I live in the land of plenty: plenty of food, people, money and general wealth. I live in a country where it’s easy to turn a blind eye to the things you don’t want to see or choose not to see. I also live in a country where, in a population of about 320 million, as of last year, we dished out about 236 million opioid prescriptions. That’s over 70 percent of the population of this freaking country. And that’s just prescription pain medication. What about the people who are taking and eventually overdose on over the counter pain killers?
That’s just the amount of pain killers and opioid prescriptions, though. What about the actual dosage levels in the over-the-counter medications we take? I honestly never thought much about until I went to Australia and had to get prescription medication for my pertussis two years ago, and I started looking at dosage information. I was told that dosages are much lower in other countries than in the U.S. And, I was reminded of this when I ran into a colleague at our conference in Vegas this week who is originally from the Midwest but now lives in Sydney, Australia, and she complained endlessly about how “weak” the over-the-counter and antibiotic prescription medications she had there were, how they “did nothing” for her, and how every time she comes back to the States, she literally packs a huge empty suitcase to fill up with stronger over-the-counter medications, antibiotics and prescription pain medications (her sister is a doctor, so she can easily write whatever prescription she wants), and liquor (liquor is really expensive in Australia). She experiences frequent pain, has difficulty sleeping more than an hour or two at at time, and relies on these American levels of pain medication to keep her going.
She’s discussing this with me and two of our American colleagues who have never been to Australia before. They know nothing about healthcare outside of the U.S. I’m not criticizing them by saying that, but it’s true; before Chris, I didn’t know much about healthcare outside the U.S., either, other than in China, Hong Kong, and Vietnam, only because I’ve either visited or had family there who told me about what it’s like in those places. So, they are shocked and think Australia must be a crazy place to see a doctor or get any Rx filled. I painted a very different story of what I’ve experienced my time getting treatment there, as well as in New Zealand. I also made a joke about why we now have a national opioid crisis and literally tens of thousands of people are dying because of their addiction to pain medications. She didn’t seem to find it funny or get how that was relevant to what she was talking about.
At the end of the day, we all have our own opinions about what healthcare should be and what makes sense. But the numbers don’t lie: the U.S. sucks when it comes to healthcare, both cost, treatment, and preventive care. There’s a reason we have an opioid crisis. There’s a reason infant and new mother mortality is so high here across industrialized nations. There’s a reason we have a shorter life span than our industrialized nation counterparts. And it’s not because we’re better. It’s because we’re fucking worse.
So yes, I do like my colleagues overall a lot more here than I have anywhere I’ve ever worked. But I don’t think all of them are smart or have perspective or even see how flawed their arguments are. This one was down right neurotic and ignorant. You always think that traveling and especially living abroad would give you more perspective, but when you just take all your nationalism with you, doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose? If it’s so much better here, why doesn’t she just come back and live in the greatest country on earth with the greatest president on earth?