“Modern medicine is a negation of health. It isn’t organized to serve human health, but only itself, as an institution. It makes more people sick than it heals.” – Ivan Ilich
Our society has a major malfunction: the inability to relate to the unknown. It makes people extremely uncomfortable. It’s easier to convey a rather trite (sorry. Actually, I’m not sorry) yet very relevant disease like breast cancer, AIDS and even organizations like D.A.R.E. to a community. Yet somewhere between children’s leukemia and men’s prostate cancer, we forget about a major, unyielding cyclone that is affecting more adolescents then Justin Beiber. And that parasite is drugs.
It’s a destructive monster that engulfs every aspect of your life, including your family. It ruins everything in its path, beckoning you to flirt with the happiness and numbness that it provides with– sometimes– just one try.
A major reason why I wanted to dive head first into this depressing atrophy, is because of New York Times Best Selling author Ellen Hopkins. Hopkins is somewhat of a savior to children and young adults of my generation because she addresses the growing epidemic of drug use in our society. In her Crank trilogy, which features Crank, Glass and Fallout, she describes the way drugs (mainly crystal meth, or methamphetamine) took over her daughter’s life. In her daughter’s words. The way she reaches children all over the world with her words is indescribable, and is best depicted by this short excerpt from Crank:
Just Before The Drop
“You know how you
stand and stand and stand
in line for the most
gigantic incredible roller
you’ve ever dared attempt.
minute by minute by minute,
you choose to wait even
longer, to ride in the front
and finally it’s your turn.
They buckle you in, lock the
safety bar with a jolting clunk!
Hook engaged, the chain jerks
you forward. You start to
Cresting the top, time
moves into overtime
as you wait for that scant
hesitation, just before you
You know how you feel
at that instant? Well, that’s
exactly how it feels when you
shake hands with the
Some reviewers relish the fact that they believe her work is merely glorifying the use of drugs, and that it de-sensitizes children to it and does not portray the effects drugs really do have. I have to disagree. Hopkins is reaching out to adolescents who might be too scared to ask questions– and simply in that she is raising awareness. And we all know raising awareness is the first step to making a change. Children who are not able to distinguish fantasy from reality (or rather right from wrong) should indeed not read this book. On the other hand, many schools carry her books and are used to teach various methods such as verse, poetry, and assonance.
Before we slip into book review reverie, I want to bring up another issue that is seldom discussed. Mostly because prodigious drug companies make sure of it.
Prescription drugs. Are they more addictive (and more widely a problem) than the dirty crystal meth and black tar heroin that we’ve all grown up to know as “dirty” and “disgusting” and think “I don’t know ANYONE who does that, and don’t hang around it.” The problem with prescription drugs, is it’s much easier to circumvent and justify why you “need” them. Not to mention a professional doctor actually diagnosed you with Aderall. (Can we all agree most adults do not genuinely exhibit ADD?) I know ADD is detrimentally overprescirbed to children, as well. I feel like drugs are viewed as so: Heroin to prescription drugs is a run down shack to a mansion in beverly hills. But the mansion has a mask on. Prescriptions are socially accepted. Heroin is not.
We’re becoming genetically programmed to believe we cannot exist without some form of instant gratification. I clearly remember when I got my first digital camera. The belief that one could see the picture instantly after it was taken was amazing! And the whole world agreed. Everyone is trying to get ahead. Then it was smart phones, to make sure you had the world at your fingertips. Then it was Steve Jobs, coming in with all sorts of technology that made it possible to achieve almost anything from a voice command to your iphone. DVR’s so we don’t miss a single show, planning for planning, the busy lives of regular families, school, carpool, sports, bills, jobs, etc. News gets delivered to our phones and we do not sit down and read the newspaper anymore. No one takes vacations without turning their phone off. Try once, TURN IT OFF. See what happens. Just when we thought we had it all, we can basically now drive a car without even really paying attention. Monster energy drinks supposedly make a third-quarter net income of $56.5 million. That’s based on the fact that they have tons of endorsements and they sell the drink like it’s guaranteed to get you laid. You have determined you cannot perform without your superficial energy drink.
Pharmaceutical companies are a multi-billion dollar organization. Some people who work there probably make millions of dollars per year. What do you think drives them to this wealth? Anything in particular they do to keep rolling in the dough? Stop prescribing? Stop enabling? Tell doctors’ offices to start telling patients to see a homeopathist instead? No. People want a quick fix. They don’t want to change their lives, their priorities, their plans. They just want a little yellow pill in the morning and a blue one at night.
In Food Matters, a documentary essentially about ‘you are what you eat’ and loosely based on Socrates quote “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food” further defends my theory on pharmaceutical companies: “Good health makes a lot of sense. But it doesn’t make a lot of dollars. Modern medicine revolves around ‘a pill for every ill’ and that’s the way the sickness industry wants to keep it.”
No one wants to make healthy choices for dinner because it takes too long and they don’t have enough time. Hamburger Helper (or worse, fast food) is all they know. But that’s a whole other tragedy.
And as long as we remain this LAZY, those pharmaceutical companies will soon take over the world — if they have not already. So as long as people are content with those yellow and blue pills, nothing needs to change.
Which brings me back to instant gratification. For most, we need caffeine in the morning to jumpstart our day, and _____________ (insert alcoholic beverage of choice here) to wind down the evening. For some, merely caffeine alone does not adhere to our needs, and, lucky for them, their colossal insurance company Blue Cross is more than happy to provide them with such resources. It’s a stigma, left for the patient to drown in while the doctor is glorified for their intelligence and understanding. Greed has overcome their offices. And the genuine care for a patients health and well-being is left on the back burner while money and recognition is crucial. The problem with Rx’s is they simultaneously help you get through the day while also enabling you to become more dependent on them. Remember that feeling in the poem, “… just before the drop?” Well, that can be achieved without the help of Vicodin, unbeknownst to many.
Soon, you can’t get up in the morning without antidepressants to clear the void in your mind, and the pain relievers for a back injury you sustained years ago. One which would be healed adequately through exercise, physical therapy and some massages here and there. Then you blindly accept “necessary” pills for anxiety and ADD so you can float through your entire day without ever having to have felt any authentic feelings that you need to be healthily alive. All for these non-existent ailments. Yet you are so happy and accomplished, it’s hard to see what you’re doing wrong.
Before we embark on this petrous path I want to make it immensely clear that I believe some people do actually NEED medication. Cancer patients, people with HIV, people who are diagnosed with clinical depression or multi-personality disorder. I am not completely insensitive. And for those who actually depend on this medicine to live, I sympathize and cannot imagine what it would be like.
Although, relying on drugs to keep you alive (ha, that’s somewhat ironic) and not just for recreational purposes such as “I get so much done in my day” “I can’t live without it” “I am a full time mother” “I am a full time student” “I am a full time plumber” “I am a full time lawyer.” It doesn’t matter. Most medicine is being over-prescribed. It’s abuse when you rely on drugs to make it possible to sleep at night from all the drugs that kept you awake during the day. I can’t tell you how many kids I knew in college who were prescribed aderall to “get through exams” or xanax because they were “stressed.” I certainly don’t condone it, but people who take a xanax on a plane for fear of it going down is different then people who are prescribed a daily dosage of it when it is clearly not imperative to their health or well-being.
So, are prescription drugs indeed more dangerous than drugs like Crystal Meth, Heroin and Cocaine? All the drugs we were taught to stay away from because it will eventually lead you to a very dark place? Literally. In an alley way with the other vagrants not unlike yourself? True, it will take you there. But prescription drugs aren’t so different. Here is a short excerpt from The Sun magazine, about a woman who avows her battle with prescription drugs:
“In college you start to have unpredictable panic attacks: sweating, dizziness, stomach cramping, feelings of impending doom, the need to return to your home immediately. The doctor prescribes Zoloft (an anti-depressant) daily and Xanax (an antianxiety drug) as needed. Now the panic attacks are less frequent but you feel a pervasive sense of numbness and gloom. Then come the headaches and insomnia. Maybe a different antidepressant will work better, the doctor says. Try Paxil. That’s good for anxiety, too. But you can barely tolerate the disorientation and double vision. Let’s see how you do on Remeron.… and you still can’t sleep without nightmares. Try some antipsychotics for the nightmares and some Neurontin (an antiseizure medication) for the headaches. You gain 30 pounds in a few months… Maybe some amphetamines will help you lose that weight. Phentermine slims you down, but you start having diarrhea every day. Getting through college is proving to be much more difficult than you thought. The antiseizure medication makes you feel like a zombie. You’re always tired, but you can’t sleep. Valium, Sonata, Ambien – none of them help. Instead they make you hallucinate. You try to kill your sisters dog with a cane because you see him for the malevolent alien he really is. Topomax (for the headaches and depression)… You can’t study because when you try to read, the words are screaming inside your brain… On top of that, your thyroid has become imbalanced, and you need to take hormones for it. Your mood spirals downward. Maybe you have an undiagnosed case of ADD. Try some Aderall. You chip a few teeth from clenching them so hard. You begin contemplating suicide again…Wellbutrin …Celexa … Bleeding stomach ulcers and kidney stones. You drop out of college and gain 40 pounds from Seroquel, the only drug that let’s you sleep… You start believing you aren’t really real. But, hey, at least you no longer suffer from panic attacks.”
– Jenny B.
After I took massage therapy classes years ago, it taught me that so much can be achieved without the help of western medicine. At the time I thought my hippy, barefoot, linen wearing teacher had lost it. Herbs? Natural remedies? I wasn’t buying it. And that’s probably the problem with everyone else. And it makes me think, did this author ever try a nice long walk? A hike? Watching the waves or the sun set? Meditating? No matter how cliche these ideas are, there’s a REASON you see that old 94 year-old man practically crawling down the sidewalk putting all his welfare into his walker. You might think, “He’s an idiot! Go back to the nursing home, you’ll get lost.” But the old wise man knows it’s because sunshine and exercise will bring clarity, happiness and good health.