'Reality is just a crutch for people who can't handle drugs.' So said American author Robin P. Williams.
Her remark was made with her tongue firmly filling out her cheek, but it may carry an important message for a culture that has become overly dependent on prescribed drugs. The message is this: reality and drugs are unnatural bedfellows.
Some developed nations are seeing alarming growth in the number of prescriptions issued for quite powerful drugs.
According to a report in this week's Sunday Times, the number of British deaths involving tranquilisers and strong painkillers has risen by 16 percent over the past five years.
In the last decade, the number of such prescriptions per year has jumped by more than 60 percent. This growth has featured drugs prescribed for anxiety and depression as well as those used to deal with pain.
Meanwhile, 11,000 women were hospitalised in 2011-12 with antidepressant poisoning. Apparently this is now a bigger problem in the UK than heroin addiction.
Where does this prescription culture come from? What is feeding our apparent hunger for pharmaceuticals?
I Got The Blues
At least two major factors play into this. The first is the growing number of cases in which physical ailments relate directly or indirectly to increased anxiety and mild depression.
More than one in five people in the UK live with very high levels of anxiety, according to The Office for National Statistics' Personal Well-being in the UK report for 2012/13.
Much of the problem relates to what experts call 'anticipatory anxiety', which sees many people making very negative projections into the future, about specific events or situations.
Anxiety is a challenge because it often builds up under the surface, over time. It can remain hidden until a person suddenly faces debilitating psychological or physical symptoms, such as those associated with anxiety or 'panic' attacks.
Drug use is not an adequate solution to the most commonly experienced forms of anxiety. Whilst the harsher edges of anxiety can, to some degree, be softened by treatment with drugs, the real problem is usually one of unhealthy habits of thought.
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