The use of prescription drugs in a way that is prohibited is illegal and can be harmful to one’s health. The essay seeks to understand the prescription drug menace in the United States especially in learning institutions. The prescription drugs abuse has become widespread and this has caused a lot of concern for many since these prescription drugs are legally obtained from chemists. The drugs are seen as more dangerous than some other drugs such as marijuana since the prescription drugs are easily accessible. Through my ethnography, I discovered that, prescription substance abuse is prevalent in Georgetown University because the legality of the medications predisposes students to misuse them.
Wicked problems were introduced by Horst Rittel as a set of problems that are ill-formulated, where the information is confusing, a number of decision makers with conflicting values and where the effects of this are confusing (Burge and McCall, 2). Wicked problems theory is a theory that was developed in order to understand wicked problems and in contrast tame problems. Tame problems have been described as those problems which are straight forward with a single direct solution. Wicked problems are open-ended problems and controversial. Burge and McCall (3) provides characteristics that help in understanding the theory and concept of wicked problems. These set of characteristics will be used in the essay to portray how the current problem constitutes wicked problems.
Defining the Problem
The problem identified here is the abuse of prescription drugs by Georgetown University students. This observation was reached after undertaking research on the issue at the university which entailed looking at the behavior of students. This formed the basis for this study since the number of students abusing these drugs is rising exponentially. The method of study comprised of research done in this field and on three recordings from three students at the university. The recordings highlight the widespread use of prescription drugs not to treat diseases but in order to get high and have fun.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes prescription drug abuse as the use of such medication without a prescription, in a way other than prescribed for the experience and feelings elicited (NIDA, 3). Further, the study also found that the abuse of prescription drugs has been the leading cause of unintentional injuries deaths where the CDC now posits that they have superseded motor vehicle deaths. This is very telling as this can be explained for the rising numbers of prescription drug abuse related deaths. The study is therefore important in understanding the prevalent inappropriate and abuse of prescription drugs. The essay must however show how prescription drug abuse is a wicked problem.
Characteristics of A Wicked Problem
Wicked problems were described as problems with no discernible formulation where formulation means that the information provided is confusing (Burge and McCall, 4). There are several characteristics that help to identify a wicked problem. First, there is no definitive formulation of the problem as has been noted a wicked problem will have information that is easily and clearly understood. Second, wicked problems have no stopping rule. This means that one cannot say exactly when a problem has been resolved. In the present case, one may not understand when a problem is resolved. If it is when a person decided to stop abusing the prescription drugs and then started using again, then that is not the stopping point. Third, solutions to wicked problems are not true-false but good-bad. This means that there are no factual questions in a wicked problem only good and bad. The abuse of prescription drugs is a matter of whether good or bad.
Fourth, there is no immediate or ultimate test of a solution. This is explained to mean that even if a solution is provided the consequences of that solution will be far-reaching. For instance, a solution to this problem may be to stop abusing these drugs. This may have effects such as future health problems that may not be measured. Fifth, every wicked problem is a symptom of another wicked problem. This current problem may be a symptom of another wicked problem or another wicked problem caused the current wicked problem. Lastly, the existence of a discrepancy representing a wicked problem can be explained in numerous ways. Many people have different reasons for why they do the things they do. For example, the recordings show that the three participants do not agree universally on the reason for the wicked problem. These characteristics fall in line with the current wicked problem which shows the topic’s relevance as a wicked problem.
Studies show that there are a number of ways in which students get the prescription drugs. Generally, prescription drugs can only be given by a doctor or indirectly by a chemist with instructions from a doctor (Kirschner et al., 3). This is the primary ways that students and indeed everyone else acquire these drugs. Furthermore, there are other secondary ways of attaining these drugs and one of them is from friends, students often state that they get these drugs from friends. Additionally, another way of acquiring these drugs is through family members. Since these are prescription drugs, it stands to reason that people will legally have them. Most people who may be prescribed these drugs include the elderly, who often suffer from a myriad of illness. They may also be prescribed for excessive pain such as after an accident. Another way that was identified was by lying to a physician that one is sick in order to get the drugs.
From the recordings, the participants stated that they acquired these drugs either through misrepresenting themselves to a doctor or getting them from family members. The ease of access to these drugs and the fact that it is not illegal to have these drugs makes them more preferable to many students than the illegal illicit drugs such as heroine. The problem also comes in when people do not have reliable information. Participant number one does not think the prescription medication is a drug. This may be one of the reasons that made her start abusing the drugs. Many fear the class A and class B drugs such as cocaine and marijuana and may not want to try however, many think that since these prescription drugs are found in hospitals then they are safe to use inappropriately. This is a misconception that can cost a life because these drugs are just as dangerous. Morphine, for instance, is sometimes prescribed for patients with severe pain. A slight overdose of morphine will without a doubt kill. This is similar to taking cocaine excessively, it only takes a single overdose for death to occur.
Students stated that they take the prescription drugs for a variety of reasons. One of the main reason given by the participants was to help them relax and understand what they are taught in class. There is another misconception that makes many think that use of drugs will help with one’s understanding. In fact, many drugs both prescription and hard drugs often cause short-term memory loss. This means that one does not get cleverer for using these drugs instead it is an act of harm that they undertake.
In conclusion, prescription drug abuse is a prevalent behavior among young students mostly and more so college and university students. Prescription drug abuse has been identified as a wicked problem and a number of characteristics have shown why prescription drug abuse has been described as wicked problems. Prescription drug abuse is a leading cause of unintentional injuries deaths whereby it has surpassed motor while accidents. This is telling and a lot needs to be done in terms of policy change to reverse this dangerous trend.
Burge, Janet and Raymond McCall. Diagnosing Wicked Problems. Design Computing and Cognition, 2014.
Kirschner, Neil, Ginsburg, Jack Snyder, Lois. Prescription Drug Abuse. American College of Physicians, 2013.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. Prescription Drug Abuse. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2012.
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