Throughout my four-decade psychotherapy practice, I have registered great concern about the overprescription and overuse of pharmaceuticals in our culture. Although I regularly discuss my concerns with my clients, this is, regrettably, my first effort to publicize my alarm.
Generally speaking, our society has been placing an increasingly high premium on quick and easy—fast food, text messaging , social media connections—and a cornucopia of medications. So many of us would rather pop pills that mask (granted, sometimes cure) symptoms, than to confront the underlying issues or to pursue natural remedies. In the process, it is common to turn a blind eye to the side effects, often deleterious ones, that accompany virtually every medication on the market. And how about physicians and recipients alike ignoring the interaction effect of multiple meds (I have a client who takes 47!)? I’m reminded of the joke, “I’ve read so much about the dangers of drug use that I decided to give up reading.” With prescription drugs so prominent and normalized in our culture, is it any wonder that people young and old so frequently abuse substances?
I am enraged by the profound greed of pharmaceutical companies that spend millions of dollars annually to provide a range of perks to physicians to lure them into prescribing the drugs they manufacture. The most egregious cases, like one recently publicized, involve marketing drugs that have not been approved by the FDA and that the pharmaceutical company knows to be quite harmful.
The Denver Post newspaper ran a series this past week on the grossly excessive prescribing of psychotropic drugs to foster children. The Post reported that during 2012 foster children were prescribed antipsychotic drugs at 12 times the rate of other children eligible for government insurance. Furthermore, the average annual Medicaid spending on various psychotropic medications for foster children is a whopping $2300. The widespread approach toward these often-marginalized foster kids seems to center around controlling, rather than treating them.
I am not advocating throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Obviously, medications are sometimes required, at least as short-term solutions. I just want to see more people resorting to any of the numerous effective therapeutic modalities that are now available to supplement, if not supplant, pharmaceuticals. One can choose to learn and grow from one’s pain and symptoms and to favorably modify his lifestyle. The most proactive and ideal approach, before the proverbial “horse gets out of the barn,” is to adopt overall healthy attitudes and behaviors—a preventive posture.