Prescription Drug Addiction

Several recent tragedies have occurred in our community. A death due to prescription drug addiction and overdose, other recent prescription drug overdoses resulting in hospitalization, one a probable suicide attempt, one resulting in brain damage, and several non-fatal overdoses are affecting many lives. Countless other drug users are walking around and driving, on the same roads as you and I, stoned, loaded on their legal drugs. The disease of drug addiction (alcoholism is just alcohol addiction) is treatable. The excruciating pain to the family, as well as to the addict himself, that results from the consequences of addiction can be resolved.

To understand this problem of prescription drug abuse, let's look at an analogy from the physical. If you have an injured wrist or ankle, go to your doctor and get a script for narcotic pain relievers, the pain will be reduced, even though the fracture, sprain or dislocation itself is not treated. If you continue to take the narcotics, continuing to use your ankle or wrist, you will need ongoing medication. The injury continues to hurt, less so when you are using higher doses of narcotics, but the underlying problem is never diagnosed or treated. You keep taking, indefinitely, a medication that is not helping to treat the injury.

Your doctor has made a mistake. He has not diagnosed the injury and treated it properly...he is just helping you cover up the pain with drugs. If the injured joint is properly treated with immobilization, surgery if needed, it will have the opportunity to heal, eliminating the need for ongoing pain relievers. This is one of many medical conditions made worse by inappropriate treatment.

If your doctor gives you "pain-killers" for your emotional pain, not diagnosing the underlying fracture, dislocation, or other injury to your emotional and spiritual health, he is making a mistake. Taking ongoing narcotic or sedative-hypnotic medication is not the treatment for alcoholism and drug addiction any more than it is for an untreated bone or joint injury. Conversely, abstinence from mind altering drugs allows the opportunity to feel, to deal with the underlying emotional and spiritual injury that makes you think you need medication, and to heal. To be clear, I am not talking about antidepressants, antibiotics, or ibuprofen. None of them cause a "high" or effectively cover emotional pain, nor do they bring much money on the streets. (If any prescribers have read this far, congratulations; I trust you agree. Remember that street value is one way to tell how much of a "high" your scripts provide. For example, Oxycontin currently goes for $1 per mg. on the streets in some places and antidepressants don't sell at all).

Readers, the prescribing habits of your doctor, or non-doctor, will not change, not due to this article, not due to law suits against him, not due to deaths from his patient overdosing on drugs prescribed by him. If you want to get off of drugs, or get sober from alcohol and not switch to alcohol in pill form (Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Klonopin, etc.), you get to do it in spite of your (well meaning but tragically misinformed) physician. Wean yourself from your dependence on him or her. Find people who know how to not use drugs, ask them how they do it and ask them to help you. Check out recovery groups!

You do not have to participate in the philosophy that "you can live a normal life on medication as soon as you get off of these drugs!"

If you want mind-altering prescription drugs, to get high, to maintain an addiction, or to sell, you and I both know you can get them from many prescribers. You know the stories to report, the pain to feign, and the easiest doctors. If you want to get clean and sober instead, you can do that. It is up to you.

Several non-medical people have asked me why doctors prescribe so many addictive drugs. The quizzical looks on the faces of non drug users is profound. They don't understand why a doctor would give repeated, ongoing, large doses of drugs that are used primarily to get high or to maintain a drug habit. Office and hospital staff roll their eyes when talking about the over-prescribing they see every day from their own physician employers and other providers they work with in hospital settings. Why would a doctor, or non-doctor who has license to prescribe controlled substances, prescribe substances that do so much harm? Good question! Since doctors are generally very well meaning, the answer is usually that they do not know that they are doing harm and perpetuating addiction. And they don't know what else to do.

Xanax deficiency is not a disease. Oxycontin, Percocet, and other narcotics are equivalent to synthetic Heroin. Every Heroin addict I know will use prescription narcotics, usually cooked up and injected, to maintain his habit if he cannot get Heroin. Klonopin and other Benzodiazepines are alcohol in pill form. Every alcoholic I know can stop drinking alcohol when taking Ativan, Xanax, or equivalent...eating his alcohol. We know this now. We know that prescribing ongoing mind-altering drugs perpetuates addiction. The problem is that not all doctors know this; or if they do, they do not know how to help you acknowledge you have a problem and where to refer you for help.

If you or someone you know wants help, contact Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, or another support group in your area, or find an inpatient treatment center. If you are unable to find useful information, contact me through my website or email below. Do it now while you are thinking about it and before you die from this treatable disease.



Excerpts from Mission Possible:

"...My emotional safety is also my responsibility. Refusing to engage in a potentially destructive conversation or relationship, defending myself when verbally attacked, letting go of people with whom I can have nothing positive, and choosing healthy people as my friends, are all part of my self care."

 

 

Dr. Dawn Obrecht is the only MD addiction medicine specialist on the western slope of Colorado. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and her office is in Steamboat Springs. She teaches a communication course to medical students at the University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver info@docdawn.com.


 

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