Prescribing Our Addictions

As of August 2014, there exists a holy plethora of data and statistics that show the strong correlation between prescription opiate drugs, heroin, and addiction. Sadly, the high school graduating class of 2011 and I are watching the data come to life, right in the middle of suburbia. Opiate drugs have infected my town, turning many young Cherry Hill residents into full-fledged drug addicts.

New Jersey, and many other states, have launched specific task forces with the sole objective, “to educate young people on the dangers of prescription pain killers”. Hundreds of young people are prescribed percocet, tamarol, oxycotin, cyclobenzaprine, and others, for sports injuries and common procedures like wisdom teeth removal. I myself was prescribed several forms of opiate pills and muscle relaxants for one back injury.

It is important to note that I was completely immobilized by my pain, and I was taken to the hospital via ambulance, so some form of pain relief was in order. However, within three days of my injury taking place, I had been prescribed 80 days worth of opiate pills and relaxants between what I was given at the hospital and then at the physician’s office. Professionalism aside, that’s a stupid amount of pills for one injury. I only took the drugs for five days, but if I took them more regularly,  who knows, maybe I’d be next in line for heroin. After all, I was given 80 days to get hooked.

The sure ease of getting copious amounts of opiates is one aspect of our medical system that needs to change. A lumbar disk displacement should not result in that many pills of 4 different varieties.

The second aspect that needs to change when it comes to prescription opiates is that they all together, collectively, need to go away. New Jersey’s Legislature has the ability to outlaw their use either all together. Or, less extreme, the Legislature can outlaw the use for certain age groups, or more strictly specify what injury or pain should yield their prescription. The Legislature can also move forward with an initiative that better regulates the amount given to a patient within a specified time period. All four of those options are possible for New Jersey with a vote, and with such an addiction epidemic that is stemming from the use of opiates, one has to wonder why the vote wouldn’t happen once proposed.

But what would people do for intense pain if things like percocet are banned in New Jersey? The bottom line is that New Jersey can no longer stall with making medicinal marijuana an accessible treatment. A non-habit forming approach to treating temporary pain is what the Garden State needs. The only hold up seems to be the Governor’s refusal to speak about the taboo topic. Until he decides to entertain such a conversation or he eventually no longer holds office, New Jersey residents will continue to be subject to addiction following injuries and procedures. Everyone holds the right to not risk addiction as a side effect of every accident, injury, or procedure they endure. Opiates do not need to be claiming our children’s lives, but we are acting as if they are the only options when it comes to treating temporary pain.

As citizens, we also need to take some initiative and dispose of our unused poisons in a proper way. Flushing them down the toilet is not safe for our water systems, and leaving them in our medicine cabinets is another way in which our children get hooked. I’ve destroyed my unused medications based upon the guidelines by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, so they’re long gone and disgusting (read the hyper-link, I have a big dog who needs to go potty a lot).

It’s time to get serious about the root causes of so many young people’s addictions. For a society that classifies addiction as a disease, why are we essentially prescribing a disease? It is time to say that the temporary relief that non-addicts receive from opiate drugs is just not worth such damage to society anymore.

-Brian K. Everett

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