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RHETORICAL ANALYSIS

Rhetorical Analysis of Prescription Drug Overdose: A Review

The University of Texas at El Paso

RHETORICAL ANALYSIS

Prescription drug overdose is something that has been increasing and affecting our
population dramatically for the past 20 years. People do not seem to grasp how much safe
drugs are harming our society. In Prescription Drug Overdose: A Review by Leonard J.
Paulozzi, he compares illicit drug overdoses and prescription drug overdoses, stating that
prescription drug overdose is a widespread epidemic. He illustrates the death rates from
opioid analgesic, heroin, cocaine and he even classifies them by age groups, race/ethnicity,
and drug type. A rhetorical analysis kind of breaks something down to make it a bit easier
for one to understand using ethos, logos, and pathos. The author used ethos, logos, and
pathos to demonstrate to readers the many ways that prescription drug overdose has
become a widespread epidemic.
Leonard J. Paulozzi finds many way to use ethos to argue his case in all of the
research he has done. Ethos, or an ethical appeal, is the focus on ones self and how
he/she acknowledges his/her points of view. Paulozzis research backs all the way back to
1992 when Paulozzi started to look at different mortality rates. When he noticed that the
poisoning death rates have increases because of the increasing drug overdoses, he
concluded that drug overdose deaths now constitute 9 out of 10 poisoning deaths
(Paulozzi, Jones, Mack, & Rudd, 2011). Another thing is that, prescription drugs are much
easier to get ahold of than people might assume. Between users and nonusers of opioid
analgesics, the ones aged 12 or older were said to get them for free from friends or
relatives; few were purchased off the black market. Although, the friends or family
members they got them from, once came from a sole doctor. The author brings to mind
that drugs are technically laying all over the place as if open for invitation. Another ethical
appeal that Mr. Leonardo J. Paulozzi uses is that he found that prescription drug overdose
was more common in rural and minor urban communities which indicates his knowledge

RHETORICAL ANALYSIS

of the amounts of deaths from all sorts of different places. Of course, another main factor
would be the type of drug, which also determines the place of death. Paulozzi argues that
just over half of drug overdose deaths occur at home, roughly a quarter occur in a
medical facility, and about one in six occur in some other known location (Paulozzi, 2012)
suggesting that illicit drug overdoses may happen in a public area, with a higher chance of
getting medical treatment than someone that was to do it at home, possibly solitary. The
author could have perhaps further elaborated on how much he knew himself about the
environmental factors themselves.
This article by Mr. Paulozzi offers many logical appeals, or appeals made through
ones use of solid reasoning and appropriate evidence, including statistical and other types
of data, expert testimony, and illustrative examples. Drug poisoning mortality rate increase
came up in the first report in 1988 by the National Center for Health Statistics which
renowned that it increased 25% from 1985 to 1995 (Paulozzi, 2012). By stating this, the
author confirms that the National Center for Health Statistics has been researching this
over a long period of time. According to Paulozzi, Budnitz, & Xi, in 2006, national drug
poisoning rates have steadily increased since the year 1999 and also passed the motor
vehicle traffic crash mortality rates of 2008 and 2009. Logos is being used to present that
those who have medical conditions which those types of drugs are needed to treat them
are more likely to overdose on said prescription drugs. For example, 50-80% of people
dying of prescription opioid overdoses have a history of chronic pain (Lanier, 2012 and
Paulozzi et al., 2009). For suicidal overdoses, undetermined intent and unintentional fatal
overdoses are more likely to be seen in individuals between the ages 45-54. Age groups
are also a contribution to logical appeal because it would make more sense for a teenager
trying to have some fun or an elderly person using the drug wrong to overdose from it

RHETORICAL ANALYSIS

than a young child; although possible to get their hands on it. Though when it comes to
illicit drugs, like perhaps heroin, studies show that people who inject rather than sniff or
smoke the drug have a higher risk factor for overdose. Almost all prescription opioids can
be crushed for inhaling or dissolved for injection but most are taken orally in the course of
recreational use due to their good oral absorption. For example, according to Purdue
Pharma in 2008, among people reporting nonmedical use of OxyContin in the past
month, only 27% reported ever using a needle to inject any drug. The logical appeals are
eye-opening in a sense that shows how many people are affected by these harmful drugs.
Pathos has everything to do with emotional appeal; helping the reader to connect
with the argument to help them further accept it. Among users of illicit drugs, more men
than women die of overdoses (Paulozzi, Jones, et al., 2011) and are seen in EDs (Office of
Applied Studies Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2011). As
anyone would know, gender is always a factor in cases, even when it comes down to
regarding the use of drugs, and owning up to the negative sides. More men go into
substance abuse treatment and more men self-report illicit drug use (Substance Abuse
and Mental Health services Administration, 2011). Granting that women are more
prescribed these drugs that are easily abused, men are the ones that are more likely to selfreport any nonmedical use of the drug. Just like gender, race and ethnicity will always
contribute as well. Some races are less likely to be prescribed the drugs, including
controlled prescription drugs to begin with, and are less likely to admit to any pain reliever
nonmedical uses. The highest rates of nonmedical usage of pain relievers go to the
American Indians/Alaska Natives. Compared to overall street drugs like heroin or cocaine,
prescription drugs offer benefits to people consuming drugs for nonmedical purposes.
Prescribed drugs have been well thought out and researched when developed, to do

RHETORICAL ANALYSIS

certain things to ones body for specific things; unlike any drugs an individual might get
from someone off the street that could be mixed with who knows what. Among people
dying or prescription overdoses, half or more obtained one or more drugs without
prescription (Hall et al., 2008, Lanier, 2010 and Whitmire and Adams, 2010). By this,
Paulozzi is suggesting to the readers that not only the patients that are prescribed the
medication, but others without a prescription still have easy access to the drug. Most cases
one can find prescription drugs in someones restroom, kitchen, medicine cabinet, etc. The
authors use of pathos in this article brings to mind that anything can happen to anybody,
or in other words, not only people who are prescribed medication are the ones being
affected by the negative concerns.
There are multiple ways that one can show appeal to ethos, pathos, and logos,
other than through text. This article gives ten examples of visual appeals in the forms of
graphs and tables. Although, there is no way to accumulate an emotional appeal to
viewers by showing a graph/table, there is many ways it can show appeal to ethos and
logos. The graph/table itself is an ethical appeal, because it is showing how much the
writer understands about the subject manner of the graph. The types of graphs shown are
line graphs, or graphs showing how something changes over time connecting line points.
Given that the graph is a line graph, the logical appeal to the graph is to dramatically show
the difference, whether it be increasing or decreasing (depending on the graph ones
looking at) in numerical order. Therefore showing comparison is a logical appeal.
Paulozzis use of pathos was the most effective because it pushes the readers away
from the drug, in a sense scaring them about how harmful the safe drugs can actually be.
Logos was more effective than ethos in a sense that, logically with the way that teenagers
being experimental and the elder being a little more absent minded, it would only make

RHETORICAL ANALYSIS

sense that it would happen more to them, although that is not always the case. Leonard J.
Paulozzi has a lot of evidence to back up his argument suggesting that overdose involving
prescription drugs in the United States have reached epidemic proportions over the past 20
years, making it much easier for the readers to follow along, and come up with a better
opinion themselves on how they feel about the topic.

RHETORICAL ANALYSIS
Citation:
Paulozzi L. (2012). Prescription drug overdose: a review. Journal of safety research,
43(4), 283-289. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022437512000540