Sunday, November 20, 2005

Addiction & Generation Rx

I am constantly involved in the lives of people who are addicts. Some of them are in denial as regards their addiction, and I try to enter into their lives, gain trust, and help them see they are an addict and hope one day they utter the words, “I am an addict and I need help.” Others acknowledge they are an addict, but feel they can get themselves out of their addiction by themselves, as if they are skilled in addiction treatment. This never works. Then there is the addict who escapes the prison cell of denial, gets help, to include a support system of accountability, and begins to break free. And finally there is, as Gerald May says in his brilliant and helpful book Addiction and Grace, the addict who breaks free all of a sudden and for no good medical reason. That, says May, is grace. (Note: I read May's book years ago and it helped me very much. Also, I was pleased to see that John Eldridge recommends it in The Sacred Romance.)
May’s book says that all of us are, in some way, addicts. Put in another way, we all have spiritual strongholds that imprison a part of us. We each have at least one “besetting sin.” Not one of us operates, I believe, with a “full deck.”
I think serious addictions are on the increase. For example, the availability of pornography is helping create a nation of porno addicts. And, the ease with which doctors hand out prescriptions for addictive medications without seeming concern for underlying systemic issues and their deep treatment is on the rise. From my own small world in my cultural context I have seen this happening, and it greatly concerns me.
Greg Critser’s new book Generation Rx confirms my fears. The book is reviewed in today’s New York Times Book Review. Here are a few quotes from the review, which can be read in full here.
""Generation Rx" contends that large drug companies have co-opted the federal government, seduced the medical establishment and mesmerized a temperamentally supine public into taking far more drugs than is strictly necessary, much less healthy. Worse, Americans have fallen victim to "polypharmacy": using so many drugs for so many ailments that they have no idea how the various medications are interacting.
Nevertheless, this is not the work of a conspiracy theorist. The public, particularly "the Tribe of High-Performance Aging," genuinely adores Viagra, Zoloft, Paxil and Prozac, believing that they vastly improve one's quality of life. As in his previous book, "Fat Land," Critser says the public has been complicitous in its own seduction. Gleefully voting with their tongues, Americans use drugs to combat depression (Paxil, Prozac), reduce the ruckus from the kids (Ritalin), make bedtime more like a night in the seraglio (Viagra) and turn the workplace into a hearty party (Vicodin)."
From a Christian viewpoint, prescription drugs are the New Healers. Instead of dependency on God, we have prescription drug dependency. Of course we can thank God for a variety of such drugs. The issue is not their existence but addiction. And addiction, if you have never seen it, is a Destroyer of the inner life, marriage and family, and whatever else stands in its way. Critser's point of view, as well as mine, is that something very undermining of human freedom is rapidly growing in our midst.