Americans are addicted to legal drugs and by drugs I mean pharmaceutical drugs. Pharmaceutical companies are the most profitable industry in the world. Marcia Angell, M.D. first woman editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine reports that in 2002 the $35.9 billion the top drug companies earned were greater than the profits of the other 490 Fortune 500 companies combined.
In my city of Modesto, California, (and two other small cities) there are 31 Walgreens, CVS and Rite-Aid pharmacies. This doesn’t count all the pharmacies within grocery stores, Target or Walmart. Many of these have been build in the last few years.
In 1997 the FDA reversed it’s policy on direct-to-consumer advertising. At that time, 220 million a year was spent by pharmaceutical companies on advertising. In 2002, the amount was 2.8 billion. Big pharma spends twice as much on advertising as research and development and it’s working.
Perhaps we’re buying so many more prescription drugs because we’re being brainwashed to believe we need what they’re selling. “Tv advertising, works by mobilizing the appeal of group morale. “By showing you pictures of beautiful, happy people, they persuade you that everyone else in the world is having a terrific time, only you are left out. Want to stop being a lonely loser? Join them — just tune into this, or buy that,” says Bill Manville, ex advertising copywriter for Grey Advertising and now NY Daily News columnist.
Pharmaceutical ads subtly increase fear and worry about medical conditions. For example, statins were first prescribed only to those with heart problems. Now, they’re routinely prescribed for anyone with high cholesterol.
As an addiction specialist of 25 years I understand and support the benefits of medications for the right reasons. I’ve seen suicidal clients survive because of the anti-depressant they were taking. I’ve also seen clients so over-medicated they were zombies. Somewhere there’s a healthy meeting place between personal responsibility, the medicine now available and all the seductive advertising. The good news is that many of us are looking for ways to combine traditional with non-traditional medicine. The National Center for Complimentary & Alternative Medicine states that consumers spend 33.9 billion out of pocket on complimentary and alternative therapies.
As consumers we need to ask questions when we see new research come out. To change the control big corporations have on advertising, and us, it will take thinking outside the box. As Einstein said, “You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew.”
If you’re struggling with an addiction or dependence to oxycontin, vicodin or other drugs of this type, there is help available. Check out AA or NA groups. Try 6 before you decide you don’t “like” them – do you “like” being addicted? And, look for 1 thing each meeting that you can take and use for yourself. The tendency for the mind is to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but a focus on 1 positive thing you can take for yourself is good. Also, see a physician, or a treatment program in your area, and get help for withdrawal symptoms. It’s not recommended to stop taking the medications cold turkey.