July 2, 2013

Painkiller overdoses rising in cocooning times

From the NYT:

Fatal overdoses from prescription pain pills increased fivefold among women from 1999 to 2010, the most recent year for which the federal government has final data. The rate among men tripled over the same period, according to the analysis, which was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nobody cares about widespread drug abuse, its degradation of human nature, or even its death toll, as long as it is sanctioned by experts. It gives people uninterested in the well-being of their fellow group members the pass that they need to tune out of bodily, mental, and spiritual corruption in their own neighborhood. Hey, the doc signed off on it, didn't he? Well then whaddaya botherin' me about?

More women die from drug overdoses than from cervical cancer or car accidents. Four times as many died over the last decade from drug overdoses than from homicides.

How can the effects be so widespread -- are that many women in crippling pain? Obviously not. Remember that overdoses are only a small fraction of all users. What's the real reason so many are turning to chronic drug use?

Women addicts interviewed for this article said they believed that it had to do with the changing nature of American society. The rise of the single-parent household has thrust immense responsibility on women, who are both the primary breadwinner and parent. Some said they craved the numbness that drugs bring as a response to feeling overwhelmed by life’s responsibilities. Others said highs brought feelings of prettiness, strength and productiveness.

Utter horseshit -- the rise of the single-parent household has been going on for decades. And our mothers didn't hook themselves on numbing pills during the '80s, in the wake of the divorce epidemic. They had a better cure for the pressures of domestic life -- a life outside the fucking home. Meeting people at church, dining and dancing with a group of friends, losing themselves in the crowd while shopping at the mall, and hiring a babysitter so they could go out for the night with their husbands.

Chronic drug use to make a person feel normal (rather than to feel beyond-the-ordinary) is part of the broader web of dysfunction seen in cocooning times, and the only real solution is to extricate oneself from the socially deprived cloister of the domestic sphere.

Medically sanctioned drug addiction hasn't been this widespread since the previous wave during the mid-century. Then, as now, doctor-approved doping was seen as perhaps less than ideal but still necessary to treat the anxieties of listless mothers and housewives. Disingenuously qualifying that belief with "in some cases only, of course" did not stop "Mother's Little Helper" from invading the average American suburb.

This may be the most damning indictment of the so-called "family values revolution" of the 1990s. What kind of parent feels no compunction about drugging up their own children for showing normal signs of health, vigor, and energy, all while numbing themselves into oblivion to escape the joylessness of their hyper-regulated and over-sanitized households? After feeling some pity, we ought to feel disgust and anger at such defilement of the family, and at the shameless hypocrisy of trying to cloak it in "family values."

Fortunately, such debasement cannot continue forever -- little by little, people begin to grow wary of how widespread it is becoming, and reclaim their dignity by stopping it in their own household. Then they begin talking to each other, and perhaps a "national conversation" takes place, including famous figures confessing their problems, to make it OK for little people to acknowledge their problems too. After all of this grassroots consciousness-raising, people return to normal healthy living, at least until the next wave of cocooning takes over.


  1. Have you read Anna Karenina? Besides being the magnum opus of one of the most famous authors ever, it deals with a lot of these themes. The title character goes from being social and self-confident to plagued by self-doubt and constantly worried about what others think, especially her lover. She then seeks escape through morphine, gets addicted, and winds up killing herself.

    At a very high level you could say the theme is "Don't use morphine as an escape from real life."

    I think it's set in the middle of the Victorian period, although I don't know how well historical periods translate from Western Europe to Russia.

  2. its hard, because as you say, there are few places to go to even if you want to leave the house. Any suggestions?


  3. "
    How can the effects be so widespread -- are that many women in crippling pain? Obviously not. Remember that overdoses are only a small fraction of all users. What's the real reason so many are turning to chronic drug use?"

    That is scary. Remember how Marilyn Monroe OD'ed right at the beginning of the 60s?


  4. "Have you read Anna Karenina?"

    I read it in college, and don't remember the fine details, but do recall the main points you mentioned. There are shades of that across Victorian literature and painting. Madame Bovary, The Absinthe Drinker...

    I don't remember what Anna's mothering style is like. Is she insecure about that too? One thing that really jumps out about helicopter parents is how insecure and paranoid they are about how well other parents are parenting.

    But, when you're more closely interacting with other parents (not superficially, but like our parents used to get along in the '80s), you see that your idiosyncrasies don't really matter -- aren't going to turn your kid into a total fuck-up, so don't obsess over parenting styles.

    "I think it's set in the middle of the Victorian period, although I don't know how well historical periods translate from Western Europe to Russia."

    I don't think there are good homicide rate data on Russia that far back, though perhaps from lack of scholarly interest. At least externally, they were pretty non-violent during the mid-19th C, only taking part in the Crimean War.

    The nihilist / Existentialist / Malaise / Etc. zeitgeist sure hit Eastern as well as Western Europe. At least that's what I remember from the emphasis on Bazarov in Fathers and Sons.

  5. "Remember how Marilyn Monroe OD'ed right at the beginning of the 60s?"

    Yeah, it's strange how resistant the cause of her death has been to entering the popular understanding. In the popular mind, "drugs" can only be those that move the mind away from normal, not the ones that try to stabilize it in the normal range.

    So you can't overdose from barbiturates -- a term the public hasn't ever heard, or only during 8th grade health class.

    "She swallowed some pills" -- like they were Tylenol or something, rather than addictive substances being used so inappropriately.

    For the same reason, there is zero recognition that major figures from the mid-century were hopped up on speed. "Pep pills" are just pills, used to keep the mind in the normal, even if vigorous, range of the spectrum. Not like cocaine or LSD or something mind-bending.

    From Wikipedia's entry on Judy Garland:

    "To keep up with the frantic pace of making one film after another, Garland, Rooney, and other young performers were constantly given amphetamines as well as barbiturates to take before going to bed.[24] For Garland, this regular dose of drugs led to addiction and a lifelong struggle and contributed to her eventual demise."

    Can't get more wholesome than that. I wonder if Wally and the Beav were drugged up too...

    And hey, JFK himself was getting amphetamines from Dr. Feelgood, so they can't be all that bad!

  6. I was doing Adderall pretty heavily for awhile there. Actually, I think that the overdoses might be a sign that things are becoming more outgoing. During most of cocooning times, the level of drug abuse is low level - just enough to keep someone from feeling isolated.

    But when people are leaving the their houses for the first time in a long time, they start having painful experiences which they have problems handling. Even someone making a rude comment to you causes a shock. The level of drug use is increased radically by some people.

    Marilyn Monroe had been using uppers and downers for much of her career, but it wasn't until the beginning of crime wave that she started doing it heavily.

    My stress went up a lot in 2012 and 2013, but I hope its because people are finally becoming outgoing. It seems, from Facebook status updates, that a lot of other people are starting to have trouble too.



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