It comes as no surprise to me that Dr. Nora Volkow, director of National Institute on Drug Abuse and one of my personal idols, stated there has been a “paradigm shift” in substance abuse commenting on a study this month that shows prescription drugs have passed marijuana as the gateway drug choice of our youth.
I have seen the writing on the wall for many years now and nowhere is it more apparent than the ever increasing stream of patients into the local methadone clinic where I volunteer. Over ninety percent of those I see come are not heroin addicts, but instead they are addicted to opioid prescription pain killers Loritab, Vicoden, Oxycontin, and Dilaudid. Go ahead and throw in the benzo’s like Xanax and Valium into the mix of problems because that is what most addicts (and alcoholics) con their doctors out of by describing their depression while leaving out the fact they have a raging addiction.
Dr. Volkow mentioned this paradigm shift in abuse and treatment, but I feel there is one more important aspect of this situation she left out.
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This shift goes beyond just drugs and treatment, both have been around for centuries. No, I think the most important paradigm shift happening today is that society as a whole feels entitled to perfect health and emotional wellness. If you don’t have it, well- there must be pill out there that will grant it. The proliferation of available drugs and the absolute flood of marketing that has accompanied them is overwhelming. No wonder kids are extremely comfortable experimenting with the drugs they find on the street and in their parent’s medicine cabinet, they are just as comfortable and familiar with these products as they are with Spongebob Squarepants. They also are under the false impression that feeling down and out or disappointed isn’t a natural occurrence; it’s something to be medicated.
There is also the bitter irony of the progressive addiction that all too often those addicted to prescription drugs fall back into the old paradigms of alcohol and illicit drugs trying to find a way out or something stronger. It may be a new twist or “paradigm shift”, but the end result is the same old story.