Recently released federal data paints a bleak picture of the drug culture reality in America. Although we are inundated with stories of the war on drugs, crime and dangerous substances like "bath salts" — the vast majority of drug-associated deaths are linked to overdoses of pharmaceutical pills.
There is an informational divide in this country, where millions of people have blind faith in the medical and pharmaceutical industry — only ascribing danger to substances categorized as illegal. Lobbying groups for the alcohol, private prison and pharmaceutical industries have a vested interest in painting that picture and keeping their portion of market share profits. States that look to legalize marijuana, for instance, frequently project dramatic reductions in crime rates and pharmaceutical overdoses.
For the most part, doctors only look out for our well-being, and we put a lot of trust in their decisions. But they have countless patients to see, and drug company representatives financially entice them to push their pills with in-house research and bonus packages. Considering the limited face-to-face time they can devote to each of their patients, there’s little difference between them and a dealer pushing his quick fix. Feeling anxious? Here’s some Xanax. Your kid can’t concentrate? Here’s some Adderal. Your leg just moved? Yeah, that’s definitely "Restless Leg Disorder." Struggling to sleep? Here’s a horse tranquilizer/heroine hybrid we’re call "Lumana."
How many of the pharmaceutical consumers in this country actually need the substances they use? How many serious sufferers of pain get crowded out by legally sanctioned addicts? How much of the consumption is a by-product of commercials pushing products we might never have considered using?
At the end of the day, we are in charge of our own well being. We can’t expect people selling a product to have our interests at heart. Whether it’s a doctor, dealer, bartender or junk food manufacturer — they’re in the business of making sure their product is effective, habit forming and profitable.
We need to focus on the culture of abuse. Why are people anxious? What can we do to improve our sleeping, eating, working and social habits? Illegal drugs derive most of their danger from being prohibited — making them unknown substances, from unknown sources, with unknown effects. It’s time we had an equal playing field, where any and all substances are regulated, researched and understood. We need to reduce our ludicrous incarceration rates by making the war on drugs a rehabilitation and health issue, rather than taking millions of non-violent users and throwing them in pits with murderers and rapists.