Prescription drug abuse is the hidden side of substance abuse. Because the drugs are legally available, serve a legitimate purpose for the right patient, and safe usage guidelines are generally known, it’s easy to forget that they can be abused. Too, access to these drugs is easiest for the middle and upper classes, whites, the moneyed, the privileged. Illegal drugs are associated with the stereotypical criminal: poor, persons of color lacking education and resources, while prescription drugs are associated with, well, just the opposite.
Responding to illegal drugs has given us the enormously disastrous war on drugs, which has skyrocketed our incarceration rate and costs millions and millions of dollars that could have been better spent elsewhere.
Discrepancies in drugs and sentencing, such as the infamously greater penalty for crack cocaine than powder cocaine, have contributed to disproportionate minority presence throughout the criminal justice system. Meanwhile, the war on prescription drug abuse has cost us… nothing. The only real war on medical services is the war on contraception and abortion services currently being waged by politicians.
Thus, recent interest in charging doctors who knowingly facilitate their patients’ prescription drug abuse seems like a welcome and novel approach. A doctor in California was recently charged with murder, linking her prescriptions to the deaths of three people who died from prescription drug overdoses. It’s time to recognize that these connections exist, that dealing happens on street corners and prescription pads alike.