Why do the news companies and anchors keep assuming that the presence of prescription medication in the house – ANY prescription medication in the house – means that a death there just might have been caused by drug abuse?
(Oh, wait, I know – dead people can’t sue.)
The most recent occurrence of this is the death of 30-year-old Johnson & Johnson heiress Casey Johnson.
As I write this, the toxicology reports aren’t in and no one I’ve listened to or read had bothered to mention even the general type of medication that was found. This would seem to therefore be a cause to pause and wait. But no, prescription drugs have to be pushed as the main suspected cause of death even if the authorities aren’t saying that.
There are many valid reasons for having prescription medication in a home. Johnson had one – she was diabetic, and while I’ve not had the suspicion confirmed at her age it was likely Type I. Someone with Type I diabetes will have prescription medication in the house.
And this happens Every. Time. Billy Mays died with medication in his home because he was about to have hip surgery. Sometimes the medication prediction is right – as with Heath Ledger and Michael Jackson – but with so many diseases and disorders that used to have no treatment at all now having medication that can increase quality of life and length of life, it’s probably more common than not to have prescription medication in an American home. Other countries with widespread medical facilities probably would also have that hold true.
Have one last antibiotic pill left in a bottle tucked in the back of the medicine cabinet? Ever needed prescription strength pain medication for something like pulled wisdom teeth, didn’t need to take them all, and never threw away the last few? Live in a state that requires a prescription for pseudoephedrine and need it for sinus relief every spring? Congratulations, you have prescription medication in the house. Even if you aren’t currently on it, even if it’s been long enough that it wouldn’t even show up on a hair sample screening, it’s in your house. And if you’re famous enough for CNN or the other networks to notice, and unfortunate enough to die in a way that doesn’t have an immediately apparent cause, you too could be used as a symbol of The Dangers Of Prescription Medication Abuse.
Yes, some people do abuse prescription medication. But just having it around doesn’t mean it was being abused. That assumption in the reporting around deaths is something of a ‘All Users Of Prescription Medication Abuse It’ signal to the culture, even when the medications in question don’t give highs at all. An antibiotic is theoretically enough to trigger the days-long discussion of the dangers of drugs the deceased may have never taken in his or her entire lifetime.
And when there are diseases and disorders that some people have to take medications for for decades, even medications that are sometimes abused – heaven help the Attention Deficit Disorder adult community if anyone ever dies in the possession of Ritalin, even if the handful of deaths of children who were prescribed too much were pretty much ignored by the world at large – those people get hit with the same Must Be Drug Abuse brush.
But oh, wait. I forgot again. The only ones who can bring the defamation, slander, and libel suits are dead and the dead can’t sue. The living who weren’t directly labeled don’t have standing. I guess they can carry on with the fear-mongering and blame-fests, then.