Dr. Ada Fisher: Drug business is out of control

Published 6:57 pm Monday, June 26, 2017

Isis and terrorism, though threats to national security, pale in comparison to the toll of illicit drug use on our human capital.

The proposed Opioid Task Force is fast heading for a role as another bureaucratic mess before it gets started. Our society — including the judiciary, social systems and medicine —won’t admit that there is no cure for addictions. We keep pouring good money after bad rather than hold individuals accountable to change their behavior.

Lessons learned from Prohibition and with cigarettes should reveal that cures still elude us while thousands are irreparably damaged.

Stopping the move to sell marijuana without a medical prescription is a must. It is a shame that the government stands to make millions in taxes off of people’s weakness, which costs us more in crime, addiction therapy and other collateral damage. There is no doubt that marijuana causes perception problems and judgment concerns that compromise its users, particularly in safety-sensitive work such as transportation and hazardous duty. Professional sports should not bow to allow athletes to perform under the influence, which makes them impaired. If they hurt so much that they require drugs, they shouldn’t be playing.

There should be a ban on advertising prescription medicine on television, as was done with cigarettes and partially enforced on alcohol. Allowing pharmaceutical companies to peddle their wares directly to consumers is a major factor in the illegal rise and usage of opioids and other prescription meds. If you can’t sleep, take a pill. If you are depressed, there is something in a bottle which can help. The list goes on, while the frightening side effects trail off. Even drug-specific cancer treatment pitches have entered the fray.

We are creating needs which aren’t there and treatments which should first be recommended by physicians. Doctors are forced into untenable positions being afraid to refuse requests for fear of losing patients or possibly facing litigation in denying treatment which television brings into the venue of a community standard.

Controlled drugs should be limited to no more than a one-week supply. The move to allow drug purchases on the internet should be stopped, as this will accentuate the problem.

As a previous detox director, over a 16-county  area, I believe the biggest problem with addiction therapy is that it requires voluntary compliance. An addict doesn’t want to give up his high and will do almost anything to get that feeling. Employee Assistance Programs for high-paying jobs do work, for the loss of wages is a powerful incentive for compliance. TROSA a program in Durham, and one in California shows good results but requires a two-year commitment during which addicts are removed from their previous environment, compensated with housing and transportation when allowed and provided jobs. Pritchard Farms in the mountains of North Carolina used to be a good haven as well. The problem with all of these is they require voluntary compliance.

Insurance companies cover mental health issues poorly, and it is hard to find coverage for more than 30 days. Those who deride this system fail to understand that insurance is about risk and rewards. The numbers who repeatedly enter rehabilitation centers clearly demonstrate the financial risk to insurers from such coverage.

Limiting threats to safety means a more effective noninvasive testing system for drug abuse, like the Breathalyzer, needs to be developed for a wide range of abused substances.

One way to stop the flow of drugs is to change the nation’s foreign policy so that those countries found to be exporters of drugs into this nation are denied most favorite nation status and could face seizure of their financial accounts. When all else fails, remember, money talks.

Dr. Ada M. Fisher of Salisbury is author of “Common Sense Conservative Prescriptions Good for What Ails Us,” available through Amazon.com. She is the N.C. Republican National Committeewoman.