Humans are highly addictive creatures.
Essentially, most of our decisions are dictated by the pleasures or pains associated with a given action, all of which are governed by chemicals released in the brain.
When we experience something meaningful or enjoyable, our brains reward us with pleasing chemicals to encourage us to repeat that experience.
Because of this reward system in our brains, substances that can manipulate or synthesize these pleasing chemicals can cause our brains to become dependent on them, and this can have devastating effects on our lives.
Popular substances like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, and the like, are dangerously addictive and have ruined the lives of many who have entangled themselves with them.
And new drugs and ways of getting high are being developed all the time. In fact, a recent television program showcased the strange new trend among high school students of snorting Flamin' Hot Cheetohs.
But despite the publicity that the aforementioned drugs ( and snack items ) get from the media, there is another, more subtle drug problem lurking outside of the limelight: prescription medication addiction.
And Merced College's Students for Social Justice is seeking to put a spotlight on this alarmingly widespread phenomenon.
The Students for Social Justice, also known as S4SJ, is a student-run organization whose aim is to achieve genuine democracy and social justice in America.
Covering a vast array of issues from the war in Iraq to health care reform to gay and lesbian rights, the S4SJ often host monthly events where speakers, film, and open discussions are used to provoke critical thinking and social justice.
Thursday, the group will be tackling the issue of prescription drug addiction and abuse. This month's theme was inspired by S4SJ member Deborah Iversen, who has had first-hand experience with the dangers of prescription drug addiction with the loss of two close members of her family.
According to Deborah, many Americans are falling victim to a sort of "accidental addiction" where, after being prescribed drugs by a doctor, they become dependent on the medication.
And she is right: according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, millions of Americans begin using prescription drugs non-medically every year.
Most of these drugs, including tranquilizers, sleeping pills, antidepressants, and pain relievers, were likely prescribed to initially treat a certain ailment or condition, but ended up being abused by the patient.
The S4SJ will be showing a video, "Our Pill Epidemic," which will cover the different types of prescription drugs most frequently abused and their debilitating effects on one's health, family, job, and life.
In the discussion following the video, Deborah plans to outline the dangers of drugs not mentioned in the video, addictive pain relievers such as Valium, codeine, and the increasingly popular Vicodin.
While Deborah is deeply passionate about this "pill epidemic", she makes it a point to not attack the wrong people.
"This is not an attack on the medical community or an attack on doctors. But the truth is, pharmaceutical companies are aware of how dangerous these drugs are and knowingly get them out there."
Most doctors are familiar with the addictive qualities inherent in many of these drugs, and Deborah believes that most of them are sincere, ensuring that their patients are informed of the risks before prescribing.
But millions of Americans are finding themselves hooked to these prescription meds, leading Deborah to believe that something is amiss.
"There has to be a better way. This is seriously ruining people's lives."
The objective of this event is to spread awareness. Recovery or prevention "must start with the individual. We all have a personal responsibility to know about the drugs we are taking and not fall into this trap."
November 14, 2009