We often hear of well known celebrities like Michael Jackson and 27 year old Amy Winehouse dying unexpectedly of suspected drug misuse. The reality is that drug deaths are not just an isolated tragedy for celebrities.
According to the LA Times narcotics abuse - legal or otherwise - is now responsible for killing more Americans than car crashes. The LA Times notes that 37,485 deaths were caused by drug use in 2009, in contrast to 36,284 Americans killed in car crashes.
This is explained by the increase in car safety features, combined with an ever increasing pill popping culture.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration revealed this year that opioid abuse increased by 111% between 2004 and 2008, with more than 2 million Americans admitting to abusing drugs each year. How many more don’t admit it!
Now prescription drug-related deaths surpass fatalities caused by cocaine and heroin abuse combined. Deaths linked to OxyContin, Valium and Xanax abuse have doubled in the last decade.
Drugs have become a ‘Legitimised Coping Mechanism’
"People feel they are safer with prescription drugs because you get them from a pharmacy and they are prescribed by a doctor," Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Opferman says to The Times. "Younger people believe they are safer because they see their parents taking them. It doesn't have the same stigma as using street narcotics."
The study also reveals that while more and more Americans become medicated, a large number of deaths are caused by children abusing their parent’s pills.
A 2010 study from the University at Michigan adds that Vicodin, a popular pain killer, is now the second-most abused drug among high schoolers, second only to marijuana. 15% of those in grades 9 through 12 admit to prescription drug abuse.
Also last year in the USA around 1,300 newborn children were born to drug-addicted mothers and admitted into hospital units for withdrawal, reported the Miami Herald.
The rest of the Western world is not much better!
A Global Demand
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Britain has the sixth-highest number of drug-related deaths globally, after the United States, the Ukraine, the Russian Federation, Iran and Mexico.
Drugs were the primary cause of death in 2,278 cases in the UK in 2008, the highest number for any country in west or central Europe.
Most of these deaths were caused by opioids, followed by sedatives, cocaine, amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) and ecstasy.
The UN report also found that while overall drug use across the world remained stable, "demand soared for substances not under international control" - so-called "legal highs".
"These markets continue to evolve and every year new products, not under control, are manufactured to supply an increasingly diversified demand for psychoactive substances."
The comment: "an increasingly diversified demand for psychoactive substances" really struck me.
For while all this data is interesting, surely as critical is understanding WHY drug abuse is so prevalent. To me that’s the real issue.
WHY is Drug Misuse so Prevalent?
Is it because drugs give us a momentary ‘high’ and escape from reality? If so, why do we need that? Are our lives too empty and miserable otherwise?
Do rich and poor have the same motivations? For example, a poor person may be frustrated because he sees all the advertisements for goodies, but he doesn't have the money to buy them. So instead he scrounges money for drugs to forget his frustration.
The rich person, on the other hand, has the goodies that are supposed to satisfy him, but they don't. So he's also frustrated and he turns to drugs to forget his misery.
And what about alcohol? Isn’t that one of the most abused narcotic drugs? How much ill health, death and crime results from alcohol abuse?
To me, our drug dependence reflects a fundamental issue...
Most of us are raised and ‘conditioned’ by a society and culture which extols the virtues of materialism and selfishness over spiritualism, self knowledge and humility. The acquisition of wealth and power are the goals of life.
If you are materially poor, you are considered a failure in life. Whereas if you are wealthy and powerful (regardless of how you acquired such wealth and power), you are considered a great success.
So, obtaining material wealth is not only essential for your direct sense gratification, but also for your feelings of self-worth.
You feel only as valuable as the things that you possess and control.
This leads all of us on the never ending quest for More, More, More...
The more we want the less satisfied we seem to be because it’s never enough, and because we are always comparing ourselves with others... who have more.
The pressure, stress, and endless quest for self gratification inevitably leads us to the ‘quick fix’, the temporary high and escape provided by drugs.
After all, drugs are ‘cool’, ‘legitimised’ by Big Pharma and doctors , and “everyone is doing it”.
Where will it all end? What do you think?