Big Prescription Drug Lies

See also:
Self-Refuting Drug Warriors – Sullum; Reason; 2008-04-18
The Challenge of Prescription Drug Misuse – Hurwitz; Pain Medicine; 2005

Jacob Sullum makes an important point in a recent item on the Reason Hit and Run blog entitled, “Self-Refuting Drug Warriors.”

“A new analysis of data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health once again confirms a point I emphasize in my book Saying Yes: The vast majority of illegal drug users do not fit the stereotype of addiction and degradation promoted by the government and the news media.”

Pain Relief Network members, readers of this blog, and other serious students of the war on doctors and the pain crisis will not be surprised by these 2008 government findings. Dr. William Hurwitz did a far more sophisticated analysis of a wider array of government databases, using only his brain and the internet and no tax dollars, which was published in 2005 (while he was in federal detention for drug trafficking) in the journal Pain Medicine entitled, “The Challenge of Prescription Drug Misuse.” An example of this excellent work:

“Most individuals who engage in illicit use of pain relievers do so infrequently… As noted in Table 7, slightly fewer than one quarter of those reporting use in the prior year used on only 1 or 2 days. The majority (52.4%) had used these medications on 10 days or fewer in the prior year [supporting] the proposition that mere exposure does not inevitably lead to abuse and dependence. It also suggests the informal and opportunistic… pattern of most youthful drug use (Table 7).”


Days 1 2 3 5 10 15 30 60 90
Percent 12.9 24.1 32.3 42.4 52.4 60.7 71.3 85.2 86.7
These data were generated by online analysis available at (accessed in June 2004).

Sullum, referring to an analysis of 2004-2006 survey data by the government Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), notes that the calculated rates of “dependence” or addiction (tolerance plus continued use despite adverse consequences) within two years of using various substances are very low. For example, SAMHSA estimates that 3.1% of people who ‘nonmedically use’ prescription painkillers show evidence of addiction, 96.9% do not. For comparison, the two-year addiction rate estimate for alcohol is 3.2%, and for cannabis 5.8%

Huh? So, according to the U.S. government’s best scientific guess, cannabis is more addictive than either alcohol or opioid analgesics like morphine and OxyContin? How much did this un-parse-able nonsense cost us? [Some 18 BILLION dollars a year funnel through the drug czar (ONDCP) to fund the drug war including the academics in NIDA and SAMHSA]

So why, with the drug war money flowing like water for decades, is the scientific research so incredibly crude? As I try to explain in an interview done earlier this year with CEI (see raw footage: Part 6: Reign of Terror – Let the Pain In), if the Government really cared so much about the children, wouldn’t they have found a way to study them? All this money for the drug war including funds for substance abuse research (NIDA and SAMHSA), and all we get is survey data? Not one lousy prospective, longitudinal study that would tell us exactly what happened to the 25% of adolescent “prescription drug abusers” who only used a few times, or the majority who used 10 times or less? Please.

In fact the U.S. Govt doesn’t give a rats ass about either drug abuse or drug addiction. Don’t take my word for it, read the yearly White House Drug Strategy. They are obsessed by drug USE, and that is all they measure – raw use. This simply is not sufficient data upon which to make rational public policy. GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out.

I highly recommend Scherlen and Robinson, “Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics,” published in 2007, if you are at all confused by the yawning chasm between the endless prescription drug abuse propaganda and the data the Govt actually bothers to collect. Jacob Sullum’s Saying Yes is likewise a demystifying experience. (Why not click on the iGive icon below and buy yourself a copy of “Saying Yes” and benefit the Pain Relief Network at the same time!!)