America’s Drug Affair


Half of the U.S. population is currently on prescription medication according to  a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control.  The report also stated that 20 percent of children are on prescription drugs and 90 percent seniors are on drugs.

Add to that all the other legal drugs: over the counter meds, tobacco, alcohol, caffeine and then cap that off with the illegal drugs and what you have is a serious national drug affair.  If you look at what these drugs are really doing to us and what they are really costing us, it is becoming clearer than ever that this drug affair (like many love affairs) is not only blind, but apparently deaf, dumb and stupid as well. 

I was not immune; I fell for cigarettes. When I was growing up in the ‘70s it was cool to smoke, and it was still advertised on TV.  Smoking made you seem independent, sexy, a rebel, socially sophisticated. Certainly what I wanted to be. I started smoking my senior year in high school, ten years later all I became was addicted. I spent another ten years on and off the cigs, trying to quit. I am finally done with nicotine, and hope I can undo some of the damage I have done to my body from smoking. 

Google the top causes of death in America today and you will find that over half of them are either from drugs or drug related.  According to, annually tobacco is responsible for 435,000 deaths, obesity (food as a drug) 365,000 deaths, alcohol 85,000 deaths, adverse reactions to prescription drugs, 32,000 deaths and all illegal drugs combined 17,000 deaths. Just shy of a million people a year dying from drugs.  These are serious numbers: 924,600 deaths from legal drugs and 17,000 from illegal drugs. And in its own category; medical marijuana legal in some states, illegal to the feds, has best rating of zero deaths.

If we are spending billions in the ‘War on Drugs’ we must be fighting blindfolded.  The elephant on the battlefield is legal and prescription drugs. To add insult to injury most drugs are expensive. According to an article in the LA Times, April 2011, Americans spend over $307 billion annually on prescriptions.  The big pharmaceutical companies could not be happier or richer. If the war on drugs is about preventing unnecessary death and disease from drugs, are we paying the enemy?  Have we allowed ourselves to be seduced by mass marketing into actually believing that drugs are the answer? 

Dr. Andrew Weil is an expert on drugs. Not because he is a doctor, but because he has spent 50 years studying them (both legal and illegal.) He has traveled all over the world studying drug use in different cultures, both primitive and modern. He has written extensively about drugs in his books. He sees the problem as less about the drugs themselves and more about our beliefs and attitudes towards drugs.  

In Chocolate to Morphine he says that in the U.S. we divide our drugs into two categories: we demonize some as ‘bad’ and make them illegal and worship others as ‘good’ like prescription drugs. 

Weil also points out that,  “America is the only country in the world that markets prescription drugs directly to consumers. Other nations only allow marketing of Rx meds to doctors.” 

In the ‘50s doctors used to recommend cigarettes on TV.  Now in the 21 century, Americans are asking their docs for drugs they see on TV.  The pharmaceutical companies are the suppliers, our doctors are becoming dealers instead of healers and America is becoming a nation of prescription druggies. 

What I have learned from reading Dr. Weil and others, is that prescriptions drugs do not cure diseases. They only suppress symptoms and prolong the inevitable; people still die from the same diseases. All prescription medications are toxic and most Rx meds have few real benefits and many adverse side-effects, some of them fatal. 

Last year I lost a dear friend to medical negligence regarding drugs. He had an adverse reaction to medication he was given. It caused internal hemorrhaging, causing him to die. A terrible, painful, tragic waste of a life and it is happening far more frequently than anyone wants to admit.

I think    our current attitude about drugs, is a quick fix, instant gratification, buy now pay later approach to health (similar to our credit addiction and look where that has taken us).  This drug affair requires no personal responsibility for our behavior or lifestyle choices and no thought for the long term consequences of our decisions.

Dr.Weil says, “a drug is any substance that produces a change in the body, mind or both.”  He tells us that “all drugs are poisons in high enough doses and some poisons are useful in low enough doses.”

Remember that human beings have been using drugs for thousands of years. Most illegal drugs got their start in medicine: opium, cocaine, heroine, marijuana and remember “Four out of five doctors prefer Lucky Strike.”   What was once good is bad, once legal now illegal, there is a pattern here.

If our goal is to promote health, prevent disease, and reduce premature death, then we have to recognize that the good vs. bad, war on drugs policy and ultimately our belief system isn’t working. The ugly truth is that legal and prescription drugs are causing the most death and disease.  Dr.  Weil offers a radical perspective; it is our relationship with drugs that is good or bad, not just the drugs themselves. Are we fighting for health or to justify a faulty system?  It’s time for a reality check up. 

Lucky for us Dr Weil is coming to Bend, January 16, 2012. If you want to learn more don’t miss this event.  Tickets are available on line or call 541-977-8733.


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