The latest epidemic in terms of drug abuse/addiction that’s going on right now starts in everybody’s medicine cabinet. I’m going to discuss how out of control prescription drug use currently is, using the examples of stimulants and benzodiazapenes. 

My big problem with stimulants right now is the strange belief that suddenly if there is anything whatsoever “wrong” with a teenager right now that they have ADD or ADHD (this is the part where I’m supposed to write “Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder” but you all know what I’m talking about so I won’t.) I have spent roughly seven of the last ten years working with teenagers and I honestly believe that somewhere between 60-70% of the patients that came in the door with a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD did not have it, the big problem being they all came in on a medication that was supposed to “solve” the problem.  Adderal/Vyvanse/Ritalin…they’re all stimulants, speed, ampthetamines. I have a huge problem with this. The frontal lobe in the human brain (the part that regulates cause/effect stuff) does not fully develop until you are in your early twenties. Ever done anything that seemed like a really good idea at the time and upon further review was a really, really bad idea?…that’s called being a teenager. Furthermore, if you have trouble focusing on things because you’re constantly preoccupied by sex, that doesn’t mean you have ADD. That means that you’re a PERFECTLY NORMAL TEENAGER.

There’s actually a really quick test to see if you actually have ADD or ADHD if you have been diagnosed with it. The thing is, the people that really truly have it are so grateful for the sense of relief that the medication gives them and the ability to focus that they take it as prescribed and don’t mess with it. So, ask yourself: If you have been diagnosed and prescribed medication for this condition, have you ever abused it, even once? Then you don’t have it and you may very well be lying to yourself. Do you know any diabetics that abuse their insulin? No, no you don’t. Do you know anyone with cancer that chops up and snorts their chemo medication? Me neither. Amphetamines are really serious stuff, very mood-altering, very addictive. And the younger you start taking something on a daily basis, the higher the propensity for addiction. Don’t kid yourself about it being “prescribed by a doctor,”  I don’t want to end up looking like the ‘after’ photo in those “Meth…not even once” ads either.

Now at the opposite end of the spectrum are the benzodiazapenes. Think Xanax, Klonipin, Valium. Technically these are classified as muscle relaxants because (drum roll) they relax your muscles. People with Restless Leg Syndrome or possibly severe cramping disorders should get these. And for whatever reason somewhere along the line people discovered that “it really helps my anxiety.” Do you know why it helps your anxiety? Because when you take them you get loaded. I was always a lot less anxious when I was loaded. As far as I’m concerned any physician anywhere that continues to prescribe these medications for anxiety should be strung up by their ankles and beaten to within an inch of their life with a piece of wood with nails in it. I’m a little opinionated on the matter. These medications do not solve anxiety; if anything they exacerbate it. They hide the symptoms by making you feel relaxed--it’s a false sense of security. It doesn’t solve the problem. Because ultimately Benzos are, once again, highly addictive. It’s very easy to get both mentally and physically dependent on them. And you can’t just stop taking them. You have to taper off of them and it’s best to do under medical supervision. Benzo withdrawal is really, really bad. People get physically very sick and it’s quite possible to throw seizures while coming off of them without supervision. Scary stuff. I could go off on a clinical tangent about how they’re also fat-soluble as opposed to water soluble so they implant themselves in your fat cells, taking a great deal of effort on your bodies part to expel them during the detox.  So after three days of Hell you start feeling better and then on day five you feel worse than before with your anxiety going through the roof but that’s a clinical discussion and this is a music magazine so I’ll just skip that part. I got a crazy idea…why don’t you figure out what makes you anxious and learn how to deal with it? It’s called coping skills, people, and they’re free (you don’t get hangovers from coping skills either).

And that’s where I’m going with all of this. The reality is people abuse drugs and alcohol because they don’t want to (or don’t know how to) deal with reality. And the longer you spend not dealing with reality, the harder it’s going to be when you finally decide to start dealing. As I wrote about in the first column, if you’re taking something everyday, you’re not gaining the emotional insights and coping skills that you should be. You’re not growing as a person.  You wonder why you feel emotionally isolated and so alone? Because dealing with life is how you feel connected to other people. Learning how to handle situations makes life easier. 

The alternative? Checking out, not dealing, making excuses, taking something instead of getting involved and solving your problems. And when you cop out and do it that way? You’re watching life like a spectator. It’s going to pass you by.

Get involved.

Dave Sherman