America's Drug Culture

Mention "drug culture" and most Americans think of smugglers, violent cartels, street corner pushers and back alley crack houses. But there is a legal drug dependence that grips much of Western society and its tentacles continue to spread.

While modern medications have provided a significant benefit to human society and have played a major role in extending our life span, many Americans count on these potent agents to rescue them from a lifestyle of poor choices and risky behavior. Fueled by the pharmaceutical industry, this attitude is spreading in concert with the culture of obesity, itself the stepchild of inactivity and poor dietary habits. Of course, obesity leads to many other heath problems, including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, sleep apnea, degenerative arthritis and a number of cancers. The use of drugs to treat these conditions leads to a host of side effects, many of which are managed with other medications. By middle age, many Americans are on a laundry list of prescription medications, most of which would never have been necessary if a healthy lifestyle had been adopted.

Obesity and tobacco use are the most common causes of preventable maladies and, in turn, produce a large percentage of our health care costs. But the drug culture is also fanned by the relentless deluge of prescription drug commercials, advising Americans that there is a pill for every human condition, from headaches to constipation to erectile dysfunction. We are, sadly, a relatively unhealthy and over medicated society, dependent on our drugs and always searching for the next quick fix.