Tim Blagg

Blagg: Prescription for trouble

We live in a society that is increasingly uncomfortable with pain.

Whether it’s psychological or physical, pain is something to be avoided, to be shunted aside, dealt with — instead of borne with fortitude.

The loss of a loved one, a shattered romance, a bad back, a sore tooth — all these milestones of normal life are no longer considered something to be endured, absorbed, added to our catalog of experiences.

Today, instead, many Americans turn to pills.

The right pill, we’re told, can soften that heartache, dull that stabbing pain, push dealing with that loss down the road into the future.

The spin doctors of Big Pharma have combined with popular culture — and, too often, accommodating physicians — to convince us that there’s no longer any need to suffer.

This is not to say that there’s no need for modern pharmacology. New formulations and discoveries have made an incredible difference to those with chronic conditions.

And the addition of drugs that can help balance the minds of those who suffer from mental illness has made it possible for many to lead normal, productive lives.

But in the process — at least in part because of the quest for profit — prescription drug use has grown out of all proportion to legitimate need.

Unbelievably, research shows that nearly 70 percent of Americans are on at least one prescription drug, more than half are on at least two prescriptions and 20 percent are on five or more prescription medications. Antibiotics, antidepressants and painkiller opioids are the most common in use.

Now, some of that phenomena is due to our aging population, but some is due to the ever increasing demand for relief from any kind of pain.

That increase in prescriptions has also led, we are learning, to an increase in illegal use of medical drugs and then to an upward spiraling use of contraband substances such as heroin.

That’s the picture The Recorder’s continuing coverage of the local drug epidemic is painting.

This week, staff reporter Chris Curtis is presenting a new package of stories about the impact that heroin and other drugs are making on Franklin County.

At the end of last year, Curtis’ prize-winning series on heroin use startled and alarmed county residents, many of whom had only been vaguely aware of the problem.

His account of how hundreds of local people’s lives had been seriously affected by addiction has helped generate dozens of separate efforts to address various aspects of what is being called an epidemic.

This week, he has concentrated on what individuals, families and communities can do to try to stem the tide of cheap heroin and stolen prescription painkillers.

Please, read his stories carefully and think about what you can do to help.

And also take a moment to examine those around you — friends and family — and think about the unthinkable. Is someone you know in the grip of addiction?

Is someone showing the subtle signs — outlined in the series — of beginning that long, slow, suicidal slide into hopeless addiction to chemicals?

Clip out the relevant articles and keep them.

And hope you are among the fortunate ones who never have to use them.

Blagg has been Editor of The Recorder since 1986. He lives in Greenfield and is a military historian with an interest in local history. He can be reached at: tblagg@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 250.

Nice piece, Tim. I'd like to add a couple of things. The first is that humans (and non-humans) are hard-wired to avoid pain. The desperate drive to escape from pain is primitive and extremely powerful. That need to escape pain narrows our focus to the point where we believe that the Now of pain will never change, and we fear that we will feel this way forever. I don't think it's a moral failing to do anything we can to escape it. That extremely strong urge, however, can get us in more trouble than we ever expected. Second point: I hope the folks who are offering services to help people who have become addicted to legal and illegal methods to escape pain will include acupuncture in their planning. Acupuncture is a wonderful pain reliever, non-toxic and non-addictive. It has also been proven to be very helpful in addiction recovery. (see http://acudetox.wordpress.com/about-nada/ ) The growth of community acupuncture clinics which provide affordable treatment in group settings makes this modality available and possible, as most charge about the price of an insurance co-pay for treatment. There are several such clinics available in our area, and community-style treatment is very easy to incorporate into other programs. Karen R. Adams Greenfield Community Acupuncture

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