A few months ago, DrugMonkey reported on a study about how we as health care workers view narcotic users. Narcotic use and abuse is something we deal with every day and presents many challenges. Narcotics are an important tool for controlling pain and many different strategies have been used to try to prevent their legitimate use from changing to abuse. Despite this, prescription narcotic abuse is very common.
But narcotics are not the most frequently used addictive substances. For example, about a fifth of Americans smoke. But we as health care providers react differently to different kinds of substance use. I certainly cannot speak for all doctors, but narcotic abuse seems to push our buttons in a way that nicotine and caffeine (and even alcohol) don’t.
So I asked around to try to understand why so many of us have negative reactions to people with narcotic use disorders. After talking to a few professionals in person and via email one factor stood out: narcotic abusers often use health care providers to obtain their fix. Most of us don’t like being lied to or being involuntarily enlisted as a drug dealer.
So what do you think, folks? The social and medical consequences of various substances of abuse don’t seem to track with our perceptions of the users. Do lay people differ from medical folks on this one?