Monday, December 7, 2015

A Sad Addition to our Shared Experiences

Think of the number of truly consequential experiences that Americans have in common.  Not the "mom and apple pie" stuff, but experiences that really impact our lives in deep and meaningful ways.  How many of us know someone affected by cancer?  How many of us are products of our public education system?  How many of us have lost a loved one?  

Thanks to the results of the recent Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, we can now add another shared experience among Americans: more than half of us (56%) know someone connected to prescription drug misuse or abuse.  45% of us know someone who has taken a prescription drug not prescribed to them.  39% of us know someone who has been addicted to prescription drugs.  16% of us know someone who has died from an overdose of prescription painkillers.  (56% of those polled answered "yes" to at least one of these questions).  

Interestingly, the poll reveals a demographic and socioeconomic trend around those who answered "yes" to at least one of the questions (know someone who took a drug not prescribed, know someone who has been addicted, or know someone who has died of an overdose).  The top 8 groups, by percentage of those polled answering "yes" at least once:
  • 63% of whites
  • 63% of those making more than $90k per year 
  • 62% of those aged 18-29
  • 61% of those aged 30-49
  • 61% of those having "some" college education
  • 59% of those with a college degree
  • 59% with residency in a suburban area
  • 59% of males  
That paints a picture of the prescription drug misuse and abuse epidemic.  

And yet, when asked to prioritize public policy goals, reducing drug abuse comes in 6th:
  1. Public education
  2. Affordable/available healthcare
  3. Reducing crime
  4. Attracting and retaining businesses and jobs
  5. Protecting the environment
  6. Reducing drug abuse
  7. Reforming the criminal justice system
In studying this list... I wonder if we can't make a significant impact on #6 by tackling #2, #3, and #7. What if we thought differently about mental healthcare?  What if we thought differently about addiction?  What if we didn't treat addicts like criminals?  It's possible - and the regulatory and private enterprise infrastructure to make that happen is actually developing all around us. 

There is hope.   

On Twitter @PRIUM1

No comments:

Post a Comment