Cultural acceptance and the war on greed

BY GUEST COLUMN | JULY 10, 2012 6:30 AM

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The two biggest addictions in this country are alcohol and tobacco. However, they are culturally accepted. Over time, we have changed our views on substance abuse, and as a culture, we decide what is acceptable. It is now known that addiction is an illness.

However, when it is an illegal substance, the addict is treated as a criminal. I think it is time we take a look at what we are doing. Prohibition didn't work, and neither will the war on drugs. I think we need to look at the level of harm each drug does and make rational decision on how to allocate money to best control the problem.

Drug manufacturers make pain killers known as opiates — they also are the ones opening pain clinics and paying doctors in this country more than $600,000 per year to dispense them.

There is an epidemic in opiate drugs in the United States. Pain-pill manufacturers need to be controlled on how many pills are made.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more people die from overdoses than car accidents. Overdose rates have more than tripled since 1990, and the rates grow every year.

Consider this statistic from 2010 — 254 million prescriptions for opiates were filled in the United States — according to Wall Street analysts Cowen & Co., "enough painkillers to medicate every American adult around the clock for a month."

As I stated earlier, it is a cultural acceptance to take pills for pain. So now we create another substance that is now the most abused form of addiction, and the drug manufacturers are getting richer and richer, and more and more people are getting addicted and dying.

I do not use drugs, but I question our common sense in what we accept. Every day we spend thousands fighting the war on drugs: arresting people selling marijuana, growing it, and using it. However, I don't know of a single case of adults overdosing accidentally on marijuana. People think nothing of getting the pain pills, and they are mass producing them in hopes that people will get addicted and they can make more money legally.

Use some of the money to get help people for the millions addicted to opiates. We need more treatment centers that are available to all people, not just the rich or insured.

On June 26, my son overdosed. He is an opiate addict. I have known since 2009. We lived in Florida at the time. His choices then were to buy them on the street, go to pain clinics (where they made up fake illness to sell them to him), or going to a seboxin or methadone clinic (where they just addict you to another drug). We had no insurance or money to pay for rehab facilities — and that was the only way to get into them unless you broke the law while on drugs and the court ordered you to them.

Iowa does have locations for treatment and rehab for people on a sliding scale. However, there are always waiting lists. We need to spend more money on giving people a place to get help in every state.

My son now lives in Iowa, and as I sit here in the ICU of the hospital in Iowa City, I am thankful he will finally have the opportunity to get help. I know it is now up to him to get the help and change, but at least Iowa has something available if he can just get into a treatment facility without having to wait too long.

But I hope our cultural acceptance will someday be changed, and we do the right things to get our country out of this epidemic. Maybe we should change our slogan to "Just Say No to Greed."

Darlene Krause
Melbourne, Fla.

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