Substance Abuse & Rehabilitation

When we talk about substance abuse, it is very easy to conjure up associations with hard drugs and alcohol. Even in terms of rehabilitation, we think about addicts who have an uncontrollable problem. But both of these immediate associations are incorrect. In fact, one of the most dangerous substance abuse problems stems from prescription drugs. When we use heuristics to define substance abuse, we forget one of the most obvious and relevant issues regarding the topic. So many people are taking prescription drugs across the world on a daily basis. Whether it is removing your wisdom teeth or remedying the residual effects of a tumultuous back surgery, you are typically prescribed some kind of potent pain-relieving drug. However, the addictiveness is often veiled by the deemed necessity of the pills. The article linked above mentions the STOPP Act, and here is more information about it.

Do you think it will be effective? Are there other policies that help do this and if so, why are they not working? More importantly, is it morally correct for pharmaceutical companies to create such drugs? For hospitals and physicians to provide and prescribe these drugs?

What else is society doing to help prevent the issue of substance abuse? According to this article, rehabilitation is going to become a greater concern as the federal budget is being cut and those who are federally indicted will not have their treatments funded anymore. Beyond that, the fact that Medicaid doesn’t fund such therapy also poses a problem for lower socioeconomic income people.

What effects will the lack of funding have on people who need therapy? Since there was the fiscal cliff and the country has been in serious debt, is the government taking the right measures and is this the correct place to cut money from? What are the implications of not having Medicaid cover substance abuse issues? Is the justice system correct when it puts money into the indictment process, but does not support the rehabilitation process? Is the justice system doing its job when it does this?

For some reason, people are not very aware of rehabilitation process and the seriousness of substance abuse. Why is it that we immediately associate substance abuse with hard drugs, even though the majority of abuse stems from prescription medicine? Is the media portraying the right message when it talks about these issues? In a larger context, what can journalists do to help raise awareness of this situation and how can public conversations change the course of these actions?

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6 Responses to “Substance Abuse & Rehabilitation”

  1. Substance abuse is an especially hard topic to approach…especially when it comes to prescription drugs. How can you deny somebody in pain the medication they need to improve their quality of life? On the other hand, how do you know that the prescription you’re giving out will not bring on harm to others. It’s actually pretty easy to get a hold of these types of drugs, and people do. Because they’re prescription, some people take for granted the fact that they’re valuable. I think that concepts like the STOPP act could be effective in cutting down use, but I’m not convinced that users will not find ways around the barriers that it puts off.

    As somebody who has had loved ones affected by prescription drug addictions, I hate to see the ability to access rehab and recovery diminish. It’s the most important step in helping addicts turn around their lives, and it is not easy as is. If the country is really interested in the welfare of its citizens and the war against drugs, it really should not target rehab for cuts. It should enhance support for people to get past drug addictions and increase education and social structures that would prevent the misuse of these substances.

  2. Substance abuse and dependency is certainly a complex issue, and it requires multiple solutions. As much as I don’t like to compare situations, because these happens under different circumstances, I couldn’t help on thinking about Brazil when reading this articles. When I first arrived in the US I was surprised by the amount of ads on drugs on television, and on how those affects peoples view on the use (and abuse) of drugs. In Brazil, it is rare to see a pharmaceutical company showing up on the media trough advertisements, and after every ad about a medicine there is a fairly long government message, warning about the dangers of using medicines without doctor supervision. I honestly don’t think that the best way to fight against the abuse of prescription drugs is trough pharmaceutical ads, but that may be a component on the big picture.

  3. Substance abuse is a topic that is typically not covered by journalists simply because people don’t understand the complexities and severity of the issue. While the media may discuss the STOPP Act, there are few personal stories and experiences of individuals who have experienced substance abuse that are brought to light. This lack of relatedness between the issue and the public may contribute as to why people do not perceive substance abuse to be a prominent issue.

    Public conversations can change the course of government policies and programs through the perspective in which journalists write about the subject. Simply writing about substance abuse as a public health issue won’t be effective enough. When journalists incorporate how politics directly influence the treatment an individual receives, the implications of substance abuse for the rest of society and how prevalent the condition is, then there’s hope that people would begin to focus on the issue. Often times, we attribute substance abuse to hard drugs simply because there’s a distance between ourselves and the issue, and we can easily say that we do not fall within the category.

  4. It seems that our misconception of substance abuse comes from sensationalization in the media. The story about a heroin addict is perhaps more dramatic, more gripping than the story of someone who abuses their pain pills. And because of this we hear more about the heroin addict than we do about what is much more common.

    STOPP is a step in the right direction. It makes companies that produce these drugs responsible for creating a safer more user friendly product that discourages extreme abuse. It does not solve the problem because pain pills can still be used without being manipulated. It is impossible to control how people use their medication in the privacy of their own homes but that is true of all things, not just medication. Denying people pain pills is not the solution. We cannot stop how people use the resources around them but we can make it more difficult to misuse dangerous products through legislation like STOPP.

  5. I agree with the earlier posts that this issue is complex. There are so many different factors that are involved and there is no clear cut answer that will solve all of the problems.
    I would argue that one reason that there is such a misconception in the idea of what a drug abuser looks like is the continued racial inequality within the U.S. A drug dealer or abuser is assumed to be, stereotypically, a potentially mentally unstable, poor, man of color. They are seen as violent and dangerous to society. This idea is reinforced by the disproportionate amount of people who fit this description and are put in jail for drug related crimes. The U.S. has significantly more people incarcerated per capita than any other country, in part, due to the strict sentencing of drug laws. These drug laws are created for what are known more commonly as street drugs, and less focused on prescription drugs. One might extrapolate that there is a disproportionate sentencing on drugs that are more common in poorer neighborhoods, than drugs that may be found in more affluent neighborhoods, such as prescription drugs, because those who live in more affluent neighborhoods have a better chance of having access to acceptable healthcare and can pay for prescriptions. I think this disproportionate sentencing by the judicial system not only reinforces implicit racism, but also gives a false sense of security for those who use or abuse prescription drugs. Because the judicial ramifications are unequal, there is a perceived decrease in risk of prescription drugs.
    Furthermore, incarceration without education and support, in the form of some sort of rehabilitation program seems wholly ineffective. How can we as a nation, honestly expect someone to change when they perhaps don’t understand the true risks of the drug or feel that their society negates their worth after they have served a drug related sentence. Especially with the disproportionate amount of funding towards education and lack of occupational opportunity in communities of color, turning to drugs seems like an easy and perceived as a necessary means of acquiring some sort of income. Without taking more factors into account of the different reasons for drug use and abuse, as well as the emphasis on prevention, social support for those who have struggled with drug abuse, and decreasing the stigma of weakness or instability associated with drug addiction, the nation will continue to fight the war on drugs.

  6. In regards to the STOPP Act, I believe that it will be effective in at least lowering the abuse of these medications. Generic drug companies need to get on board with this and create their own tamper-resistant methods to help control the country’s addiction to prescription medication. Is it morally wrong to prescribe patients medication that they can become addicted to or abuse? I do not believe so. To me, it would be morally wrong to refuse a pain medication to a suffering patient merely because there is a risk of addiction. I think that education is one of the keys, as well as attentive physicians/pharmacists.

    If a patient must be prescribed a painkiller for recovery after surgery, back pain, etc., they should be made aware of the risks involved with the drug they will be taking. The costs/benefits of the drug should be explained to the patient in a way that makes the patient fully aware of the possibility of addiction. Additionally, the physician/pharmacist should be aware of how the patient is using the drug. Are there signs of abuse occurring? Is there a possibility to decrease the dose of the drug in order to slowly taper it off? A physician should thoroughly examine patients both mentally and physically to see how much they truly need the drug as opposed to how physically dependent they are on the drug.

    Awareness of prescription drug abuse is limited when compared to the vast amount of attention given to other forms of drug addiction and alcohol abuse. No, the media is not portraying these drugs properly. Commercials and advertisements reveal the various benefits you will feel from a prescription pain killer or an antidepressant/anti-anxiety drug. Then they give you a quick brief description of all of the negatives associated with the drug which are most of the time intense. As stated above, there needs to be more education and awareness about prescription drug abuse. However, I fear the negative implications of these increased attention. What sort of social stigmas will be associated with use of prescription painkillers?

    It is a dangerous, complex, and delicate topic. Journalists, physicians, pharmacists, and other professionals involved have a responsibility to raise awareness of prescription drug abuse. The question is how to go about doing it in a way that will solve the problem. Not just create a larger one.

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