Prescription Drug Dependency: Fueled by Rampant Commercialism and Television Ads
October 23, 2018 - Prescription Drugs - 0 Comments
Prescription medication and advertising. Every election cycle, politicians and political experts try to find a way to manage the epidemic of addiction spreading through the country. Heroin, benzos, Xanax, opiates, alcohol, methamphetamine, and opioids are attacked – rightfully so – and pundits try to create new ways of combating the epidemic, one that takes into account a multitude of aspects.
One of the most recently proposed approaches is that by the Donald Trump administration. They suggested forcing Big Pharma to display their drug prices on TV advertisements as a way of deterring people from abusing prescription medication. This simple technique doesn’t take into account influences like trauma, anxiety, or depression, but experts say that it could help due to the impact of advertising on the American mind.
Therefore, it is worth examining whether or not displaying drug prices will help along with PTSD management, the 12 step program, detox, and dual-diagnosis treatment programs. Recovery from substance abuse, like benzodiazepines, must be multifaceted, but is this approach one that will work or is it a gimmick that is unlikely to have any effect?
Advertising Has an Obvious Effect on Society
Multiple different studies have tested the impact of advertising on society. Almost all of them agreed that marketing methods have both positive and negative effects on society. Unfortunately, it seems that this impact has mostly been a negative one. For example, the essay “The Negative Effects of Advertising on Society” by Sofo Archon stated that “We have an economic system in which people have to make money in order to survive, no matter how manipulative techniques they use to achieve that…”
They go on to state that advertisements operate by identifying a need or a want in your life and attacking you for not possessing it. Just think of the average ad for soda. People who don’t drink the advertised brand are often portrayed as dumb or tasteless. The people who do drink the marketed soda are shown to be cool, fun, and happy. The idea is obvious – your life is not complete if you drink the competitor soda over the preferred advertised one.
Advertising methods like this are common for just about every type of item. But you’re never going to see an advertiser directly insult the buyer. That would be commercial suicide. Instead, the idea is to attack a person’s sense of security in a subtle way, to manipulate them emotionally, and to get them to buy a product that they may – but probably don’t – need. The long-term effects that this has been heavy.
To explore that end, Archon’s essay examines the problems of rampant consumerism in more depth. The link between happiness and consumerism is damaging – advertisers want you to feel like that buying makes you happy. Shopping is fun, owning new things is a joy, and you can find happiness by owning the best washing machine, a brand new DVD, or a modern washing medicine.
And this approach is not an accident but one fueled by a deep understanding of human psychology. Advertisers are using images, words, music, and more to compel you to buy the products that they are selling. While newer generations are falling victim to this trend less and less, they are far from immune to advertising techniques.
For example, think of the last movie trailer that you watched. The best parts of the movie are edited in a way that catches the eye and the imagination and which compels the buyer to want to see the film. Even smarter and cynical newer generations fall victim to this type of manipulation. Unfortunately, the most effective of these ads are likely on television, a medium still common in millions of homes.
Television Ads Can Devastate a Person’s Self Perception
Television ads are particularly devastating on the population because they work on multiple aspects of society’s perception. During a television ad, you have visuals, music, acting, and much more describing why you need a product. In the essay “Effects of Advertising on Society: A Literary Review” by Goldie Hayko, this influence was heavily examined and found to be one that was mostly destructive and problematic for most individuals.
Drug companies fully understand that impact and are taking advantage of it to peddle helpful – and dangerous – substances to Americans. While it is true that these advertisements must contain adverse side effects – such as addiction – during the ad, most people don’t pay attention to this information. Instead, their emotions are being manipulated by positive and negative images.
For example, consider the advertising for anti-depression medications. They use foreboding music, dark colors, and images of a brooding person to showcase how miserable it is to be without their prescription. They then use positive music, bright colors, and huge smiles on actors to show just how much impact these medications have on the life of a person.
And while it is true that millions of people around the world do need anti-depression and anxiety medications to live a happy life, these manipulative advertising techniques are still misleading. As a quiet-voiced narrator briefly – and very quickly – blazes through the possible side effects, the mind cannot absorb what they are saying. While it might seem misleading or like it should be illegal to so quickly skip over adverse reactions, these ads do follow the looser laws put in place after by the FDA in 2006 following decades of stricter control.
Following this change, medical advertising accounted for nearly 13 percent of all advertising spending in 2012. And during this time, addiction rates to various prescription medications, such as opiates, and anxiety medications, like Xanax, skyrocketed. Unfortunately, pharmaceutical companies were taking advantage of this situation by increasing their advertising efforts and relying on addiction to necessary medicines to line their pockets.
It might seem dubious to many readers that medication companies would perform these actions. It might even seem unlikely that advertising could have that big of an effect on addiction. However, the next section will examine that point to make it quite clear just how much advertising is fueling the prescription drug addiction epidemic.
The Impact That Advertising Had on Prescription Drug Addiction
As the prescription drug epidemic expands, writers such as Dr. Art Van Zee are examining how it spreads by marketing and advertising. In Van Zee’s essay, “The Promotion and Marketing of OxyContin: Commercial Triumph, Public Health Tragedy,” he discusses how advertising for OxyContin has fueled countless cases of opioids and opiates addiction.
For example, he analyzes how the marketing of OxyContin by Purdue Pharma increased its sales from $48 million in 1996 up to $1.1 billion in 2000. This success was fueled by advertising techniques that focused on positive images to showcase how people could live a pain-free life. People who needed pain medication – or help with opiate withdrawal – were asking their doctors about it at much higher levels. And the same doctors received pressure from the manufacturer to prescribe it.
That’s why Purdue Pharma held over 40 different pain-management conferences during these years. They would discuss the benefits of OxyContin – glaze over the adverse effects – and get friendly with doctors. While the alleged point of the conference was to educate doctors, the real goal was to influence their prescription rates of OxyContin covertly.
Combine these advertising and marketing techniques with the massive bonuses given to sales representatives who sold large amounts of OxyContin, and this prescription medication became huge. And throughout this period, Purdue Pharma advertising downplayed the risk of addiction to OxyContin, even though medical experts stated – and understood – that it was more potent than morphine and even heroin.
As a result, states with high levels of OxyContin prescription rates – like Kentucky – saw astronomical increases in opiate addiction treatment rates. In just six years, that state saw a rise of 500 percent, while others – like Maine – had gains of 460 percent. And aggressive – and frankly, misleading – advertising is to blame. But would the new rule proposed by the CMS on displaying drug prices have helped in this situation and will it help in the future?
Would Displaying Drug Prices Help With the Fight Against Addiction?
As part of an attempt to combat the spread of addiction throughout the nation, the CMS recently proposed that advertisers be forced to publish wholesale prices of prescription drugs during television advertisements. If the rule is approved, Big Pharma would have to show the cost of a 30-day prescription for a drug. This price would be one that did not showcase how insurance would help with the values of the substance.
The idea is to combat addiction by forcing people with little money to seriously consider the costs of buying drugs. While this approach doesn’t counter the influence of mental health problems, such as trauma and PTSD, it could force pharmaceutical companies to be more honest and transparent about their drugs and make it easier for consumers to buy appropriate products.
Another critical element of the proposal is the hope that it will force pharmaceutical companies to lower their prices and to make it easier for the average consumer to buy them. The effect it will have on addiction is primarily related to making it easier for people who could potentially become addicted to understand better the financial cost that they would incur were they to continue buying a substance.
Will this help with addiction therapy? It is possible. For example, one study found that one in every eight adults asked about a drug or were prescribed one because they saw it in an advertisement. It should be clear that medication advertisements do affect the population and could be used to help them – rather than get them stuck on addictive substances that they struggle to quit.
Critics of the new rule – outside of those from Big Pharma who naturally hate the idea – state that it doesn’t go far enough towards providing clear and consistent information about pricing. The added benefits provided by insurance or pharmaceutical benefits are never displayed, which does limit a buyer’s potential buying decision. Others state that such an approach does little to manage mental health problems.
These substance abuse experts state that dependency is a problem that starts in the brain and which needs a more focused and determined effort to manage. Merely displaying prices, they claim, won’t cause a desperate person with addiction from buying a substance. All it lets them know is how much money that they have to raise to afford a prescription for it.
Rehab methods, such as 12 step, detox, and dual-diagnosis, are also not likely to be affected by this new ruling. So while it is possible that limiting advertisers’ abilities to focus on weak sectors of the population – which they couldn’t do before 2006 – it might not be enough to help those who are already struggling with addiction.
Getting the Help That You Need
Clearly, managing drug dependency and solving the substance abuse epidemic isn’t as simple as passing new rules and regulations on advertising. While it is true that this new rule is likely to have a positive effect on medical care going forward, people like you who are already struggling with drugs or prescription medications still need specialized help to regain a happy and healthy life.
That’s why you need to contact us today to learn more about how we can help you regain a drug-free life. Our treatment method focuses on dual-diagnosis, a groundbreaking system that takes care of both physical and mental depen dency. First of all, we help you detox to get dangerous substances out of your system. We then assess your physical health and nutritional deficiencies and manage them in a healthy and healing manner.
After that, we focus on your mental health rehab, including managing PTSD, depression, anxiety, and poorly managed trauma. Our approach takes a look at you as a person and focuses on providing you with the holistic treatment you need to emerge from drug abuse as a happier and healthier person. And our aftercare techniques teach you coping mechanisms that can combat your addictive triggers.
So please make the first step towards your recovery by contacting us today. Our treatment specialists will provide you with free consolation to help you better understand your addiction. Then, we will find a dual-diagnosis program that works for you. With our help, you can beat your dependency on drugs and become the person you were before medication advertising trapped you in an abusive cycle.