Japan must take measures to prevent spread of drug addiction, overdoses

A growing number of young people and others are becoming addicted, taking large quantities of over-the-counter and other readily available drugs to escape their problems. There is an urgent need to raise awareness of the dangers of overdosing and take measures to stop drug abuse.

A high school girl in Kyoto was brought to an apartment in Shiga Prefecture by a man and a woman whom the girl had become acquainted with through social media and died there of drug intoxication. The three were said to have gotten together for the purpose of taking drugs, and empty packages for 100 pills, including sleeping pills and cough suppressants, were found in the room.

The term “overdose” is used in Japan to mean taking excessive amounts of drugs to escape from mental anguish and experience euphoria. In a survey of drugs used by addicts in the 10-19 age group, the percentage of stimulants and marijuana has decreased in recent years, while the percentage of over-the-counter drugs has increased significantly.

One likely reason behind this is that they can easily be obtained at drug stores or online. On social media, there is an overabundance of photos showing large quantities of pills, such as cough suppressants and cold medications, and stories talking about drug experiences, which in a certain respect is inducing people to become addicts.

Ingesting large amounts of over-the-counter medications can be life-threatening, with people losing consciousness and suffering acute poisoning. In places such as schools, it is important to warn young people and others of the dangers of a drug overdose.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry requests that when stores sell over-the-counter drugs that are susceptible to abuse, they should allow the purchase of only one box per person and check the names and ages of people such as high school students. However, there is no end to people who use fake names or go to multiple stores to purchase medicine.

Pharmacies that sell drugs susceptible to abuse should ask the purchasers about their symptoms and pay attention to see if there is anything suspicious.

Many people who are dependent on readily available drugs are said to be troubled by their relationships with others or have family issues, but are unable to talk to anyone about it. It is essential to establish a support system for addicts and an environment in which they can easily consult with others so that they do not have to depend on drugs.

Social media is filled with photos of and news about people who appear to be happy. In comparison, some people may feel unhappy about their own situation, even though everyone has their own problems.

Isn’t society’s attitude that “we have to keep shining” making people who are troubled suffer even more?

Overdosing on drugs is already a social problem in the United States, with more than 100,000 deaths in the 12 months through April this year. U.S. President Joe Biden has announced the expansion of steps including prevention and treatment.

It is time for Japan to also take serious measures to prevent the further spread of drug addiction.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Dec. 21, 2021.