Addiction Article: Critical Review Essay Example
Jeffrey Kluger wrote the article “The New Drug Crisis: Addiction by Prescription” for Time Magazine. Kluger is Time’s editor for science and technology articles, and wrote this article in September, 2010. This article began with a story of a mother whose son fought through cancer for several years and was prescribed OxyContins for the pain resulting from therapy. After the cancer was gone and the son recovered he was still addicted to the opioid painkiller, and when he stopped getting prescriptions for it he turned to heroine. The mother went to a weekly support group for family members of addicts and said that she missed her son having cancer because of the support he had during that time. Kluger went on to discuss the rise of opioid painkillers from the 1960’s and the risks and prescription requirements assigned to them. Kluger gave statistics for the amount of opioid painkiller prescribed in 2007 as well as the amount of people taking painkillers for nonmedical reasons; and next he cited hospital visits relating to opioid abuse. Kluger pointed out how celebrities and the media have popularized these drugs on shows like Nurse Jackie. Kluger quoted a reputable doctor saying that the need for these painkillers had become less distinct, and he concluded by stating that in several states drug overdoses now killed more people than car accidents.
This article was intended for an audience that is concerned with current events and societal problems. Time is a reputable magazine that is read by intellectual and educated people who want to learn about real news issues, rather than gossip. The intellectual level of the audience is also implied in the terminology used in the article such as naming the specific regions of the brain that OxyContin affects. The purpose of this article was to inform the audience of how serious the addiction to opioid painkillers has become in the U.S., and to raise awareness of the serious risks and overuse of the drugs.
Kluger began the article by referring to a mother who wished her son still had cancer, and this hooks the reader and seems like an incredible statement. This example showed how serious opioid painkillers are and how much they affect people’s lives, because most people consider cancer an incredibly detrimental, life-changing, and often fatal disease. Kluger cited statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration which are national, credible sources. These sources give strength to the article and to its purpose because they are considered nonbiased expert sources that collect data for statistical purposes rather than private corporate purposes. These sources also collect national data, and not small selective samples. Kluger presented the statistics as facts to be aware of, and not in the form of persuasive argument which gave more strength to the article because there was no apparent bias. Kluger did not state that opioid painkillers were bad or harming society, or make any statements of opinions. Instead, Kluger presented reputable facts of the increase in the drug and the increase in measureable effects.
Another source Kluger cited was a doctor with expert credentials as the head of the pain medicine division at a major hospital, and so his statement about the overuse of these prescriptions was very credible. The only statistics that Kluger did not cite were about drug overdoses in the 1990’s and in 2007, and how this compared to deaths by car accidents. However, even though Kluger did not offer specific references, he gave very specific numbers and facts which made the information appear verifiable and true. The specific information about the different levels of opioid classification and their prescription requirements also gave the impression of research based information. A real life story at the beginning of the article followed by solid facts and statistics gave the article strength and relevance. The article was written in 2010, and the statistics were given from 2007 as well as a four year period of time between 2004 and 2008. Considering the national scale of the statistics and the process of census and publishing required by the organizations, this information was still fairly current at the time the article was written.
This article likely reached its intended audience, in part because of the reputation and reach of the magazine, and in part because the topic is relevant to people of all backgrounds and professions. Kluger presented the information without judgment or bias, but as a social concern that these painkillers have become common and accepted even though they cause serious damage. Kluger made this point very clear with the statistics he chose such as increases in prescription and recreational use compared with increases in related ER visits. Also, the audience he was writing for likely knew that car accidents are one of the top causes of death in the country, and so stating that death by drug overdose has become more common in almost a third of the country shows the relevance of his topic. Since this article is five years old, more recent statistics are required to determine if opioid painkillers are still such a serious concern, and if the issue has become worse. However, media attention has been dominantly aimed at nicotine addiction during that time, and without enough awareness or promotion for action it is unlikely that prescriptions for opioid painkillers have become more restricted.
Kluger, Jeffrey. “The New Drug Crisis: Addiction by Prescription.” Time. Time Magazine, 13, Sept. 2010. Web. 7 Feb. 2015. <http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2015763,00.html>.
The New Drug Crisis: Addiction by Prescription
Well-intentioned pain policies plus powerful opiate meds is leading to a national epidemic of pill popping — and accidental overdosing
Update Appended: Sept. 17, 2010
It's not easy to find a mother who would look back fondly on the time her son had cancer. But Penny (not her real name) does. Penny lives in Boston, and her son got sick when he was just 13. He struggled with the disease for several years — through the battery of tests and the horror of the diagnosis and, worst of all, through the pain that came from the treatment. For that last one, at least, there was help — Oxycontin, a time-released opioid that works for up to 12 hours. It did the job, and more.
The brain loves Oxycontin — the way the drug lights up the limbic system, with cascading effects through the ventral striatum, midbrain, amygdala, orbitofrontal cortex and prefrontal cortex, leaving pure pleasure in its wake. What the brain loves, it learns to crave. That's especially so when the alternative is the cruel pain of cancer therapy. By the time Penny's son was 17, his cancer was licked — but his taste for Oxy wasn't. When his doctor quit prescribing him the stuff, the boy found the next best — or next available — thing: heroin. Penny soon began spending her Monday nights at meetings of the support group Learn to Cope, a Boston-based organization that counsels families of addicts, particularly those hooked on opioids or heroin.
"Penny told the group that she actually misses her son's cancer," says Joanne Peterson, the founder of Learn to Cope. "When he had that, everyone was around. When he had that, he had support."
Penny and her son are not unique. Humans have never lacked for ways to get wasted. The natural world is full of intoxicating leaves and fruits and fungi, and for centuries, science has added to the pharmacopoeia. In the past two decades, that's been especially true. As the medical community has become more attentive to acute and chronic pain, a bounty of new drugs has rolled off Big Pharma's production line.
There was fentanyl, a synthetic opioid around since the 1960s that went into wide use as a treatment for cancer pain in the 1990s. That was followed by Oxycodone, a short-acting drug for more routine pain, and after that came Oxycontin, a 12-hour formulation of the same powerful pill. Finally came hydrocodone, sold under numerous brand names, including Vicodin. Essentially the same opioid mixed with acetaminophen, hydrocodone seemed like health food compared with its chemical cousins, and it has been regulated accordingly. The government considers hydrocodone a Schedule III drug — one with a "moderate or low" risk of dependency, as opposed to Schedule II's, which carry a "severe" risk. Physicians must submit a written prescription for Schedule II drugs; for Schedule III's, they just phone the pharmacy. (Schedule I substances are drugs like heroin that are never prescribed.) For patients, that wealth of choices spelled danger.
"If someone is dying, addiction isn't a problem," says Dr. Jim Rathmell, chief of the division of pain medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. "But for prescribers, the distinction between a patient who has three or four weeks to live and one who's 32 and has chronic back pain started to blur."
The result has hardly been a surprise. Since 1990, there has been a tenfold increase in prescriptions for opioids in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2007, 3.7 million people filled 21 million legal prescriptions for opioid painkillers, and 5.2 million people over the age of 12 reported using prescription painkillers nonmedically in the previous month, according to a survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). From 2004 to '08, emergency-room visits for opioid misuse doubled. At the same time, the drugs have become the stuff of pop culture, gaining cachet in the process. The fictitious Dr. House and Nurse Jackie gobble them like gumdrops, as did the decidedly nonfictional Rush Limbaugh and Heath Ledger. And, like Ledger, some users don't make it out alive.
In 1990 there were barely 6,000 deaths from accidental drug poisoning in the U.S. By 2007 that number had nearly quintupled, to 27,658. In 15 states and the District of Columbia, unintentional overdoses have, for the first time in modern memory, replaced motor-vehicle incidents as the leading cause of accidental death; and in three more states it's close to a tie.
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