by Elyas Harris
In the United States and in many parts of the world the improper use of certain pharmaceuticals has become a growing issue. Since the 1980’s there has been an exponential growth of individuals dying from (legal) drug overdose, mostly opioids and pain medication. It would be easy to just blame this growing health crisis on individuals who abuse medication. Admittedly, we have little empathy for health issues we do not understand and deem to be self-inflicted. However, the issue is more complex than a lack of will or improper use of medication by patients. Doctors can prescribe strong painkillers when it is not completely necessary. This is overlooked because doctors can just say that it was necessary due to the severity of the issue. The pharmaceutical companies have no problem with the doctors prescribing these drugs because they are making a lot of money from these prescriptions. Hence, we have a mix of nefarious incentives coupled with little accountability with regards to over prescription of potentially addictive medication.
Furthermore, in many cases governments have zero tolerance with drug users and will criminalize drug addiction, as opposed to addressing it as a mental health issue. This is not the most productive way to use the taxpayers money. In many cases, drug addicts are not hardened criminals, they are simply addicts. Instead of throwing people away and locking them up in prisons and jails, they could be treated in rehab facilities that will detox the addicts body and changes the way that they think of these drugs. Not only that but there should be more restrictions on how and when the doctors can prescribe the drugs that are very addicting. Pharmaceutical companies can try and make drugs for pain that do not have the same addictive properties that are seen on the pharmacies shelves.
These drug related deaths are not found in just one type of economic group. They are found in every socioeconomic group. There seems to be a lack of education on drug use in the classrooms. There needs to be more of a focus on what happens when you take the drug and how the chemistry of your body changes. Also there needs to be people who come in with their stories to the school of how they got addicted and why they stopped using the hard kind of jobs. Only by addressing these overlooked epidemics can we start to ensure we achieve SDG 3: good health and well-being for all.