This week Ruth Wishart writes about the campaign by a Helensburgh therapist to secure better help for people hooked on prescription drugs – and contemplates lessons to be learned on the issue from across the Atlantic.

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As a Scottish working group ponders the petition lodged by Helensburgh psychotherapist Marion Brown, asking for people hooked on prescription drugs to be able to access better help, and the Welsh Assembly has already published a report on the same issue, it’s instructive to look at the situation across the pond.

In the US the current crisis is not due to anti depressants so much as painkillers with addictive properties.

So called ‘opioids’ are now the leading cause of accidental deaths in the States, which means that more people die from their misuse than road and gun deaths combined.

READ MORE: Helensburgh campaigner takes medicine petition to Holyrood

What began life as a routine prescription for problems like back pain burgeoned into a full blown crisis as patients became so dependant that a black market in provision grew up with all the attendant criminal activity that generates.

Where once drug deaths were associated with already illegal substances such as heroin, here was a public health emergency hitting suburbia because of pills whose chemical make up had a loose connection with morphine.

These opioids were originally pushed by a major US drug company, who recruited family doctors to their cause by taking them off for sun-kissed holidays in places like Florida, complete with fancy hotels and goody bags.

READ MORE: MSPs to seek GPs' views on Helensburgh woman's drug campaign

They then hit their captive audience with promotional videos and texts whilst encouraging them to prescribe their new drugs.

The exercise made the company many billions before the connections were made and they belatedly fell foul of the law.

But the several hundred millions it was ultimately fined for malpractice was a drop in the kitty by comparison.

READ MORE: Helensburgh drug campaigner says government is 'slamming door in people's faces'

The UK situation on prescription drug dependency is not as dire, but organisations like the BMJ have issued warnings about the ease with which unsuspecting patients can become hooked, and how often busy GPs aren’t always aware how quickly that can happen.

Added to the fears that over prescription of antibiotics could lead to a situation where they become ineffective and unable to be utlilised for serious conditions, you can see that there is no cause for complacency on this side of the Atlantic.

Ironically this saga has also had a cultural backlash. A philanthropic family trust has been effectively blacklisted this week by a number of major UK arts institutions because their money was allegedly made by members from the same family on the back of these addictions.