White Collar Addicts: Celebrities Are Not An Alien Race When It Comes to Prescription Drug Dependence

Over 50 million Americans admit to abusing prescription drugs, we only seem to care about it when a select group of people are arrested or die -- our favorite stars and sports heroes. What's wrong with this picture?

Yes, it's tragic news to hear of the lives of Corey Haim, Michael Jackson, Brittany Murphy, Heath Ledger, Anna Nicole Smith and DJ AM being wiped out by deadly cocktails of pills, but what about the rest of America?

Most health care professionals who practice in Hollywood are going to have a number of celebrity patients and clients, but there are also housewives, lawyers, school teachers, stockbrokers, police officers, firemen, students -- and yes, even doctors and nurses -- who suffer from addiction to painkillers and tranquilizers. We are an addicted society across the board. We need to focus on everyone afflicted, to monitor and end prescription drug addiction.

America's fascination with celebrities, perpetuated by the media, is a hard pill to swallow. Our culture oftentimes seems to thrill at watching a train wreck, but stars are not an alien race. They suffer the physical, emotional and spiritual wreckage of this disease just like you and me. They only mirror the out-of-control epidemic of prescription drug abuse in this nation. Emergency rooms are flooded with millions of people needing care from abusing medications.

Prescription drugs are now a close second, behind marijuana, as the most abused drugs. That's shocking, scary and preventable. We have normalized the drug crisis in this country, preferring to make it a celebrity issue and not our problem. I've got news for you, straight from the front line of this disease: Ordinary people go to family doctors and get lethal combinations of prescriptions filled at neighborhood pharmacies. They become addicted and die every day -- just like celebrities.

We need to be more socially responsible all the way down the drug chain, from physicians and pharmacists to families and friends to law enforcement, in a commitment to thwarting those seeking out OxyContin, Vicodin, Loritab, Soma, Valium, Xanax, Ambien and amphetamines.

Health care professionals have sworn oaths to save lives not destroy them.

Doctors and dentists need to know the difference between addiction and dependence by screening their patients and communicating with other health-care professionals attending to them. Pharmacies and insurance companies need to step up and say "no" when they see the red flags of abuse.

Families and friends of loved ones -- do the math. Pills plus pills equals addiction and possible death.

There are a number of danger signs and symptoms to look for to recognize drug addiction. Watch for excessive sleepiness and tiredness, complaints of pain, numerous doctor visits, trouble working, confusion, memory loss, malaise, frequent falls and accidents. Don't be afraid to confront potential addicts, as you will be saving lives.

While I applaud Attorney General Jerry Brown's crackdown on prescription drug fraud and other pending legislation at the state and federal levels, it's got to be supported by the rest of us -- now.

Let's shift the focus from the celebrities with their narcissism and wake up to the fact that manipulation, arrogance and entitlement are not just owned by the stars, but characteristic of 'real' people with the disease of addiction.