It’s Not Just Opioids Causing A Crisis
In one form or another, drug abuse has always been a struggle in the USA. While no one talks about it anymore, even in the 1980s, the American government itself declared a “war on drugs” which, decades later, they clearly didn’t win. However, the nature of drug use in the United States and the popularity of certain drugs changes with time.
Where in the 1980s, for example, cocaine was the most high-profile drug in the public consciousness, and amongst use with certain demographics, there’s a new crisis. The drugs that both the public and the police struggle against today aren’t bought at a street corner from illicit dealers by people on welfare. Today, the drugs that cause the most harm come from doctors, and the people abusing them are the middle-class, the elderly and anyone that’s seen a doctor about managing pain.
A Prescription Epidemic
Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions that people have about the drug crises in the USA is the belief that it only happens to “bad” people. For years, it was thought that issues with drugs only occurred in low-income neighborhoods, a result of organized crime, people not working hard enough to improve their station in life, and having limited incomes that they spent on drugs instead of self-improvement. People who lived in middle class or affluent neighborhoods believed that because they didn’t live in low-income areas with crime, a drug problem could not exist, because only “bad people” used drugs, and only illegal drug dealers sold drugs.
Unfortunately, the persistence of this belief has meant that a drug crisis has quietly entangled itself in the fabric of many unsuspecting Americans. They didn’t realize that despite not being poor, or knowing a drug dealer, they had become addicted, only it wasn’t to cocaine or heroin, it was to painkillers, like opioids, that they got legitimately from their doctor.
The Crisis Today
In the 21st century, the current issue facing the US is known as the “opioid crisis,” though that is not a complete or comprehensive label. Opioids are a class of medications that have both organic and synthetic origins. The first opioids were naturally derived, such as morphine, which has been in use medically for generations. However, there are now synthetic opioids such as Fentanyl that perform the same function. Opioids, when taken, dull pain, stimulate the pleasure centers and interact with the opioid receptors of the nervous system, hence their name.
But along with—and even before—opioids, another class of prescription medication was already being abused even as far back as the 1980s. It even garnered nicknames for itself such as “Mother’s little helper,” since it was often prescribed to housewives of the era for nerves or anxiety. This class of drugs is known as “Benzodiazepines” or “Benzos,” though most people know them better by their generic term “tranquilizers” or well-known brand names, like “Valium” and “Xanax.” And the Benzo crisis, in concert with opioids, is large, significant and dangerous.
What Do Benzos Do?
Benzos are a “relaxant.” When taken, they calm agitation in neurotransmitters, calming and relaxing people. They even release dopamine for a sense of satisfaction or quiet well-being. In other words, they make people feel good and at peace. While they were initially prescribed mostly for anxiety or depression, in recent years, doctors have been prescribing them for many more conditions, such as chronic back pain.
The use of benzos in the general population has, without drawing attention to itself, doubled, as more and more doctors prescribe it. This has led to a tragically predictable increase in both addiction and overdoses throughout America. Unfortunately, as effective as benzos may seem, in the long term, they are problematic. Benzos create a “plateau effect,” as tolerance builds.
Eventually, the smaller doses that use to bring relaxation are no longer sufficient as the body grows used to the dosage. Higher and higher dosages are required to maintain the effect and fight the body’s growing tolerance for the substance.
Even if you aren’t on any prescriptions, someone you know, perhaps even another family member, like an elderly parent, may be a victim. Opioids and benzos are now regularly—often unnecessarily—prescribed as a “quick fix” from doctors to patients that want tangible, fast, short term results. Benzos, for example, are not a replacement for effective cognitive-behavioral therapy or counseling to permanently overcome depression or anxiety. However, they can quickly eliminate those feelings as long as they are taken, which eventually leads to addiction.
If you or someone in your social circle was presented with a quick fix in the form of a prescription, it might help, but it is not necessary, and it is not a permanent fix. If it results in addiction, there’s now a new, even more challenging health issue to deal with. Depending on the circumstances, you may want to talk to a personal injury lawyer about how a negligent prescription may have hurt someone you care about.