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Prescription Drug Abuse, Why So Few Responses?

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 29th 2011

Prescription Drug Abuse, Why So Few Responses?Early one morning, when I was walking my dog, a neighbor approached me, wanting to ask a question. She tearfully explained that her 22 year-old daughter was addicted to drugs. In her plea for help, she tearfully complained that no one in the neighborhood talks about it. She was aware that I am a therapist and that my wife and I had to deal with the same crisis a few years ago. We briefly talked, in the middle of the street, and I invited her to come over and talk with my wife and I so that she wouldn't feel so alone with this. She never came and when I asked her about it, she asserted that she and her husband just have to deal with it.

It got me thinking about several articles I have written for Mental Help Net about drug abuse of all kinds. In fact, in reviewing what I wrote, I discovered two things. First, my articles on addiction were written as far back as 2007, if not earlier. Some of the blogs discussed prescription drug abuse and how kids distribute these pills at school. Second, upon review of the responses to the blogs on the topic, I discovered very few comments.

In contrast to this, there have been lively discussions of blogs devoted to pornography, Alcoholics Anonymous, prostitution, divorce, marital infidelity, etc. All of these and more are certainly serious problems that arouse lots of despair, controversy and anger. One would expect that a problem that affects enormous numbers of Americans, and directly in their homes, would arouse countless dozens of reader reactions. Surprisingly, this has not happened. Much like my neighbor, I am asking "why is no one talking about it?"

Everyday, we read alarming newspaper articles about highly addicting pain killing drugs finding their way from our medicine cabinets into our schools or how they are being sold on the street. Despite warnings to dispose of these drugs after they are no longer needed, they remain in medicine cabinets. Some medical doctors and dentists continue to carelessly dispense them. Unscrupulous drug pushers make these drugs available through the internet and even deliver or mail the drugs to buyer homes. Parents are not monitoring what their kids are doing on the internet or they mistakenly believe that sexual predators are the only danger the internet poses.

Why is no one talking about this? Our kids are getting addicted. Family life is being destroyed by this and other addictions. People are spending, and losing, huge sums of money on these drugs. Why is no one talking about what is now an epidemic of pain killer additions affecting both adults and our kids.

By the way, if you want to know the best ways of disposing of unnecessary drugs in your medicine cabinets, follow this:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about safe disposal of medicines:

I suspect that affected families feel lots of shame about this issue.  As an encouragement for this blog, please remember that all of you are anonymous on the internet. Remember too, that there cannot be too much effort to raise awareness in order to help others.

One of the best ways to handle trauma and crisis is to talk about it as much as possible. Talk to family, friends, the individual who suffers from the addiction, a psychologist, social worker and on the Internet, such as here, at this blog. Talking may not provide practical solutions,(so much the better if it does) but it can help you feel less alone and frightened. All of these people, including here at Mental Help Net, are available to listen and give support. My neighbor? Even when I urged her to talk, she refused, choosing to "go it alone."

I am appealing to all of our readers to start the conversation. I am sure that many of you have been affected by this, either through your spouses, other relatives or through your children. Much like other discussions, it's important to discuss the way your lives have been impacted, what the best course of action is, why this is happening and who is at fault.

I hope to see lots of discussion.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD



Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

talking about it - Janet - Jul 31st 2011

The idea of writing about the truth about addiction to prescription drugs is appealing to me because my husband is an addict. People need to know that addicts are sick people with a disease of the mind, rather than people who are short on morals. My husband has begged doctors for treatment and been told he has to "suck it up". He has had doctors accuse him of lying when he wasn't and turn the other way when they knew he was lying. No one wants to talk about it because people don't want to admit they have family members with addictions. Doctors don't want to admit they have created addicts. Communities don't want to admit they weren't paying attention to the kids in the nieghbourhood when they became addicted.

Don't Talk - John Mertes - May 4th 2011

In my counselling sessions with significant others, I often run into mothers who struggle with their son and/or daughter's substance abuse.  Mothers often feel very guilty and want to know what they did or did not do to push their child into a life of substance abuse.  It is very difficult to help them recognize that their behaviour was not a direct cause of their child developing a drug problem.  It is also dificult to help the individual focus on what they need to do to cope rather than focusing on how to "FIX" their child.  Too often I hear horror stories about young adults manipulating their parents into enabling the addiction to continue through playing the victim, blaming the parent(s), or making promises to change.  Helping people understand that we can't help individuals that don't want to help themselves is challenging.  It also becomes difficult when one parent wants to support the child and the other parent is ready to cut them loose.

Fear, rejection, guilt, shame, misunderstanding, confusion, embarresment, and alike all play a key role in limiting open dialogue about drug abuse.  There is still a great deal of stigma associated with substance abuse.  People don't want to air their dirty laundry in public and as such the problems continue and parents are left to their own devices to resolve the problems.  There is help out there and the therapists that are trained to deal with substance abuse are not going to pass judgement and they are not going to look down on the parents.  Our job is to help them better understand the addiction and how to avoid enabling the addiction while working on their own self care.

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