America on drugs

Language can only ever reflect reality imperfectly, but there often times when the discordance between words and some semblance of truth is so extreme that the words we use become the primary obstacle to accurately perceiving the way things are.

Take the word health. The first meaning in the dictionary is: “the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit; especially: freedom from physical disease or pain.”

So-called healthcare providers might say that they are dealing with health in the neutral sense, which is to say “the general condition of the body.” Yet health in this sense is possessed by anyone who is alive, so to provide health care must surely have the objective of restoring or maintaining good health.

The healthcare business does no such thing. How can I say this so emphatically? The numbers are unambiguous: nearly 70 percent of Americans take one prescription drug and more than 50 percent take two. Overwhelmingly, these are not drugs that restore health; their most common purpose is to control disease and suppress symptoms. As a consequence, America has become a chronically sick nation hooked on pharmaceuticals.

America’s appetite for prescription drugs is not far removed from its hunger for street drugs as each with equally inadequate effect strives to stem the same affliction: unhappiness. For instance, among women between the ages of 50 to 64, one in four take antidepressants.

A few years ago, Richard Rodriquez wrote:

Who in America is asking, “Why?” Why are Americans so sad?

We need drugs to escape loneliness. We need drugs to tolerate company. We need drugs to feel and drugs to keep from feeling. We need drugs to fall asleep and drugs to get out of bed. Why?

Corporate drug-pushers have little interest in posing the question and even less in finding the answer.

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