“Marijuana is the most dangerous drug in America today” — Ronald Reagan

“Just say ‘NO’ to drugs." — Nancy Reagan

As humans, we’ve been into drugs for quite some time now. Most drugs were created by scientists to cure diseases which is, for the most part, the same today. As humans are wont to do, drug use took a turn towards other uses, mostly recreational. Using drugs for unintended reasons has always been frowned upon.

During the 1980s, we declared a “War on Drugs.” Nonviolent drug arrests went from 50,000 to 400,000 in ensuing years. The preferred solution to those who wanted to participate in drugs that were once prescribed but now deemed illegal was to lock folks up. Apparently, no one bothered to stop to analyze the reasons why some people wanted/needed to use drugs. Incarceration was the option that made politicians look tough as if they were really doing something. More likely than not, the real reason was that the pharmaceutical industry couldn’t make money off marijuana or illicit drugs made by others.

As the late George Carlin once said, “Have you ever noticed that the only metaphor we have in our public discourse for solving problems is to declare war on it? We have the war on crime, the war on cancer, the war on drugs. But did you ever notice that we have no war on homelessness? You know why? Because there's no money in that problem. No money to be made off of the homeless. If you can find a solution to homelessness where the corporations and politicians can make a few million dollars each, you will see the streets of America begin to clear up pretty damn quick!”

We do like to make a big show of things. For instance, look at the announcement that appeared in last week’s papers in which we learned that, for the National Take Back Prescription Drugs Day, Vermonters handed over 3.5 tons of prescription drugs that they didn’t use. It might cause you to wonder that, if we didn’t use 3.5 tons of drugs, just how many tons of drugs did we use?

According to www.statista.com, by the end of this year, Americans will have been legally prescribed 4.76 billion prescriptions. As those of you who faithfully read this column, you know I have expressed concerns in the past about the relentless pounding Americans endure daily from the pharmaceutical companies in the form of TV, magazine and internet ads. We are shown some happy family (that probably isn't all that happy) taking some sort of drug that has a catchy name no one’s ever heard of. We’re told to run to see our doctor to determine if you need this drug that you probably don’t really need. That requires setting up an appointment and spending (wasting) time with a doctor only to find out you really don’t need the drug being advertised. You might be told you need another drug instead, and now you’re off to the races. You, too, can be a part of the 4.76 billion club.

One might think that, if we are disposing of 3.5 tons of prescription drugs we no longer need, we might have ingested something like three or four times that amount. Assuming we discarded the remaining few pills in a bottle, it’s entirely possible that Vermonters were prescribed and consumed around 10 times more drugs than they threw away. Wrap your head around that. There is no data on how many tons of drugs Vermonters purchased last year, just how much we tossed away.

If we are throwing away 3.5 tons of drugs, then there’s an argument to be made that Li’l Ol’ Vermont, right along with America, might just be a little bit on the drug dependent side. Of course, there are many drugs out there that work well for treating illnesses and play a positive role in the quality of life for many people. The flip side is a drug company like Purdue Pharma run by the Sackler family. These are the wonderful folks who not only brought us opiates, but sold them faster than buckets of water at a barn fire. From NBC News: “WILLIAMSON, West Virginia — The deadly math in this struggling but proud West Virginia town breaks down like this: For over a decade, two pharmacies just four blocks apart dispensed some 20.8 million prescription painkillers in a town of just 3,191 residents.”

If you think Vermont has an impressive return rate of prescription drugs, one could only imagine how many tons they returned in West Virginia. Have you ever stopped to think that maybe a change of lifestyle would be a better bet than taking a pill to solve your problem? Spring is here. Change your diet. Go for a walk and then a longer walk tomorrow. Think about what you’re putting in your body.

A few small changes and we might be able to knock our returnable number down to only 3.3 tons next year.

Bob Stannard lives in Manchester Center.

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