This just in from the Metro: drugs are bad

As with a lot of things in the Metro, this article (click for larger) has me wondering several things. First of all, there's the usual generic wondering: who exactly runs this paper, why is it free, why does it seem to have no editorial consistency, and just...why?

Beyond that, I'm wondering why they decided to run a story today about the prevalence of prescription medication abuse. Despite their "hardly talked about" angle, this isn't anything new, and it doesn't appear that it was prompted by any recent local tragedies or anything logical like that. Call me a skeptic ("hey eeka, you're a skeptic"), but this makes me wonder whether the article was paid for by a pharmaceutical company or an emergency room or a drug treatment center in order to give people ideas (see concern regarding "who exactly pays for this paper and why does it exist" above).

In terms of the actual story, I suppose it's good that they're looking to educate people about how prescription medication abuse is drug abuse, if that's in fact what they're looking to do. It's true that prescription medication abuse is less stigmatized than street drug use, and that many people aren't aware of what constitutes drug abuse. But it isn't like the Metro actually explained what constitutes drug abuse or gave examples of more subtle drug problems that the layperson might not recognize as problematic. Instead, they focused on people who have developed serious dependencies and experienced major health problems as a result of their use. If someone doesn't realize that these folks are abusing drugs, I doubt that a Metro article is going to help them.

Finally, in their effort to explain to everyone that drugs are bad, for whatever reason, they neglected to point out that prescription drug use is in fact safer than street drug use. Sure, prescription drugs and street drugs have about equal abuse potential, and both can cause health problems when used habitually and/or in large quantities. But since I'm all for a harm reduction approach in educating the public about most things, I'll pick up where they left off and point out how prescription drug use can be safer than street drug use in many instances. For example, if someone buys "speed" or "meth" or "crank" on the street, s/he has no idea what is in it. It could be 25 mg of amphetamine, or 250 mg, or it could be aspirin, or it could be an opiate, or it could be rat poison. While taking nonprescribed drugs does indeed cause problems, at least the ones from a pharmacy are clearly labeled with a dosage. Even if you intentionally choose to take a huge quantity, at least you can tell the emergency room how much you took and of what.

Disclaimer: this is of course not a recommendation to take drugs. This is merely for informational purposes. For a mind-altering experience, this author recommends attempting to navigate the Metro website rather than taking drugs.


Eve said...

While overall a good analysis, I have to disagree that prescription drugs are "safer" from a harm reduction perspective.

In terms of pregnant women, for example, heroin is FAR LESS dangerous to the fetus than certain prescription drugs, like Klonopin. Also in terms of possible negative reactions due to withdrawl, Klonopin ranks in as much, much more serious than almost all illegal drugs - it can cause seizures. Cocaine and heroin can cause a great deal of discomfort, but rarely cause anything that severe.

And of course, there's the one illegal drug that is less dangerous than ANY prescription drug, nonprescription drug (alcohol, nicotine, caffeine) or illegal drug - marijuana.

eeka said...

Oh, sure, but I was comparing street versions and pharm versions of the same substance. A known quantity of a pharmaceutical opiate is safer than street heroin, which is of estimated quantity and quality. Comparing benzos to opiates is a different issue.

Any drug can cause seizures; seizures are caused by any sudden and/or severe enough imbalance in brain chemistry. Drinking a ton of water or a ton of sodium or fasting unsafely can cause seizures. So can alcohol. Benzos definitely don't have a monopoly on throwing off brain chemistry -- they just maybe do it without as much of a sick feeling, so it's possibly easier to do without that "wait, I don't feel right..." warning before you've taken too much.

eeka said...

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