An analysis of autopsies in Florida has found you're three times more likely to die from prescription drugs than from narcotics like cocaine.
This is no surprise.
The standard explanation will be that we need to police prescriptive drugs more closely, that the war on drugs is winning.
I have a different theory. It has to do with that word drugs.
It's inaccurate, misleading, and false. We don't have a drugs problem. As Craig Ferguson once so memorably observed, we have a thinking problem.
Specifically we have a problem with psychoactives.
Our minds are complex. We live in our minds more than in our bodies. Consciousness is what made this world what it is. It's tiring.
So since before the dawn of civilization human beings have sought vacations from themselves, alternate states of consciousness. Some say civilization started with beer.
One of my favorite non-fiction writers, Tom Standage, has written a fine book called A History of the World in Six Glasses. Three of the glasses are alcoholic and two others -- coffee and tea -- mildly psychoactive. The sixth is Coca-Cola.
When we say the word "drugs" in terms of "don't do drugs" we are talking of psychoactives. Any substance, legal or illegal, useful or not, with a psychoactive effect fills us with wonder, dread, and fear that our kids will try it.
That's the God's Honest Truth. But since alcohol and caffeine are legal, as are (so far) cigarettes, along with many substances we use to control our kids, we say the word drugs.
By this we mean illegal drugs, but drugs -- legal or illegal -- aren't the problem.
Psychoactives are. Anna Nicole Smith did not die of a cocaine overdose. She died from the overuse of prescription medications, many of them psychoactives.
We use psychoactives to "feel better," as opposed to healing our bodies, yet our minds are a part of our bodies, I'd argue the most important part.
Until we have an honest discussion over what we mean by the word "drugs" the drug problem will only grow. It can't be any other way.