Drug Detox Q&A: Should Prescription Drug Side Effects Get Equal Time?

Drug Detox Q&A: Should Prescription Drug Side Effects Get Equal Time?

In the 10 years since prescription drug advertising began on television, Big Pharma has spent billions of dollars saturating the airwaves with drug commercials. Actors in idealistic settings wax ecstatic about their new drug-created lives, but the drug's horrible side effects - some of them possibly fatal - are glossed over in seconds. Such advertising minimizes or hides the potential for harm, such as dependencies, addictions, and the need for drug detox and, in some case, drug rehab.

The intention of Big Pharma's advertising technique has apparently worked perfectly. We now have a new generation of prescription drug consumers who embrace prescription drugs for everything imaginable. Drug advertising - along with the drugs - has dulled the minds of America to ignore the dangers, to not know or even care how easily prescription drugs can lead to drug detox, drug rehab, or worse, an untimely death.

A new study from the University of Georgia found that most prescription drug TV commercials don't present the real risks of side effects. According to the study, direct-to-consumer broadcast and cable TV drug commercials devote an average of less than 8 seconds (13 percent of total ad time) to side effect disclaimers in a 60-second commercial, and less than 4.4 seconds (15 percent of total ad time) of side effects and disclaimers for the average 30-second commercial. For shorter 15-second commercials, no time at all is devoted to side effects and disclaimers.

When you listen very carefully to the usually rapid-fire, low-voice, almost incomprehensible statements of side effect disclaimers, you do hear that some of these side effects - for even the most seemingly innocuous of drugs - can be pretty gruesome. We have also heard commercials for some sleep aid drugs state that dependency is not possible or warn of potential dependency, but we've personally never heard one go so far as to admit that a need for drug detox or drug rehab could arise.

The study's author said that the real problem is that the side effects information "is often presented in a way that people aren't likely to comprehend or even pay attention to." And that is what has led so many people to simply ignore such warnings and blindly reach for the next prescription drug, and the next one and the next one. Such a mind-set has led to the situation we have now with thousands of Americans looking for drug detox or drug rehab programs.

Government statistics say 22 million Americans have abused prescription drugs, and thousands have died as a result of the lack of information about the dangers of some prescription drugs. Even after the Federal Drug Administration has issued serious warnings, doctors have continued to incorrectly prescribe some drugs resulting in injury and death, or at the least the need for drug detox and drug rehab. If doctors aren't able to comprehend the seriousness of prescription drug side effects or complex nature of mixing various drugs and alcohol, how is the public supposed to understand?

This volatile and dangerous situation could be improved if new regulations required commercials to devote as much time - and emphasis - to the side effects and dangers as is devoted to the alleged benefits of prescription drugs. Perhaps then we'd begin to see a difference in the attitude Americans have towards prescription drugs, and a reduction in the illnesses, deaths, and need for drug rehab and drug detox program facilities across the country.

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