Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Prescriptions for Disaster: Our Over-the-Top Legal Drug Problem Generates a Whole New Class of Pollution

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Prescriptions for Disaster: Our Over-the-Top Legal Drug Problem Generates a Whole New Class of Pollution

Article excerpt

THE ECONOMY SEEMS HOPELESSLY STALLED. IRAQ shows all indications of morphing into a Vietnamish quagmire. National health care remains a sham system run by a few for a few, and federal deficits and national debt are surging. Yet most Americans seem stubbornly, almost perversely placid. What happened to good old-fashioned outrage? Have we achieved a zen-like indifference to our petty temporal woes? Has television permanently clicked off critical thinking? Are we finally members of a culture so consumed by consumption that nothing else matters?

Nah. We're just stoned out of our gourds. Confronted by the troubling realities and difficult choices our warring world offers up, a lot of us have decided to just say "So what?" and reach for a prescription bottle. Americans bought 3.4 billion prescriptions last year, an average of about 12 prescriptions each. That's an all-time high and nearly double the number of prescriptions purchased just a decade ago.

While the government continues a crackdown on medical-marijuana grannies, a lot of us evade the unpleasantness associated with illegal drug use by getting a legal high with any number of mood- and mind-altering prescription drugs currently flooding the U.S. market. We used to be the Prozac nation, but throw some Zoloft, Xanax, Ritalin, and, why not, Viagra into the mix, and you're talking party!

Prescription spending last year in the United States totaled $216 billion wholesale--an increase of almost 12 percent in just 12 months. Those double-digit annual increases show no signs of tapering off any time soon. Antidepressants have been crowded out of the top ranks by drugs like Lipitor and Nexium--aimed at cholesterol reduction and heartburn, respectively--and other heavily marketed nouveau drugs that target the physical calamities of our high-stress and poor-diet era.

The dangers associated with America's legal drug problem can be sadly direct. Recently, pharmaceutical companies had to come clean on a number of drug studies whose results were hidden when negative and exaggerated when positive, and medical researchers now worry over a connection between antidepressants and an increase in suicidal thoughts and violent behavior among teens and children. …

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