Drug ’em and keep ’em that way

In the national drug abuse debate, fueled by the mind-boggling death toll numbers, we are told that the opioid crisis grew out of over-prescription of legal drugs which led to illegal (cheaper) drugs. True, but that seems, to me, to be trying to momentarily treat the sick patient instead of looking at the cause for the illness in the first place.

Children with “over-active learning disabilities” and “attention deficit disorders” can be helped to perform as “normal, stable, obedient children” with the use of a regular stream of chemicals designed to “calm the hyperactive mind.” Fancy words for “dope ‘em up and they will be quiet.” For a scant few, such drugs may be a stopgap or a momentary necessity to overcome trauma or, indeed, a mental or physical infirmity that needs to be addressed on a long-term basis. For the majority of children being fed these FDA “controlled substances,” the plain truth is that it is easier as a parent and teacher to deal with a bright, alert, inquisitive and abundantly agile mind by calming the mind and slowing things down.

The parents’ over-prescribed drug in the ‘70s and ‘80s was Valium. Now, in this stressful new century when parents are at their wits’ end and teachers are not allowed any form of discipline (let alone comforting hugging), the simple truth is that Ritalin and other drugs like it are perhaps the only way to keep some kids on an even keel. What was a parents-only use of drugs (like Valium) has made its way to the youth of America as Ritalin.  And parents have a whole host of “calmers” to rely on like Xanax and Prozac.


As kids get older, we are promised that they can be “weaned off the drug as they find they no longer need it.” Studied reports of such an adult-weaning process in Israel, Holland and England are frightening: These kids make up for the lack of their childhood drugs’ calming effect with all manner of psychotic and opioid prescription drugs, not to mention heroin and cocaine.  And, of course, we all have medical issues at some point, so what better time for big pharma to get us hooked on opioid pain killers? In for a toothache, out for a life of addiction?

As we slowly breed and nurture a society of heavy drug users, we need to be prepared for years when heavy machinery, delicate circuitry, banking functions, and emergency services are undertaken by a work force heavily committed to modifying their mental state with drugs. Time was, when you hired someone using drugs, it was apparent; the user was relatively easy to spot. But with Valium? Prozac? Xanax? Ativan? OxyContin? Would you know what to look for? Here’s a simple question: If a doctor prescribes Xanax to a patient and he or she drives your kids to school, would you know or care that this drug makes them less likely to cope in an emergency? It’s a “legal” drug, so there’s no law being broken, yet the effect of such a drug is probably more detrimental to their driving ability than, say, marijuana. We test for one and accept a doctor’s note for the other. One you get fired for, the other you never hear about.

We need to be careful here with drugs. The hypocrisy of “just say no” is initially outweighed by the school mandated drug-pushing on our kids. Institutionalized drug abuse in this country is out of hand: young and old, firm and infirm, we treat them all with equality, give them the drug of the day and keep them happy. They lobby for it in Washington, your local school pushes for it, and the nursing home assures you it’s in the patient’s interest. What they are all saying is: If someone is a problem, any problem at all, dope ‘em up and presto, no problem. This is the fast and simple cure, which will haunt us all in years to come. And the next national crisis is likely to be the mood-psychotic drugs which are gaining ground every day. Take a pill and feel less stressed. The solution is the pill … and the illness gets masked, not cured.

A simple solution might be a change in patients’ mind-set. If you are prescribed a necessary medication, it should come with a warning: Like a cast on a broken arm, this prescription will not be renewed in 6 weeks. Get better soon and be prepared to get on with real life. Like that cast, it is not life-long support.


Peter Riva, a former resident of Amenia Union, now lives in New Mexico.