Prescription drugs can change behavior, and it’s time to address the problem

Prescription drugs can change behavior, and it’s time to address the problem

By Ellen Ratner   
Roseann Barr, center, pictured with her TV family, apologized on Twitter for the tweet and said she is no longer on the social media site. (@RoseanneOnABC/Twitter)

I don’t know what caused Samantha Bee’s tirade against Ivanka Trump, but it is pretty clear to Roseanne what caused her tweet against former Obama staffer Valerie Jarrett. She blamed it on Ambien.

Ambien, although originally advertised as less addictive then Benzodiazepines, still can be addictive. According to, Ambien abuse can lead to a number of negative consequences, which include: “Physical dependence, withdrawal symptoms, the risk of overdose — potentiated when taken in a setting of other substances such as alcohol.” Also, says there might be a “persistent desire to use Ambien, unsuccessful efforts to stop using the drug and large amounts of time acquiring the drug.”

Roseanne has not said she is addicted to the sleep aid, but she has admitted taking the drug ever since she had surgery on her knee after a fall in October 2016. Ironically, her character on the show actually was dealing with a painkiller issue — that almost seemed too close to her own life. The TV episode told the story of the effect that the opioid crisis has had on American families.

Back in 1965, I remember reading in Life magazine about two heroin addicts in what was then called “Needle Park” in New York City. As a 14-year-old I was shocked by the numerous graphic photos, but I read the article with interest. I had never met an addict, and addiction was far from our minds way back then.

In 2015, Time magazine published an article titled “Heroin-Related Deaths Have Quadrupled in America,” stating: “Heroin-related deaths nearly tripled in the U.S. within just three years and quadrupled in 13, according to new federal data. The new report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) shows that from 2000 to 2013, drug-poisoning deaths involving heroin increased fourfold, from 0.7 deaths per 100,000 people to 2.7 deaths per 100,000 people. The rate was about four times higher among men than among women in 2013.”

Some people in this country are trying to do something about addiction. Former Member of Congress Frank Guinta (R-NH), who served two terms in the House of Representatives, is very concerned about addiction. He is one of the people looking for solutions.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “New Hampshire has the second highest rate of opioid-related overdose deaths in the country. In 2016, there were 437 opioid-related overdose deaths – a rate of 35.8 deaths per 100,000 persons – nearly three times higher than the national rate of 13.3 deaths per 100,000. From 2013 through 2016, opioid-related deaths in New Hampshire tripled. This increase was mainly driven by the number of deaths related to synthetic opioids (predominantly Fentanyl), which increased more than tenfold, from 30 to 363 deaths, during this time.”

Most people these days think of addiction as only alcohol or an opioid, but we really need to get to the bottom of what causes addiction in this country and what steps we can do to prevent it.

It might begin with education in elementary and middle school, where children can learn to look for signs of addiction and can also learn to cope with the distractions and problems of life that can get someone to turn to drugs — even those prescribed by a physician. Over-prescribing is clearly a problem, but so is turning to drugs for sleep or anxiety or any of life’s problems.

We see the problem of addiction to drugs or alcohol everywhere. Consider this news story from the Orlando Sentinel:

An Arizona man was arrested May 28 after telling guests at a Disney resort in Florida there was an active shooter at the site so that he could record their reactions and post to YouTube. Dillion Burch, 22, claimed he was “highly intoxicated” during the idiotic stunt in which he ran up to guests, told them to evacuate because of a shooter, and then said he was joking and wanted to see what their reactions were for a school project. “The incident caused a ‘significant disturbance’ and the Disney’s Contemporary Resort had to go on lockdown,” according to an arrest affidavit seen by the Orlando Sentinel. Police found the man hiding out in bushes and took him to Orange County Jail on charges of disturbing the peace and disorderly intoxication. Burch pleaded no contest to both charges and was sentenced to three days in jail.

In addition to over-prescribing by physicians, and China bringing in Fentynal via our post offices, there are synthetic cannabinoids, which can cause all kinds of adverse reactions.

It is time we addressed the issue of addiction and the effect these drugs can have like Congressman Guinta wants to and to change the way we cope with stress in our society. Perhaps, then we would not see any Roseanne Barr tweeting inappropriate things anymore; we would not see 22-year-olds acting strangely unless they were actually mentally ill.

We must focus on addiction in our society. It is out of control and it is up to all of us to address it.

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