There are times when I stumble upon things that have been under my nose for months or years and of course never noticed. It can be an occurrence or a modus operandi that causes me to shake my head. Sometimes in disbelief. Sometimes in disgust. Just part of everyday life and I missed it.
I had to go to the dentist upon my return from London. A week long toothache forced me into it. I thought I was Superman. Not to go into detail but it was a problem to be addressed and not in one sitting. The dentist prescribed an antibiotic and some painkillers….Vicodin by name. I really never gave it a thought.
By sheer happenstance there was a vignette on PBS that evening of a young man who had been a rising gymnastic star in the 90’s. A severe injury required surgery and you guessed it, Vicodin was prescribed. This wasn’t some nee’r do well loser but a highly dedicated and accomplished athlete. He got hooked and rehabbed on three separate occasions.He has now been clean for two years.I ripped up my scrip and put my investigative hat on.
This has been described to some degree as a heroin problem. A bit of a misnomer as the epidemic had its start in opiods. For whatever reason people were given pain killers but not for a couple of days but in some cases years. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, moms, dads and their kids. When they either ran out or the pharma supply became too expensive people turned to heroin as a more affordable option.
The causes are multiple. Yes, as in alcohol or other related addictions there are genes passed on in about 40% of the cases. To the rest it is an acquired taste. Got to be hip, got to be cool, man. In all of these areas dopamine is enervated and it feels good. The reality of pain is present but so is the euphoric state one gets in and it sure beats reality for a lot of people.
This is a relatively new phenomenon. In the late 80’s to early 90’s the wunderkinds of the world starting coming out with some impressive arrays of drugs to handle a lot of things. Cancer, high blood pressure, and of course pain. For some unknown reason back problems, neck pain, arthritis, headaches became more prevalent or at least more obvious. This was also the time the drug companies were allowed to advertise directly to the consumer via print or electronic media. If you had an ailment they had a solution for you and wanted you to ask for it by name. No, as a matter of fact you should demand it. And people did by the carload.
At first the doctors weren’t so much complicit as obedient. I have got a lot of pain and you owe it to me to prescribe or I will go elsewhere. What is a guy or gal to do? The multiplicity of regimens and specialties compounded the problem because no one knew how all these things would affect someone if taken in unison? The companies paid for studies and for testimonials. In essence we got more and more hooked. Some of it undoubtedly was an improvement in symptoms and quality of life. But some of it was downright abuse.
There were alternative forms of pain management from physical therapy to meditation. Wonderful ideas but time consuming. It is so much easier to take out pad and pencil. Besides we have been indoctrinated, and willingly by the way, that we can take a pill for whatever ails us. It is the proverbial three legged stool of patient, doctor and drug company.
I am not the Women’s Christian Temperance Union nor am I without sin as it relates to an occasional alcoholic beverage. But after working on Wall Street et alia I watch it like a hawk. How would I handle a la la cocktail? I have no idea but I am not about to roll the dice to find out. Do I want to accuse my fellow man out of disdain? Not really, but when I see the cost to us as a society I have to sit up and take notice.
The outcomes are staggering. There are 12 recovery centers in Manchester, NH where the TV show originated. The woman director who was recovering herself said the wait lists were endless. If she put in 20 more centers there would still be backups. These aren’t only the big cities but small to medium sized America. I hear of a heroin problem and I think Detroit or Chicago. Not Greeley, CO or a small hamlet in Maine.
In 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for pain killers in the US. We are 5% of the world’s population and yet we use almost 90% of most name brand opiods. The chain starts with the doctors but amazingly 70% of the time ill gotten goods are provided by family and friends who get them written by their local GP’s. They either got their own doc to prescribe or the infamous “pill mills” that have really had made their name in Florida.
We can call them victims of a progressive society and its ability to come up with incredible products without real knowledge of long term consequences. We can cite the greedy docs and pharma who will always figure out a way to turn a buck. Or we can look at ourselves as being dismissive or all of the above. Name your poison The problem is not going to go away and in the long run it is you and I that will pay for the remedies. You don’t have to be naive or stupid to figure that one out.
Ted The Great
Fully 52 million of our fellow citizens have participated in recreational prescription drug use. Last year there were over 25,000 deaths attributed to prescription drug overdose.
The US and New Zealand are the only two countries in the developed world who publicly advertise pharmaceuticals.
Opioid Addiction Disease Basics
Opioids are any of various compounds that bind to specific receptors in the central nervous system and have analgesic (pain relieving) effects including prescription medications such as oxycodone and hydrocodone and illicit substances such as heroin
Opiod addiction is federally described as a progressive, treatable brain disease
Any type of opioid can trigger latent chronic addiction brain disease
Opioid addiction disease occurs in every American State, County, socio-economic and ethnic group
Over 100 Americans died from overdose deaths each day in 2013
Drug overdose was the leading cause of injury death in 2013, greater than car accidents and homicide
About 8,200 Americans die annually from heroin overdoses
About 75% of opioid addiction disease patients switch to heroin as a cheaper opioid source
Adolescents(12to17yearsold) Every day, 2,500 American youth abuse a prescription pain reliever for the first time
Nearly 1 in 20 high school seniors has taken Vicodin, 1 in 30 has abused OxyContin
Over 50% of individuals 12 years or older used pain relievers nonmedically from a friend or relative
The number of opioids prescribed to adolescents and young adults (ages 15 to 29) nearly doubled between 1994 and 2004
In 2010, more than 6,600 women died from prescription painkiller overdoses (18 each day)Every three minutes, a women goes to the emergency department for prescription painkiller misuse