Prescription drugs don't equal 'safe' drugs | Deborah Orr

Beware the doctor who doesn't administer medicines properly

Well, it's a start. Michael Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray has pled not guilty to involuntary manslaughter, and there are few who believe that the charge can ever be made to stick. But that's hardly the point. The US has woken up to the fact that addictive drugs are not magically transformed into soothing medicines just because they are medically prescribed. Michael Jackson may have been an extreme case – in this and all other matters – but the recent deaths of the actors Heath Ledger and Brittany Murphy confirm that his was by no means a unique case.

The famous, and the wealthy of course, are able to attract the attentions of private doctors who are only too willing to pander to their neuroses for money or for prestige. But the underlying issue is closely bound up with attitudes to drug use more generally – with legal being good and illegal being bad. Celebrities may have the means to score highs and lows within the law, but it is the wider culture that persuades them that a drug that is legitimately purchased can be abused with impunity.

It's not so simple. All drugs are safe if regulated carefully. All drugs are dangerous, if used cavalierly. Like every inanimate object under the sun, they are only dangerous in the wrong hands. Drugs are not evil, any more than a box-cutter is evil. It's always about how you are taking them, and why. If a doctor is procuring and administering drugs, without understanding or addressing his patient's hows and whys, then he's a not a doctor. In the common parlance, in fact, he's called a dealer.

Contributor

Deborah Orr

The GuardianTramp

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