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The Fix's #Rxchat Pops the Big Questions

By Bryan Le 05/15/13

Our debate on what to do about America's pill problem, co-hosted by Phoenix House, was just what the doctor ordered.

A big problem
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The Fix and Phoenix House co-hosted #rxchat yesterday. Rx drug abuse is arguably America's biggest addiction problem, so we gathered the sharpest minds in the Twittersphere to help answer the important questions: Why is it happening and what can we do about it? “Quantity of Rx painkillers sold to pharmacies, hospitals, and doctors’ offices was 4 times larger in 2010 than in 1999,” ONDCP's Rafael Lemaitre tweeted.

People misuse prescription meds for different reasons, but no population causes as much concern as young people. Students abuse drugs like adderall in part because school has become more stressful and competitive in recent years. “In college we just did speed, any homework completed was incidental,” Fix and Daily Beast contributor Jeff Deeney remarked. “It's so much more competitive now, unhealthy pressure.” Writer and teacher Jennifer Matesa has seen that pressure first hand: “My students know they're inheriting a shitty economy. They believe getting all A's will protect them from failure and poverty.” Phoenix House CEO Howard Meitiner warned that without action, things will get worse: “Reasons teens resort to Rx = less stigma, easily accessed. As $$ of Rx become problem, teens progress to cheaper, illegal drugs." The Mario Do Right Foundation stressed the importance of parental involvement: “The parents really need to become educated on prescription drug abuse because they are the frontline of our defense.”

Almost everyone agreed that better information is part of the solution. The fact that Rx drugs are technically legal makes people think that they aren't dangerous or bad. “The line drawn between legal and illegal drugs isn't always helpful or sensible,” blogger and author Dirk Hanson noted. We need to educate ourselves about this: “Patients need to do homework on risks & use only as prescribed. Doc’s responsibility to explain risks & not over-prescribe,” tweeted HLN host and Fix video columnist Jane Velez-Mitchell. "Drs need to take time to counsel and know patient - not just toss a rx at a 'problem' - its easier to prescribe than advise," suggests Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

Some advocate making pharma companies take more responsibility by developing non-crushable pills to prevent abuse. But Lily's Place, a center for addicted infants, doesn't think that will work, tweeting: "Oh, honey! We have moms who used gasoline to break down cancer meds, burned off chems and injected. They'll find a way." Sober coach Patty Powers agreed: "A good idea but it won't end drug abuse. Only change be drug money back on the streets instead of in the pharmacists till."

Thanks to all who participated and to everyone at Phoenix House. If you missed it, you can still go over to Twitter and search #rxchat to read the full debate. 

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter

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