5 Horrible Ways that Overmedication is Destroying Our Society


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Overmedication just claimed the life of Chris Cornell

As I type this, rockstar Chris Cornell, vocalist for both Soundgarden and Audioslave has been dead less than a week.  Cornell was the same age as me and not only left behind a wife but 3 kids.

As a husband, father and music lover, his death touched me in a number of ways.

Why did he die?  Was he depressed?  Did he genuinely commit suicide as early reports have claimed?  What role did pharmaceutical drugs play, if any, in his death?

Can you take too much medicine?

The short answer is yes; you can take too much of anything.

I like coffee. I also like the occasional alcoholic drink. If I consume too many of either guess what goes from good to bad pretty quick?

The same is true for prescription drugs; overmedication is a real danger for anyone taking anything on a regular basis.

Cornell’s wife has claimed that a prescription to Ativan may have played a role is his decision to commit suicide.

From the Drugs.com website, I see the following list of side effects of Ativan:

  1. Depression (up to 10% of users)
  2. “The most commonly reported side effects were sedation, hypotension, somnolence, and respiratory failure.”
  3. I also see the following under the heading “frequency not reported”: Hallucinations, insomnia, psychosis, excitability, irritability, aggressive behavior, agitation, hostility, anxiety, vivid dreams, hyperactivity, organic disinhibition, depersonalization, apathy, excitement, feeling mad, illusion, nightmares, sleep disorders, suicide ideation, rage

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The FDA has the following statement on their website: “The use of benzodiazepines, including lorazepam (Ativan), may lead to physical and psychological dependence. The risk of dependence increases with higher doses and longer-term use and is further increased in patients with a history of alcoholism or drug abuse or in patients with significant personality disorders.”

What are the symptoms of being over-medicated?

Of course, we know from rock historians that Cornell did indeed have a history of drug and alcohol abuse although he had reportedly been clean for a number of years.

The FDA site goes on to say “In patients with depression, a possibility for suicide should be borne in mind; benzodiazepines should not be used in such patients without adequate antidepressant therapy.”

Of course, it’s also known that Cornell did indeed suffer from depression.  At the end of the day, he made a choice to take Ativan but did his doctor make him aware of the risks?

Did his doctor take adequate precautions knowing Cornell’s history of drug abuse and depression?  We may not ever find all the answers.

Potential signs of overmedication can include:
  • Sleepiness
  • Disoriented behavior
  • Alienating themselves from family & friends
  • Hallucinations
  • Light-headedness
  • Seizures

Rest in Peace, Chris.

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Following Cornell’s death, we’re left with 3 important observations:

  1. Cornell’s wife and kids deserved to have their husband/father around much longer than his 52 years
  2. A very talented musician will never again make music that has been enjoyed by millions of fans
  3. The “drug problem” in our country is NOT illegal drugs and the so-called war on drugs is off-target

The terrible truth about western medicine and overmedication

If you’ve made it this far you’re wondering (if you’re used to reading my stuff) “why is Jeff taking on a potentially controversial subject?”  After all, I go out of my way to make my blog inclusive and welcoming to all and typically avoid things that potentially divide our society.

I suppose the answer is simply that the overmedication of my country saddens me.

It’s claimed the lives of far too many people, with more to come.  Even when the result isn’t death, there is still wholesale damage from the abuse & neglect that impacts the children of addicts.

It robs people of their parents, kids, and friends.  And it’s destroying our culture by taking the lives of so many who entertain and enrich our lives.

I am not staunchly against western medicine.  And I’m not opposed to all forms of pharmaceuticals.  What I am opposed to is the wholesale overuse and abuse I see. 


If you have trouble sleeping, isn’t it better to figure out WHY and fix that rather than just take a pill and potentially get hooked on it?  And then once you’re hooked having to take other medications to fight off the side effects of the initial prescription?

When our body sends a signal (such as insomnia) it’s giving us a direct message that something is wrong.

Maybe it’s too much coffee (or too late in the day).  Perhaps it’s too much alcohol, eating too late or not getting enough exercise or water?

Whatever the ailment, there IS  a reason.

We just have to be in tune with our bodies enough to hear the message.  Then we have to be disciplined enough to take the appropriate actions. Fix the reason and save the pharmaceuticals to treat injury or disease, ideally for a finite period of time.

And if the issue is more mental than physical, working with a great therapist can often provide much greater long-term benefit than being on medication for the rest of your life.

It could also be cheaper too! If you’re wondering how much does therapy cost, just click the link to learn more.

Overmedication has killed more entertainers in my lifetime than any other single means of death

The following list is celebrity deaths where prescription drugs were involved.  How many of your favorites make the list?

  1. Philip Seymour Hoffman
  2. Prince
  3. Heath Ledger
  4. Marilyn Monroe
  5. Scott Weiland
  6. Bruce Lee
  7. Joan Rivers
  8. Judy Garland
  9. Erica Blasberg (pro golfer)
  10. Greg Giraldo (comedian)
  11. Michael Jackson
  12. Brittany Murphy (actress)
  13. Anna Nicole Smith
  14. Keith Moon (drummer for The Who)
  15. Margeaux Hemingway
  16. Kurt Cobain
  17. Abbie Hoffman (60’s activist)
  18. Rob Pilatus (half of Milli Vanilli)
  19. David Kennedy (son of Robert)
  20. Brian Epstein (manager for The Beatles)
  21. Sigmund Freud

See a more comprehensive list courtesy of Drugs.com

The signs of overmedication and the destruction of our country

For starters, we’re inundated with commercials showing happy, healthy people doing amazing things; seemingly undaunted by whatever ailment they are supposed to have.

Now my daughters are pretty astute when watching those drug commercials; especially at the end when they get to the typically long and ridiculous list of side effects.

But between those commercials, a nation’s health in decline and doctors all too happy to pass out prescriptions, it’s not really a mystery why overmedication is such an issue.

The pharmaceutical industry spends over $27 billion a year promoting their drugs according to the Pew Trust.  More than half that budget is spent directly on what they call “face to face” marketing with doctors and health care professionals.

That’s not just giving free samples.  Think wining, dining and paying doctors upwards of $220 million for “speaking engagements”.

Why do some abuse while others merely use drugs?

Whether you’re talking legal or illegal drugs or alcohol the answer to this question is the same.

It’s not uncommon for kids in their teens or early twenties to try drugs (illegal and otherwise).  Chris Cornell reportedly started taking drugs at age 13!

Many try drugs and alcohol to look cool or out of peer pressure.

But some who try, find it’s an excellent way to mask pain and trauma.  Those are the ones who get hooked.  The damaged ones trying to numb the pain of their existence.  Perhaps their parents were addicts.  Maybe they were sexually abused.  Perhaps bullied to an extreme.

Strong negative emotions and feeling like our lives are out of control are tough for anyone; especially kids.  While it’s not a good solution, it’s not hard to see why some use drugs and alcohol to suppress the pain they feel inside.

We all have a past and almost none of us had a perfect childhood.  But finding healthy ways to move forward from past damage is crucial.

If this describes you, I highly recommend you take a moment and check out one of my most popular posts called 11 Powerful Tips to Let Go of Past Hurts & Move Forward.

We’re very much a society that needs instant gratification

We’ve lost the skill of patience.  We no longer possess the attribute of working for what’s important.  Of course, I’m generalizing here and many of us do still possess those things.

Is it any wonder we’re deeper in debt now more than ever?  Anything you need is only 2 days away with Amazon Prime; you don’t even have to put down your X-Box controller for long or leave the house.

Lastly, our country is in a health crisis.  We are sedentary now more than ever, our diet increasingly filled with processed foods and heavy in unhealthy fats & artificial ingredients. If you think that has no effect on our nation’s ever-increasing reach for pharmaceuticals, think again.

Big pharma is all too happy to supply our need for medication. After all, the pharmaceutical industry was not created to cure diseases.  The primary goal is to generate profit.

Now I’m not in any way opposed to a business making a profit.  I am, however, opposed to profit coming from deception. I am also opposed to profit coming at the expense of someone else.

In this case, that someone else is millions of people across the globe.

In 2016, according to Statista.com, total pharmaceutical sales worldwide topped $967 Billion dollars!  The US leads the rest of the world in that consumption with upwards of $446 Billion being spent here in my country.  Over the prior 2 years, the US sales of pharmaceuticals increased by over 20%!

That’s a lot of so-called “legal” drugs!  Has it made our population healthier?  Happier?  Have we cured major diseases or increased quality of life? Is it any wonder our country and planet are increasingly criticizing big pharma?

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Legal drug abuse is alive and well in the US!

According to Drugabuse.gov, more than 54 million people in the US take prescription drugs for purposes beyond the intent of the drug.  So that’s not even counting people who take the drug according to the doctor’s directives who still end up in trouble.

Even more disturbing are the prescription drug usage statistics among children.  Check out this chart courtesy of the National Institutes of Health.

overmedication-NIH-chart-middle-class-dad

That source goes on to say that among older patients, “more than 50 percent (are) taking more than five medications . . . daily”.  Let that sink in for a minute.

Do you want to spend your “golden years” taking a pill for:

  1. High blood pressure (because you don’t exercise enough or manage your stress well)
  2. High Cholesterol (because of a poor diet)
  3. Restless Leg Syndrome (because you don’t stretch your IT band enough)
  4. An opioid to manage pain
  5. And something else to treat side effects associated with the above

I’ll lastly end with the statement, also from the Drugabuse.gov website that says “Overall, more males than females misuse prescription drugs . . . except . . . adolescent girls exceed boys in the nonmedical use of all prescription drugs”.  And overall misuse of pharmaceuticals is increasing faster among women than men.

I addressed some alternatives to ADHD medication in an earlier post that’s well worth checking out if you haven’t already.  It’s called ADHD Solutions – Play as Medication for the Mind, Body & Soul.

The crucial steps we must take to stop the overmedication of our society!

The answer is strikingly simple.

We need to accept the limitations of our bodies and minds.  Understand that you can’t just do whatever you want to your body whenever you want to and not expect consequences.

And just expecting a pill to fix things when we ignore consequences is not a sustainable solution.

In most cases, medication should be a short term option to manage pain, discomfort or disease when no other options are available and those things are too unbearable without it.

Drugs need to be something done for a short period of time while our body heals.

Then we need to be done with it.  It SHOULD NOT just be something you do for the rest of your life (with obviously a few exceptions).

As I mentioned in that last sentence there are obviously conditions such as MS, Parkinson’s and others that could indeed require a lifetime of drugs to manage.  I’m not an expert on conditions like those.  Thus it’s not my place to comment more about it.

I do acknowledge the need in some cases for regular pharmaceutical usage.  I just think our country has taken that usage way beyond a normal acceptable level.

To really turn overmedication around, we need to take ownership of our bodies

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It’s hardly new knowledge, but if everyone simply devoted themselves to the following each week think what kind of changes could happen:

  1. Spend more time outdoors and off technology
  2. Engage in at least 3 hours a week of physical activity
  3. Eat a balanced diet that is high in unprocessed foods
  4. Eliminate things that cause you stress (and find ways to manage what you can’t eliminate)
  5. Drink at least 1/2 gallon of water every day (I strive for 1 gallon/day)

It’s totally OK to treat yourself every now and then.  I’m not a fan of the mentality that says to be healthy you have to eliminate all the things you love.  But drinking soda every day is a recipe for disaster.  So are smoking cigarettes, eating fried foods daily and a host of other bad habits.

Indulge every once in a while.  That way you don’t feel deprived and will be less apt to go off the rails and binge.  But we have to pay attention to our body and focus on what we do to it.


Want to know how the most successful people on the planet live and prioritize their lives?  Check out one of my most popular posts called 15 Key Differences of Successful People vs Unsuccessful People.

So what are my . . .

7 Horrible Ways that Overmedication is Destroying Our Society?

1. It is causing us to stop listening to what our body is trying to tell us

When we are sensitive and tuned into our own bodies, we’re in a much better position to have time to respond to ailments.  Just reaching for a pill for every ache and pain masks those signals.  Just because you aren’t feeling the pain anymore doesn’t mean the issue went away.

Listening to our body and responding in ways to actually address the issue is crucial for our long term health and well-being.

2. We are losing family & friends

About 60% of drug overdoses in the US are from prescription drugs according to Medicinenet.com.  They go on to state that prescription drug abuse accounts for about 1.4 million emergency room visits each year.  According to Center for Lawful Access and Abuse Deterrence, prescription drug overdoes take the lives of more than $20,000 people each year in the US.

3. Even if they don’t pass away, many of our family and friends become a shell of their former selves

While many of us may not know someone who died from prescription drug overmedication, it’s likely we all know someone who uses and abuses them.  Those people; our family or friends often become a former shell of the person we knew and loved.  They exist but they aren’t fully present to us and their lives.

Their drug addiction has become the #1 priority in their life.  Because these drugs are legal, many addicts don’t even realize they are a drug addict.  Thus they often don’t seek help or realize they need help.

4. We’re damaging our children and our future

Our friends, family, and entertainers are dying or damaged.  But that isn’t just a one-time loss as we have to consider the impact that prescription overmedication has on those who love the addict.  The children of addicts are especially affected.  As many as 70% of children of addicts become addicts themselves.

Even if they don’t, the drug-addicted parents cause wholesale abuse and neglect for their kids, fueling the foster care system and damaging self-esteem as kids wonder why Mom or Dad didn’t love them more than the drugs.

5. We may be lengthening the life span but lessening the quality of life

There’s no doubt modern medicine is causing us to live longer. 

But what about the quality of that longer life?  In 1900 the average life expectancy was about 47 years according to the University of California at Berkeley.

Today, according to the Social Security office it’s closer to 85.  That’s an increase of 81%.  Just imagine if that trend continues.  By 2117 we could be reaching ages of upwards of 150!  But if we’re all in wheelchairs on dozens of medications and barely able to function, what kind of life are we looking at?

To sum up, there are people who genuinely need an benefit from prescription drugs.

BUT there are also millions of people who succumb to overmedication, damaging themselves and their family and friends along the way.

Something has to change.  That change needs to start today.  It can start with me and you and just being open to having a dialog.

overmedication-bio-middle-class-dad

Of course I need to add the disclaimer that my opinions are my own.  I am not a doctor or a health practitioner and my comments should not be construed as medical advice. If you seek medical advice you should consult your doctor or healthcare provider.
Photo credits (that aren’t mine or which require attribution):
Chris Cornell@P&L by Andreas Eldh is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Chris Cornell by Gordon Correll is licensed under CC BY 2.0
The Last Pill by GalacticWanderlust is licensed under CC BY 2.0
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Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market.

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