Pubdate: Tue, 09 Feb 2010
Source: Shelby Star, The (NC)
Copyright: 2010 The Shelby Star
Author: Joseph H. Talley, M.D.


The lead article in the Jan. 23 Star ("Prescription for addiction")
contains inaccuracies and misleading statements that will cause
confusion and unnecessary anguish to many patients and their families.

Xanax is not a painkiller. It is an extremely useful anti-anxiety
medication, widely prescribed for the past 30 years. Many patients,
for whom this drug is the difference between effective functioning and
sheer torture from panic disorder or disabling anxiety, will be
dismayed and frightened to read that they are taking a

Throughout your article, there is the implication that addiction is
becoming more and more of a problem because these prescription
medications are "out there" to be abused. No! The real problem is
twofold: The disease, addictive disorder, is out there, and the social
phenomenon of substance abuse is out there.

If you were to eliminate every prescription drug that people tend to
abuse (thus depriving millions of patients of medications they
desperately need to survive and function), you would still have just
as much substance abuse as ever. The only thing that would change
would be the substances involved.

If a person were addicted to opioids such as you mentioned -
hydrocodone, Percocet and Vicodin - and you took these drugs away,
that person would not give up his addiction and get a life. He would
only turn to whatever was left - alcohol, illegal drugs, model
airplane glue or whatever. Getting treatment for his addiction is his
only hope, not simply discovering that his supply of Vicodin has dried

Lt. Briscoe is right on one count: People who for whatever reason
abuse drugs will turn to whichever drugs are most easily available.
But you will not curb their drug abuse by making that particular drug
or drugs more difficult to obtain. Mr. Oliver talks about how hard the
prescription drug abuse is hitting. But can he show that overall abuse
of all substances is on the increase? I submit he cannot.

If drug abusers today are taking more prescription morphine and less
street heroin (which, in the body, are precisely the same substance),
that is neither a good nor bad development (although bad news for the
harried doctors trying to get the morphine to patients who need it).
It is simply a change in marketing trend.

Your catchy headline "Prescription for addiction" suggests that the
new way to become a drug addict is to take prescriptions. That is
patently untrue. Drug addiction is far more than a "habit" that
someone develops. The causes of addiction are complex - heredity,
psychosocial conflicts, and many other hotly debated possibilities -
but medical science is in agreement that availability of the drug is
not one of them.

I submit that your article will not cause one single drug addict, nor
a single adventurous teenager, to change his ways. Nor turn over his
goodies to "Operation Medicine Cabinet." But it will cause unnecessary
anguish, guilt and worry to countless patients who need prescription
medications, and to their families.

Joseph H. Talley, M.D.

- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D