Ugly Truth about the Little Blue Pill By Arianna Smith
Elvis’ toilet death and Micheal Jackson’s flaming Pepsi commercial fiasco are seen as jokes today, humorous misadventures of the rich and famous. Time has lessened the sting of losing these idols and turned them into stand up comedy bits and Youtube video fodder. The fact of the matter is that the cause of their demise is no laughing matter.
A rising pandemic among celebrities and non celebrities alike is the use, abuse, and addiction to prescription medicines and drugs. More often than not, the use of prescription pills ends in tragedy. Whitney Houston, Kurt Cobain, Heath Ledger, Amy Winehouse- all of their deaths caused by misuse or overdose of prescription medication.
And yet, popular media makes light of the very real dangers that abusing prescription drugs can cause. Movies like Project X and 22 Jump Street market to teens that taking prescription drugs just a few times for an awesome party experience is no big deal. The truth is that just a few times of popping a pill at a rave can lead to abuse, addiction, and in some cases, a funeral.
Aaron Emerson knows this firsthand. Sitting sandwiched between the Police Chief of Mason and prescription drug experts at MSU’s interview panel for the MIPA conference, Emerson looks like a typical college graduate- plaid shirt, stone washed jeans, tennis shoes and a hipster hat. In reality he’s a recovering prescription drug and heroin addict, which is the drug that prescription drugs typically lead to, cheaper despite being ten times as potent.
“I’ve struggled with addiction since I was sixteen,” Emerson told the panel, “and it wasn’t anything I’d wish on anyone. It was a really dark time in my life. I hope that none of you ever experience watching your own addiction escalate and slowly ruin your life, waking up every day with your body begging you to use. Needing to use just to keep going, to avoid feeling physically sick every minute. I switched to heroin because Oxycontin and Vicodin were forty dollars a pill. Most teens can’t afford that. ”
Emerson’s experience is unfortunately not uncommon. 3.4% of eighth graders, 9% of tenth graders, and 15.9% of twelfth graders have admitted to using prescription drugs more than once in their lives. Teenagers that use are led to believe prescription pills are safer because they come from doctors, and less dangerous than illegal substances, or only needed for a high at a party and quickly slept off.
Still, on tv and on the radio, we hear next to nothing about the effects of prescription medication in teen society. If anything, it’s almost encouraged, particularly in music lyrics. It’s seen as a fad, or a cool, edgy thing to be seen doing. We see and hear about the celebrities taken by prescription drugs, but there’s no follow up or warning afterward. instead, we see interviews where they give kudos to the fact that drug use often helped their creative process.
Not all celebrities have fallen victim to the prescription drug monster. In an interview with MIPA campers, Dawn Wells, who played sweet country girl Mary Ann Summers on Gilligan’s Island explained how she managed to resist the temptations of drug use.
“I think it was a combination of the character I played and the upbringing I had before becoming famous,” Wells said. “It was just a very good set of circumstances. Diet pills were around back then, and they were addictive- they ruined your heart. But the people I was around didn’t do things like that, and I was raised correctly with not a lot of turmoil and issues. You have a certain responsibility that comes with a famous image. When people look up to you, you have to do the right thing.”
We don’t hear about the celebrities like Dawn Wells, however. We hear about the tragedies, the dramatic bombshells of the others that become the center of our lives. As horrible as it is, the question must be asked- is the media and entertainment industry letting the issue slide because of the money being spent to support prescription habits? It’s been proven that despite being aware of the dangers of their product, the cigarette industry continues to sell nicotine because they see their customers as “replaceable”. Is this malicious sentiment echoed by pharmaceuticals and the media?
“I don’t believe it’s a malicious intent,” said Mason Police Chief John Stressman. “But the media and entertainment businesses could do much better. They have the money, power, and influence to help put a stop to this issue. Jails and rehab programs can only do so much, and unfortunately those are after the fact solutions.”
Whether it’s ignorance or negligence, the entertainment and media industry could definitely do more to prevent teens from indulging in dangerous habits. Marketing movies like Project X and turning Ecstasy use into a joke isn’t helping the issue. Kids and teens nationwide need to be shown how dangerous that little blue pill can be, and when you control the tv’s and the radios, you have the perfect method of doing just that.