In a recent interview, conservative talk show host Glen Beck gave us a glimpse into his struggles with addiction. Beck is open about his past struggles with alcohol and pain medication, but something he said was stunning, more about that later. Drug addiction, and in particular opiate addiction, has become a critical issue for millions of Americans. This issue has been featured in political speeches, declared an epidemic by the CDC, and a public health emergency by President Trump. Despite all this attention, very little progress has been made in stopping the death toll. In part, because attempts to curb over-prescription of painkillers has been met with an increase in illicit drug production and sales.
This transition from a problem of over-prescription, to one of illicit drug manufacture and use, is an example of an unintended consequence resulting from a crackdown on physicians who prescribed pain medication. As these drugs become harder to find, previously law-abiding citizens began to buy heroin and fentanyl on the illicit drug market resulting in a crisis that knows no class and is as likely to impact the soccer mom next door as it is to cause violence in the inner city. Violence and overdoses are just two consequences of this staggering problem.
Addiction impacts the healthcare system by sending thousands of individuals to the emergency room each day due to overdose. In addition, as the recent incident involving Tiger Woods shows, drugged driving is becoming more and more of a problem for law enforcement.
It’s not every day that Glen Beck is at a loss for words but this time Aaron Brower, CEO of Southern California Treatment Center, really shocked the founder of the Blaze Network. Drug overdose has become the leading cause of death for individuals under the age of 50. In the clip, you will hear a slightly different statistic that was later corrected off the air. At the time there was some question as to the accuracy of Aaron’s claim that addiction was now the leading cause of death. While Heart Disease remains the leading killer overall, drug overdose is now the leading killer of people under age 50. A no less shocking statistic.
The real bombshell happened when Beck, no stranger to the effects of addiction, recounted a story about being prescribed fentanyl after surgery. Looking on the label, Beck noticed that the label said: “For End of Life Only.” The stunning fact that a painkiller for end of life use was routinely prescribed, not only to a celebrity but a recovering alcoholic, illustrates just how far off the path we have gone regarding addiction.
It’s not time to give up just yet; there are solutions out there. Brower went on to say that many people don’t understand that insurance may help cover some or all of the cost of rehab and there are grants and other programs that can help people find help. Beck believed that individuals need to quit looking to the government to help solve the addiction problem.
Whether or not you agree with Beck, it’s clear that we can’t wait for the government to solve the addiction. The problem is just too large. The first step to getting help is to reach out and start looking for a solution. Ultimately the most important aspect of treatment if finding something that works for you. The government has a role to play as well, in prevention. Holding pharmaceutical companies and physicians accountable for over-prescribing opioid drugs is a step in the right direction. However effective drug rehabilitation programs for those already suffering and education programs for prevention are vital components of an effective solution.