Sunday, November 27, 2011

War on self-medicating drugs

Deringolade has been commenting, in an inclusive sort of way, on the citizens of our country being overweight. And the Wall Street Journal has been discussing the downside to our being the mostly heavily self medicating culture that has ever existed.  Tom my mind, they are both signs of an unhappy people.  But at the moment we will concentrate on the self-medicating portion of the issue.

In the last decade deaths from painkillers has quadrupled. Granted there has always been a fair amount of people, intentionally or otherwise, injuring themselves by taking too many aspirin, Tylenol, or Ibuprofen. But the number of deaths is now very close to the number of people who die in automobile accidents.

Timothy W. Martin, Wall Street Journal, 2 November 2011

Annual deaths from painkillers now surpass those from heroin and cocaine combined, and have pushed the overall death toll from drugs above deaths from motor-vehicle crashes in some states, said R. Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House office of National Drug Control Policy, on Tuesday. "Prescription-drug abuse is the nation's fastest-growing drug problem," he said.

Prescription and illicit drugs caused some 36,450 deaths in 2008, while 39,973 people died that year in motor-vehicle crashes, the leading cause of injury-related death in the U.S., though the number is stable rather than growing.

All told, about 12 million Americans aged 12 or older, or one in 20 people, reported nonmedical use of painkillers last year, the CDC said.

These deaths are coming from the new brands of very effective, and very powerful new drugs. Some of these drills are obtained through fraud, but many are supplied through pill mills:

Enough painkillers were prescribed last year to medicate every American adult around the clock for a month, the CDC said. "Right now, the system is awash in opioids—dangerous drugs that got people hooked and keep them hooked," CDC Director Thomas Frieden said.

The article noted that 3% of the doctors account for 62% of the prescriptions: I don’t think we are talking about Chemo-Clinics here either.

Moving along to another popular method of self-medication, the methamphetamine (meth) -lab has appears to be making a resurgence.

As someone who likes his pseudoephedrine for allergy purposes, I am well aware of the restrictions put in place to limit the purchase quantities. Apparently you can get enough active ingredients from one box of medicine to self-medicate yourself if you set up a micro-tiny meth-lab

Ana Campoy, Wall Street Journal, 2 November 2011
Undermanned Police Play Whack-A-Mole Hunting Down Soda-Bottle Outfits

In Christiansburg, Va., the police department is paying thousands of dollars to clean up toxic labs. Police in Tulsa, Okla., have handled 15% more meth-lab busts so far this year than all of last year, at a time when the department is down some 70 officers. Nationally, incidents related to meth production rose above 11,000 last year, after falling sharply to around 6,000 in 2007, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

"They're small, they're mobile, they're easy to hide," said Cpl. Mike Griffin of the Tulsa Police Department. "As long as pseudoephedrine is available, they're going to keep growing."...But as they chase after one-pot labs, police fear they are neglecting bigger drug-dealing operations involving global cartels and other drugs, such as cocaine and heroin.

Meth is some nasty stuff. Not much doubt about that. But what we have here is people going to the drug store, buying their product legally, making and taking the drug themselves.

Pseudoephedrine is about $7 dollars a package. Some of the people are likely criminals, but based on the overall demand for illegal drugs, it is obvious that most people support their habit through some sort of legal means of obtaining money. That is why drug sweeps that focus on the end-users tend to be unpopular: you sweep up too many blue collar and white collar types.

So of course they want to make the drugs only available through prescription. That will restrict demand up to a point, but -as was noted in the above discussion on pain killers- this tends to bring the illegal drug world into the legal medical care world.

The “law enforcement” sources for the article are being willfully obtuse. They know full well that when the restrictions on over-the-counter medicines was first put in place, the big beneficiary was the Mexican drug cartels. They have been able to buy Pseudoephedrine in bulk from the orient and set up mini-factories to supply the demand.

We are obviously as a collective-whole a miserable group of people. We medicate our misery away- often using a miserable concoction of chemicals. And then we throw some of those miserable people in jail. The primary beneficiary seems to be our expanding militarized police force.

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