The popular claim that Michael Jackson's death will discourage fans from indiscriminately taking pain killers and prescription meds is wrong minded - more Americans will continue to do so, and especially Michael Jackson fans.

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The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, June 30, 2009. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at

Michael Jackson's Death Won't Reduce Abuse of Prescription Meds

Prescription DrugsAs when Elvis died, medical commentators (like friend and spiritual advisor Dr. Deepak Chopra) hope that Michael Jackson's death while taking many medications will discourage prescription abuse. But, has addiction to meds decreased since Elvis' death? In 2007, Drug Czar John Walters announced that prescription drugs were the fastest growing drugs of abuse, second only to mj use among young people.

Here are the chief reasons Jackson's death will have no impact on our increasing reliance on such drugs:

  • More kids are prescribed mood meds. Michael Jackson got prescriptions from the readily available pharmacopeia of pain and mood drugs because he felt he needed them. Many people feel the same way and there's no dissuading them. Kids are educated from their teen years (and earlier) to rely on prescription meds to remedy pain and negative feelings.
  • We are pain averse. Natural childbirth classes arose at the same time in America as mothers became increasingly unwilling to endure the pain of childbirth without serious medications. It is easy to understand that people don't like pain. We Americans really dislike pain.
  • Fans don't want to talk about Jackson's problems. After Elvis' death, a cult arose around Presley that transcended his popularity as a living performer. The same is true of Michael Jackson. And these fans don't want to talk about his problems. It is at least as possible that young fans will imitate Jackson's drug use as that they will eschew it.

I fear those who optimistically expect young people and others to become more cautious in their use of prescription drugs due to Michael Jackson's negative example are whistling in the wind.