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Doctors who prescribe “too many” narcotics will be cut off by CVS. This is billed as a way to protect the patients from unscrupulous doctors, but let’s be honest: CVS is covering its ass from further lawsuits.

But here’s the thing: they’re all missing the point. The issue is not with the people prescribing the medications (which is an incredibly important job and a discussion for another post). It is with the people taking them. The number 1 cause of accidental death is motor vehicle accidents (in 2007 [the most recent reliable governmental statistics I found] almost twice as many accidental deaths were caused by motor vehicle accidents of some kind). Does this mean that we should be cutting access to cars? There are some people who would argue yes, but most would call that a ridiculous concept. Why? Well, people need education and safety training about driving, not to be banned from driving. On top of this driving is “necessary,” so we can’t stop people from having access to that.

So, moving on to the number two cause of accidental death — accidental overdose of prescription narcotics (according to the article I posted). Instead of providing education and aid to the person who would be taking them we are making access to them more limited. Personally, I don’t see the logic here. There are far fewer deaths as a result of prescription medications than as a result of motor vehicles; more importantly, the majority of deaths associated with prescription medications are one person taking too much of a drug and accidentally killing themselves. Just themselves. Motor vehicles? When you get behind the wheel of the car, you are risking not only your own life, but the lives of all the other people driving around you, and the unsuspecting pedestrians. Vehicles are so much more dangerous on so many levels, but they are “necessary” so obviously we can just ignore that problem. Yes, campaigns to educate about safer driving have been created and yes, they have worked (look at the introduction of seat belts), but no one has ever suggested banning these vehicles, or punishing people who make them available to the general public.

Why are things so difficult with pain medication? People need that too. In fact, in a lot of ways pain medication is a lot more necessary than a car. And before you argue that people got by without pain meds in the past, think about two things.

1. People got by just fine without vehicles in the past.

2. People didn’t really get by without these medications. People died younger, they had fewer chronic diseases AND they self-medicated. Until recently, these drugs and variations were a lot more available, accepted, and accessible. People could stop by their local pharmacy and pick up some morphine to help them sleep from pain. Before this, people were using alcohol and whatever “medications” were offered at the time to help them manage chronic pain.

We live in a time with some of the highest restrictions on these “dangerous drugs” and some of the highest death rates from them. Obviously this system isn’t working.

Moving back to the correlation between this and vehicles. Vehicle safety campaigns have worked in the past, as I mentioned, the campaign to introduce seatbelts was a huge success and significantly reduced deaths associated with motor vehicle accidents. So why can’t we do this with these medications? It seems to not make any sense, and the current methods don’t really seem to be working. Why can’t we take a whole new approach?