Bob Stannard: If we returned 3.5 tons of drugs, how many tons did we actually use?

This commentary is by Bob Stannard of Manchester, author, musician and former state legislator and lobbyist.

“Marijuana is the most dangerous drug in America today” – Ronald Reagan.

— “Just say ‘NO’ to drugs — Nancy Reagan.

As humans, we’ve been on drugs for quite some time. Most medicines were created by scientists to cure diseases, which is, for the most part, the same today.

As humans are used to doing, drug use has shifted to other uses, mostly recreational. Drug use for unintentional reasons has always been frowned upon.

During the 1980s, we declared a “war on drugs”. Non-violent drug-related arrests have gone from 50,000 to 400,000 in a few years. The preferred solution of those who wanted to participate in drugs that were once prescribed, but now considered illegal, was to lock people up.

Apparently no one bothered to stop and analyze WHY some people wanted/needed to do drugs. Incarceration was the option that made the politicians look tough, like they were really doing something. More likely than not, the real reason was that the pharmaceutical industry couldn’t make money from marijuana or illicit drugs made by others.

As the late George Carlin once said, “Have you ever noticed that the only metaphor we have in our public discourse for solving problems is declaring war on it? We have the war on crime, the war on cancer, the war on drugs. But have you ever noticed that we don’t have a war on homelessness? You know why? Because there is no money in this problem. No money to be made with the homeless. If you can find a solution to homelessness where corporations and politicians can make a few million dollars each, you will see the streets of America start to clear up pretty quickly!

We like to make a big show of things. For example, look at last week’s newspaper ad, in which we learned that for National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, Vermonters donated 3.5 TONS of prescription drugs they don’t need. haven’t used. This might make you wonder if we didn’t use 3.5 tons of drugs, how many tons of drugs did we use?

According to, by the end of this year, Americans will have legally received 4.76 billion prescriptions. As those of you who faithfully read this column will know, I have expressed concern in the past about the relentless beatings that Americans endure daily from pharmaceutical companies in the form of advertisements on television, in magazines and on the Internet.

We’re shown a happy (probably not-so-happy) family taking some sort of catchy-named drug no one has ever heard of. We’re told to run to our doctor to find out if you need this drug that you probably don’t really need. It requires making an appointment and spending (wasting) time with a doctor, only to find out that you really don’t need the medication advertised. You may be told you need another medicine instead and now you’re off to the errands. You too can be part of the 4.76 Billion Club.

You would think that if we got rid of 3.5 tons of prescription drugs that we no longer needed, we might have ingested three or four times that amount. Assuming we threw away the few remaining pills in a bottle, it’s entirely possible that Vermonters were prescribed and consumed about 10 times as much medicine as they threw away. Wrap your head around this.

There is no data on how many tons of drugs Vermonters bought last year; how much we threw.

If we throw away 3.5 tons of drugs, then there’s an argument to be made that Li’l Ol’ Vermont, just like America, might be on the side of the addicts a bit.

Of course, there are many medications that work well in treating disease and play a positive role in the quality of life for many people. The other side of the coin is a pharmaceutical company like Purdue Pharma, run by the Sackler family. These are the wonderful people who not only brought opioids to us, but sold them out faster than buckets of water in a barn fire.

From NBC News: “WILLIAMSON, WV — The deadly reckoning in this struggling but proud West Virginia town breaks down like this: For more than a decade, two pharmacies just four blocks away dispensed some 20, 8 million prescription painkillers in a city of just 3,191 people.”

If you think Vermont has an impressive prescription drug return rate, one can only imagine how many tons they returned to West Virginia. Have you ever stopped to think that maybe a lifestyle change would be a better bet than popping a pill to fix your problem?

Spring is here. Change your diet. Go for a walk, then a longer walk tomorrow. Think about what you put in your body.

A few small changes and we may be able to reduce our recorded number to just 3.3 tonnes next year.

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Tags: Bob Stannard, National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, Purdue Pharma, War on Drugs


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