need to stop labeling everyone who takes a narcotic medication a drug addict. Some may be dependent, but that doesn't necessarily mean addicted. You can be dependent on any other medication such as an anti depressant or benzodiazepine, but if you are dependent on a narcotic you are an addict. The FDA needs to stop controlling narcotics so much. People who are prescribed a narcotic, and then have it taken away from them quickly because of a new FDA regulation are left sick, not able to wean off, and are more likely to turn to street drugs. The problem isn't that we are over prescribing pain medications, it is that we are over regulating them. No, I don't think everyone should be handed a narcotic medication, but if someone needs it for treatment of a medical condition, we should stop making that person feel bad about it. Unfortunately it seems that the regulations are getting tighter, and crime is going up (shocker), but hopefully someday the FDA can get on the right track and regulate in a safe and effective way.