Were Whitney Houston’s drug problems a symptom of problems in our healthcare system?
In the United States, drug use has soared says the NY Times (see article here). With our current usage patterns, among people over 60, 88 percent were taking something, with 45% of them takingcholesterol lowering drugs.
The side effects of the medications alone are staggering, and part of what we pay for in our yearly increases in our healthcare premiums which are in part due to the cost of the medications as well as the care required as follow up or to take care of effects caused by the medications alone.
Last night, on Bill Maher’s show, he interviewed Dr. Drew, a well-known celebrity doctor who has treated many celebrity’s and discussed health issues on television. The constant use of different medications, the barbiturates, the pain meds when combined with other meds become a deadly cocktail were his topic de jour. While it is not known what ultimately caused Whitney’s death, her constant issues with substance abuse were well known and she had entered rehab on numerous occasions. Even Michael Jackson met an untimely end because he was having his sleep induced with an anesthesia drug meant for occasional use in the surgical suite.
Many psychiatrists are substituting drug therapy because it pays better than talk therapy. As I have read, they can see four people during the hour, and bill far more than they can talking to a patient for an hour which is considered to be more effective in helping people work through their problems. Many people who have not found the right doctor are hooked on pain pills for relief because they have not been able to find someone who understands their problem and can offer them real solution that is safe, drug free and just works. Often these patients are referred to pain management which consists mostly of drugs and mostly ineffective but pricy procedures. Perverse, isn’t it? Is taking a drug which is always temporary and solves nothing better than solving a problem? Isn’t there a better way?
Quite simply, this is unacceptable. Drug use is problematic for people’s health, even though it is sold as something through television advertising that can alleviate a problem. Drugs offer temporary relief only and over time, more is needed because the body requires more for the same effect, especially with pain meds. Isn’t healthcare supposed to be about improving people’s health, not complicating it? The drug companies within the United States have done an excellent job selling their product, with television and print ads that show a great lifestyle, while explaining the life threatening side effects.
What we as a nation need to do
- Change the war on drugs to the war on drug overuse. Doctors have few tools to help people and the largest if pharmaceuticals.
They need to be more careful on who and when they prescribe any meds.
- Eliminate drug advertising on television and in magazines. The public wants their problems solved, but in a safe and knowledgeable manner. Drugs are never a quick fix.
- Become better healthcare consumers. We need to be smarter about who we go to and what we are willing to put in our bodies.
Dr. William Charschan is the author of Cheating Mother Nature, what you need to know to beat chronic pain (available through Amazon.com and other fine booksellers) and lecturer with practices in North Brunswick and Scotch Plains NJ.