The Slippery Slope From Injury to Addiction
It seems that every time I turn on the television or go online, I am seeing more about drug addiction, fentanyl and someone suffering an overdose. There is definitely an epidemic right now and people are dying. The thing is, no one seems to know what to do about it. Parents are throwing up their hands, bewildered by the problem and terrified their child is going to die.
It used to be that “drug addicts” were considered to be dangerous, criminals and the bottom feeders of society. We were taught to “just say no” to drugs and we would be safe. Drugs were bad. Good kids and good people didn’t do drugs.
That isn’t what people believe anymore. Now, anyone can be a drug addict. The drugs are more powerful and prescription drugs are highly addictive. A person can become addicted without really realizing it. It is common for someone to be recovering form surgery, get injured at work or playing sports, then go to the doctor and be prescribed a narcotic painkiller. Oxycodone, Oxycontin and Percocet are 3 common painkillers. They are all highly addictive, especially doctor prescribed. The person with the injury takes the pills as prescribed by the doctor. He feels better and is able to move through the pain. Unfortunately, the painkillers have altered the person’s brain chemistry and the brain has now found an easy way to produce happy chemicals. The brain remembers the easy way, and when the person tries to stop, the feelings, both physical and emotional, are so overwhelming and debilitating, he feels he needs to continue to use the medication to survive.
It becomes a very slippery slope and one that is covered in black ice. People are sliding before they even realize they are in trouble. What happens next is heartbreaking. The average “Joe” who was successful and had everything together is now addicted. The problem is he can’t get another prescription because he no longer has the injury. He turns to heroin or fentanyl because he can find it on the street. It is not something he wants to do, but he feels he has no choice. He needs to survive. Before long, he has lost everything because all he can do is use drugs. His addiction has robbed him of his life.
My “Oxy” Experience
I was prescribed oxycodone after hip replacement surgery. I was very clear with my doctor that I am a person in long-term recovery and was not really very comfortable taking “oxy.” He said I needed them because I had just had a very invasive surgery and if I didn’t take them, it would make my recovery much more difficult. I relented and was given a prescription of 100 pills. I felt this was excessive, but I figured he was the doctor and I needed to trust him.
Now, I am a person in long-term recovery that is hyper-aware of painkillers and how addictive they are. I worked in a treatment centre for a while and saw several clients who suffered from opioid addiction. I was very careful to check in with my support people and my friends regularly. I had my Mom on board with monitoring what I was taking and when. After about 3 weeks, I decided I didn’t like how I was feeling on the painkillers and I didn’t need them anymore. I stopped taking them cold turkey, and my Mom returned the rest of the prescription back to the pharmacy. There were still more than 20 pills left.
I have never experienced such withdrawal. I felt horrible, like I had a bad flu. My head felt scrambled. 2 days into my detox, I started to experience depression. I did not leave my house for another 3 weeks. It was the most oppressive and psychologically frightening process I had ever experienced. I felt like my thoughts were out to get me. I hated myself and couldn’t even look in the mirror. This is after 18 years of recovery and being highly educated in the addiction field.
I was able to walk through the process and come out the other side with my recovery intact and the gift of a better perspective of prescription painkillers and the trap of addiction. I now understand why it is so hard to kick these drugs. I understand why people become addicted without even knowing it and I understand why the face of addiction has changed so drastically. Even more important, I understand why parents are throwing up their hands, unable to comprehend how this happened or what to do. They didn’t even see it coming, but it has destroyed their child and their family.
Families Do Recover has a wealth of information available for families who don’t know what to do or where to go. Click here and you will receive my e-book “10 Survival Tips for Parents of Addicted Teens or Adult Children.” Please feel free to share the resources you find with other families in a similar situation.
is a Vancouver-based Addictions Specialist and Family Therapist with training and experience in numerous areas related to healing and recovery from the devastation of addiction & alcoholism.