When it comes to drug abuse in America, particularly prescription drug abuse, you get the sense America is on one Long Day's Journey into Night.
In 2006, I was a spectator in a Congressional hearing room in Washington D.C., as a mother pleaded for lawmakers' action regarding prescription drug abuse after her college age son died. It was July 27, 2006 – five years ago, almost to the day -- as I sit in my office typing these words.
During that hearing, the chairman of the subcommittee on criminal justice, drug policy and human resources talked about a problem of "epidemic proportions."
Today, the non-medical use or abuse of prescription drugs is the fastest-growing drug problem in the U.S., according to the White House Office of Drug Control Policy.
Indeed, there is a lot of determined talk in Washington D.C. Still, the prescription drug abuse problem continues, unrelentingly. As for any issue involving medication, physicians are on the front lines. If someone gains weight, they admonish people to cut out the cake. If someone smokes, some doctors order their patients: Stop now. (Not enough, probably).
But in discussions with patients who may be potentially abusing drugs, including prescription drugs, doctors appear reticent, and reluctant to press too hard on the issue. At least that's what top officials of the National Institute of Drug Abuse tell me.
The idea is for physicians to get a handle on the massive prescription abuse problem facing the country by digging deep into which medications patients really need, and which ones they don't. To help physicians, federal officials are tapping into the dramatic arts to get the point across about the problems of substance abuse.