When visiting a doctor, whether in an office or hospital, nurses will take vital signs. The four objective signs are heart rate, temperature, blood pressure and respiration rate. However, two new subjective vital signs are level of pain, and self-described depression. “On a scale of zero to 10, ten being the most severe, what is your level of pain?” the nurse may ask. That question, simple as it seems, opens the door to opiate prescriptions that may not be needed, and such self-diagnosis leads to prescriptions — paid for by the government or private insurance — of high-demand drugs.
Coincident with the addition of the fifth vital sign, death by prescription overdose has overtaken automobile crashes as the leading cause of accidental death, and the heavy narcotics sitting in home medicine cabinets are an attractive lure for illicit use by others in the family, or can end up for sale on the Internet or out front of the local high school. An 80 Mg pill of Oxycodone, for example, has a street value of around $40. The price is driven by the demand for a cheap high, not any escape from physical pain. In Florida, pain clinics operated largely unregulated, and getting a prescription for narcotic pain relievers is as simple as going in, describing some fake pain, and walking out with a prescription for a dangerous narcotic.
Now, “depression” is being added as the “sixth vital sign.” I was hospitalized for a motorcycle accident. At home, recuperating, a deep wound on my foot was slow to heal, got infected, etc. I got pain medications to help me sleep, and the home health nurse asked me if I had experienced any depression. Well of course. I had visited the basement of emotional reactions: I was angry that someone had rear-ended me in traffic, destroyed my motorcycle, put me into surgery and then the hospital, made me miss work, having to use a walker or crutches and lay on the table in the doctor’s office while he did “Sharp debridement” of the open wound. I was dizzy at times from a concussion and the drugs, and my broken ribs hurt. Having to have my wife help me with simple tasks, on and on. Of course I had experienced some depression, I think anyone would. But it was related to something I was dealing with and was as natural as getting wet goes with rain. But had I said yes I had experienced depression, I would have been prescribed a psychopharmaceutical to cheer me up. A happy pill that — according to the black box warnings — could cause me to go into a rage or kill myself. I said no, no depression, because I know a lot about happy pills and there was no way in hell that I wanted to walk down that road.
Later, in the waiting room of my primary care doctor, I saw a poster asking about depression. There were three levels. “Normal,” “Worn Down” and “Overwhelmed,” each accompanied by the appropriate bored or less happy or really unhappy face. Many of the people in the waiting room were in walkers on crutches, or had some physical problem. They were in a doctor’s office, they had a right to be depressed without some self test leading to a very expensive happy pill that most likely would be paid for by Medicare or Medicaid, and carried a black box warning about potential suicide or uncontrollable rage.
These heavy pain killers were originally intended for people in incredible pain, going through the last stages of cancer, for example. Now, anybody can obtain them with the “right answer” to the fifth vital sign.
If you had to pay for these drugs, you might not want them unless they were critical to your well being. But now, answer “8” to the pain question, or “yes” to the “worn down”or “overwhelmed” question, and bingo you have ready access to addictive dangerous and highly unpredictable drug paid for by the taxpayers of America.
This adding on of subjective measures to an objective science is not unprecedented. While the practice of medicine is built on objective study of anatomy and objective measurement of indicators such as heart rate, temperature and blood pressure, psychiatry has become a subjective parasite on the good name of medical practice and the help it has brought to people around the globe.
Psychiatry’s ailments, however, have no objective measures and are voted on by psychiatrists and entered into a book called the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual” which recently went through its latest revision. The link to medicine is the theory that chemical imbalances in the brain cause such things as depression, mania, and other mental problems, but no scientific evidence exists that this is true — it is a convenient lie to cloak psychiatric voodoo in the robes of medical legitimacy. Over time, we’ve dispensed with other phony sciences like phrenology (head bump diagnosis) chanting and banging on gourds, appealing to Zeus and so forth, even though those practices had some limited success in curing psychosomatic ills. But psychiatry has so far managed to blend in with the medical sciences, perhaps because psychiatrists must have a medical degree and know something at least about anatomy.
The combination of the Affordable Care Act and the fifth and sixth vital signs are a perfect storm of no responsibility and will lead to a society even more drugged and asleep than it is today.
A human being, hooked on heroin, meth, Oxycodone, Methodone, Prozac, Zoloft, or any one of hundreds of such potions and pills is a slave very much like the slaves of the pre-Civil War South. They are owned by the drug companies, they can be sexually abused, beaten, starved, forced into prostitution or crime by the pushers that profit from their servitude. The society tolerates their servitude and in fact profits from it as pharmaceutical stocks rise and more and more human slaves are added to the rolls. And finally, they are punished by withdrawal if they attempt to escape their servitude, and death if they overdose in an ever-increasing need for relief from their plunge into the depths of despair and addiction.
When asked for the fifth and sixth vital signs, beware. Your answer could make you a slave for the rest of your life. If you need help for a problem in your life, find a friend, priest, minister, rabbi — someone who will listen to you. Beware the psychiatrist or physician who would slap a label and a bar code on you, hand you a prescription and call out “next.”