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Films and Commentary from Saul Landau » Article / Commentary

Drugs 'R' Us: the American Way

November 4, 2011 · · Originally published in Progreso Weekly

Pharmaceutical companies exert their influence over Americans of all walks of life, creating a culture of drug profiteering.

Americans have descended into a legal drug culture, while simultaneously retaining the “illegal” one – at great expense. But the government responds by denying the evidence its own agencies produce.

Last month, a funding "highlights" of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) showed how the Obama administration had decided to emphasize again its focus on law enforcement – not treatment.

For fiscal year 2011, Obama allocated $15.5 billion, more than 3.5 percent more than last year for law enforcement. Treatment allocation barely rose.

Given the Administration’s belief in the law of supply and demand – when there’s demand, there’s a supply – Obama must have gone into a drug-induced stupor for continuing to fund the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. Sixty-six million dollars goes to a so-called drug czar to supervise the production and distribution of ads. Here's an example: 

The ads claim smoking pot can lead to rape. But the ads don’t mention the flood of alcohol commercials on TV and radio, showing how you get babes by buying them beers and extolling the virtues of their products. But, they caution, “DRINK responsibly.” The ads don’t compare drunk-driving deaths to high-on-marijuana deaths; or rape due to drinking with sexual aggression caused by marijuana highs! Alcohol wins, hands down.

The pharmaceutical companies pour out their propaganda for mood-altering drugs; some far more powerful than marijuana. Surprised? Why should Obama’s drug policy deal with reality? It’s easier to follow Bush’s priorities. Cops combined with slogans address a major social issue.

In American reality tens of millions of people use drugs – legal or illegal – for a variety of reasons. Around the country stress levels have risen. Thanks to the recession – now enjoying its fourth year – and pharmaceutical companies’ propaganda, doctors get to prescribe more downer pills. Even the ever-ridiculous New York Post related the “limp economy” to decline in sex desire. “Men’s libidos have gone the way of the Dow as struggles with economy-related stress, depression and anxiety are at an all-time high, experts say.

“With Wall Street woes worsening and job security shaky, men have bailed out of the bedroom and women are reporting a citywide sexual recession.

“The couple, who once hit the hay three to four times a week, has had a romp only once since the economy went soft.”

The New York Post’s “marriage therapists” and sexperts concluded in 2008 that men’s libidos have fallen off following their income drop

More scientifically, the CDC reported antidepressant usage rose 400% since 1988. And doctors routinely prescribe such remedies for patients complaining of feeling depressed. These mood-altering drugs have become “the most frequently used by people ages 18-44,” according to a CDC report. 

Most doctors who dispense downers don’t see their patients regularly to insure they’re not suicidal. Yet, the prescribed pills can produce drastic mood changes when patients decrease, stop taking or increase doses.

The CDC reported that more than “Eleven percent of Americans ages 12 years and older took antidepressants during the 2005-08 study period.” 12,637 participants told of their prescription-drug use and antidepressant use, and about symptoms and interactions with doctors and shrinks.

Some mental health pros in the study pointed to job losses and home foreclosures as causes for the increase in people using legal ant-depressants. Even non-shrinks know that getting laid off makes you feel lower than a cockroach. But why drugs as remedy for economic disorder?

“These drugs can be very helpful for people who need them,” says psychologist Elaine Ducharme. “People should expect to be depressed after a layoff” but, she added, “they should not be put on a drug, though, unless they have an acute problem.”

The popularity of the anti-depressants relates also to aggressive pharmaceutical companies’ ad campaigns citing benefits of the drugs.

“Marketing,” pushing a product for profit to meet a supposed human need, has become the ubiquitous center of American culture. The messages pound the brain from all media forms. Shit disguised as sugar sells. Deceit and fraud masquerade as trendy. “You need,” the ad tells you, the most important person in the world, “to buy something to improve your hair, skin, shoes, sex life, car, home or mortgage payment.”

That notion should make anyone miserable. Women between 40 to 59 fare worse. The USA story stated that 25% of those women take antidepressants. More discouraging, an October 25 NYT story reported that children now spend more time than ever watching TV – lots of ads, few books.

The country’s common value center, a reason to cohere, has devolved into shopping, watching sports on TV, occasionally mowing a lawn or washing a car.

Politicians affirm love of country and support for troops. But Americans watch TV, and hope to win a lottery, instead of conversing with family and friends. They vicariously associate themselves with celebrities and game show stars. Worse, they confuse advertising-provoked desires for immediate needs.

Some of those occupying cities had used pills to assuage bad feelings after not finding jobs, or getting laid off. Now they use energy creatively. They also watch cops, representing a declining free enterprise system (civilization), pepper-spray and beat them. ‘Where,’ they asked, ‘was the country God had blessed?’ Or was police behavior just part of a failed, drug-policy acid trip?

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