Friday, November 27 , 2015, 8:09 am | Fair 47º

Susan Ann Darley: Prescription Drug Abuse — Who’s in Charge?

It's up to us, individually and collectively, to make the decision to break the cycle

By Susan Ann Darley, Noozhawk Columnist |

[Noozhawk’s note: This column is part of Noozhawk’s 12-day, six-week special investigative series, Prescription for Abuse.]

“One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small, and the ones that mother gives you don’t do anything at all, go ask Alice when she’s 10 feet tall.” — “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane

The above song lyrics ring true, except that the pills you find in mom’s medicine cabinet today might just do the trick.

I commend Noozhawk for its investigative series on prescription drug abuse. The problem has been ignored for far too long. Only through awareness will we create responsible behavior on all sides of this issue.

                                Prescription for Abuse  |  Complete Series Index  |

More than 16 years ago, I interviewed Peter Breggin, M.D., a psychiatrist who advocates a humanistic approach to medicine, such as psychotherapy and education, to offset the proliferation of psychiatric medication. I questioned him about prescription drug abuse of anti-depressants, asking, “When will this end?” He responded, “When the public no longer demands it.”

Doctors can hand out pills like candy, but it’s up to us to swallow. And swallow we do. The Los Angeles Times recently reported that prescription drugs, which public health experts characterize as an epidemic, claim a life every 14 minutes and now account for more fatalities than traffic accidents.

We swallow one pill because it helps the pain. Next time two. We swallow because it feels good. We swallow because it’s easy. Before we know it the subtle, slippery slope of addiction takes over.

Many professionals believe that emotional repression underlies many addictions. Who wouldn’t be tempted to go for euphoria? The “high” is a convenient way to become numb — a way to “not feel.” All those uncomfortable feelings can be pushed aside, covered up and stuffed deep inside. But to not consciously address those feelings or have a healthy outlet for them creates a destructive and downward spiral. It can be a long road out or not.

A few celebrities who didn’t make it:

At age 36, Marilyn Monroe, an actress who seemingly had it all, died in her sleep of barbiturate poisoning (an overdose of sleeping pills).

Model Anna Nicole Smith died at age 39 from an accidental overdose of chloral hydrate and other prescription drugs.

Elvis Presley, actor and singer known as the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, was addicted to prescription drugs and died at age 42 of a heart attack brought on by long-term drug use.

Jimi Hendrix, singer and guitar player who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and holds a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, died as a result of mixing sleeping pills and alcohol at age 27.

Talented actor Heath Ledger died at age 28 from an accidental overdose of prescription medications, including painkillers, anti-anxiety drugs and sleeping pills. The New York City medical examiner’s office said, “We have concluded that the manner of death is accidental, resulting from the abuse of prescription medications.”

Creativity snuffed out — way too young.

Not long ago my precious nephew overdosed — way too young. What was he thinking, that it could never happen to him, or did he want it to? We’ll never know.

We’re finding out through tragedy that the “quick fix” doesn’t work. We’re finding out as individuals that we need to be in charge of our own lives. That doesn’t mean to stop going to doctors but to be alert and present when we do go, empowering ourselves to make conscious decisions as to what feels right for us.

It’s time to let go of the powerful influence of the external world. It’s time to value, listen and trust ourselves. Through that awareness we will make better choices and honor those we’ve lost.

                                Prescription for Abuse  |  Complete Series Index  |

Susan Ann Darley is a creativity coach and writer who works with artists, creatives and entrepreneurs to discover, use and market their talents. She offers a free 30-minute coaching session. Follow her on Twitter: @Coach7700. For more information, click here, e-mail her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or call 805.845.3036.

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