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Is the U.S. Fighting the Wrong War on Drugs?

Shutterstock_8414653 No sane person would ever say that recreational drugs aren’t dangerous. They are. However, prescribed drugs are much more dangerous, since they are much more widespread, and many are just as lethal as street narcotics. Narcotics, including cocaine and heroin, are responsible for an estimated 10,000-20,000 American deaths per year. This definitely represents a serious public health problem, but some say it is overused as a "smokescreen" for America's real drug problem, that ones that the medical industry is pushing.

America's "War on Drugs" has been a near total disaster and has done nothing to stem the tide of illegal drug trafficking. Conversely, the government has much more say in the legal drug trade, but looks the other way when statistics show the incomprenhensible numbers killed by adverse reactions to prescribed drugs. Maybe we should put our energy into fighting the problems we actually have control over.

For example, the long-awaited results of a trial of Zetia, a very common cholesterol-lowering drug prescribed to about a million Americans, shows the drug confers no medical benefit to users. In fact, the pace at which artery-clogging plaques formed within vessels almost doubled in patients taking Zetia compared to patients on other drugs…oops. Sorry everyone, I guess it’s OK to use a million guinea pigs for sanctioned drugs. The new two-year trial suggest that it doesn’t make any sense for people battling cholesterol to take Vytorin either, which contains the same questionable ingredients as Zetia. Well, at least they might have the decency to quit subjecting us to their annoying TV commercials now.

This certainly isn’t the first time a much hyped and overly pushed drug has caused needless devastation. During sworn testimony before the U.S. Senate on November 18, 2004, whistle-blower David J. Graham, MD, MPH, stated that according to estimates derived from the Kaiser-FDA study, Vioxx alone caused upwards of 160,000 heart attacks and strokes. This data was published in The New England Journal of Medicine October 21, 2004; 351(17): 1707-1709. Of these, an estimated 30-40 percent died. That’s an estimated 64,000 deaths from Vioxx alone between its release in 1999 until its removal in 2004. That was just one drug.

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that an estimated 106,000 hospitalized patients die each year from drugs that were, by medical standards, properly prescribed and administered. Over another two million suffer serious side effects.

According to another AMA publication, drug related "problems" kill as many as 198,815 people, put 8.8 million in hospitals, and account for up to almost a third of all hospital admissions. If those figures are accurate, only cancer and heart disease kill more patients than drugs. Yet another well-documented study headed by Gary Null, PhD and team, concluded something even more gruesome.

“The most stunning statistic, however, is that the total number of deaths caused by conventional medicine is an astounding 783,936 per year,” states the study, “It is now evident that the American medical system is the leading cause of death and injury in the US. (By contrast, the number of deaths attributable to heart disease in 2001 was 699,697, while the number of deaths attributable to cancer was 553,251.5)

"A definitive review and close reading of medical peer-review journals, and government health statistics shows that American medicine frequently causes more harm than good…the number of unnecessary medical and surgical procedures performed annually is 7.5 million. The number of people exposed to unnecessary hospitalization annually is 8.9 million. The total number of iatrogenic deaths shown in the following table is 783,936. It is evident that the American medical system is the leading cause of death and injury in the United States. The 2001 heart disease annual death rate is 699,697; the annual cancer death rate, 553,251."

The authors conclude: "When the number one killer in a society is the healthcare system, then, that system has no excuse except to address its own urgent shortcomings. It's a failed system in need of immediate attention. What we have outlined in this paper are insupportable aspects of our contemporary medical system that need to be changed -- beginning at its very foundations."

An article in Archives of Internal Medicine stated that in the seven year period from 1998 through 2005, reported serious adverse drug events increased 2.6-fold, and fatal adverse drug events increased 2.7-fold. The authors noted that reported serious events increased 4 times faster than the total number of outpatient prescriptions during the period. Another study concluded that the majority (86%) of the adverse drug reactions for which patients were admitted to a medical intensive care unit were entirely preventable.

The famous solution to the illegal drug problem was encouraging potential users to fight peer pressure and "just say no." Maybe this strategy should be recommended for prescription drugs too. Of course, prescriptions drugs can and do save lives as well, but at a very high cost. Rather than downing a cocktail of legal drugs prescribed by doctors, many Americans would be better off making lifestyle changes, like eating less meat, more vegetables and getting more exercise.

At any rate, the cultural belief that the first solution to seek relief for any malady is a drug, ought to be seriously questioned. Perhaps that's the drug culture we need to make accountable. Of course, this unfortunate situation in no way condones illegal drug use, but rather point out the statistics, hypocrisy and double-standard existing in conventional medicine today. We live in a society that condemns street drugs like amphetamines, but is eager to give the exact same drug in massive doses—under legalized brand names—to toddlers in their prime physical and mental developmental years. When you look at a pharmeceutical  industry that makes over 3 times the average profit of the other top 500 industries, you can bet Americans aren’t being pushed legal drugs solely for their own good.

Posted by Rebecca Sato

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Links:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/hsn/20080115/hl_hsn/cholesteroldrugzetiadoesntcutheartattackriskstudy
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=9213877
www.lef.org/magazine/mag2004/mar2004_awsi_death_01.htm
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2008/1/15/recreational-drugs-far-less-likely-to-kill-you-than-prescribed-drugs.aspx

Comments

What about entertainment addiction? Or that the government can inject anything they like into the population's body through vaccines? Like poisons & implants. Ever heard of the word dictatorship? Or the word scam? Eat natural food & you'll learn how to tackle diseases. Instead of eating food unnatural & harmful to your teeth, brain & body.

Doesn't the legal definition of "Natural" include man-made products? I can see where lee is coming from, but I think Natural is a huge scam too. I like this article and think that we need to target pill-poppers more. I think that there is a racist element to it too. Most of the pain-killer addicts are rich white people, even celebrities like Fat Rush Limbaugh and they don't face any punishment or even miss a beat of thier careers. I think the so called "War on Drugs" has been a way to continue racial discrimination in this country.

I'm not a "rich white person." I'm a chronic pain patient, and I find both parts of this article and the comment that follows it chilling. It's this kind of perspective on the drugs I need to just function--to even think--that has already made my life difficult because some of my doctors are afraid to prescribe the meds I take and I can't always get them filled if I don't stay nailed to one spot. I have a very painful neurological disease, and you have just made my life a tiny bit harder because some damned junkie abuses the drugs I have to have to live a life!

I think the notion our government sanctions the use of our population as guniea pigs is valid. Look at the elderly population who has been over-medicated for years and must seek continued treatment for interactions caused by the mix of prescribed drugs. However, we cannot only blame the government or even the drug producers, ultimately the decisions to either take or not take a substance lies with the individual. People need to stop looking for the easy way to deal with medical issues. Most medical problems occur as a direct result of lifestyle choices. The easy out for most people is to take a pill and all your problems disappear, or so it seems.

Jain, my auntie has also a serious disease, she's on drugs since almost 10 years and her pain gets worse and worse.

interestingly, she never changed her diet or behavior. part of the reason might be, that she's part of a religion that doesnt tolerate "alternative medicine".

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