I wasn’t too surprised to read about widespread problems with the way prescription drugs were used (and likely abused) over the years by some members of the White House staff. A recent report (January 2024) from the Office of the Inspector General has confirmed it.
Per the report, easy access to a wide range of popular prescribed medications was available, courtesy of the White House medical and pharmaceutical operation. Drugs involved  include the ‘uppers’ and ‘downers’ well-known for their abuse potential.
It’s not a pretty story, especially in view of the fact that America was still in the grip of a serious prescription drug epidemic. You’d think responsible prescribers would have known better and taken direct action… oh never mind. If they had, I wouldn’t be writing this.
One of several articles on the investigation findings, this one from Rolling Stone:
The investigators examined the period between 2009 and 2018 and discovered that, though problems existed for some years, by far the worst of them occurred between 2017 and 2019 — during the Trump Administration. That’s apparently when the rules failed and things really broke loose.
The part that fascinated me most was about the ‘Go Bags’ full of prescription drugs that were provided to staffers before they set off on trips around the US and the world. These bags would typically contain Ambien, a sedative-hypnotic with effects similar to benzodiazepines, and Provigil, a CNS stimulant used to treat insomnia. The latter is popular among those eager for a so-called “smart drug” performance enhancer — something to help them be more productive, for a little while.
According to a witness, “…we would normally make these packets of Ambien and Provigil, and a lot of times they’d be in like five tablets in a zip‑lock bag. And so traditionally, too, we would hand these out.” No examination required, apparently. No prescription, either.
Those were just the controlled substances. Over-the-Counter meds were also readily available, sometimes left out in large bowls, so those in a hurry could simply grab a handful on their way out the door.
It sounds as if nobody in charge worried much about contraindications or side effects or possible adverse reactions with other medicines. To them, this kind of loosey-goosey behavior was standard practice. It reminded me of how trainers for some professional sports teams would set out a box of ‘greenies’ (amphetamines) for players who felt they needed a ‘boost’ before a game.
I find this mystifying. I know something about how healthcare professionals are trained to manage medications, and this isn’t it. Where were the physicians, the pharmacists? Somebody had to notice. But if they did, presumably they did nothing.
The fact is, someone did eventually complain, and that’s what led to the investigation. And now, to a raft of recommendations for increased oversight of the White House healthcare operation.
About time. Still, stories like this can’t be good for public confidence in our leadership. It makes everyone look bad.