Our country has turned medical doctors into legal drug dealers.
It costs our country between $560-$635million in annual costs.
If a patient becomes addicted to the prescriptions they prescribe for pain then they can switch their patient to an opiate blocker and still keep them as returning patients. Law enforcement tends to hesitate to investigate prescribing MD's for fear that patients who need them won't be able to get the help they need. Only 2 states do not monitor pharmaceutical sales (Wisconsin & New Hampshire). Physicians can now get previous pharmacy records through Federal government sites to help limit patients from "Doctor shopping."
Before starting to understand, confront or acknowledge prescription drug abuse ask these questions:
1- Is TOLERANCE increasing?
2- LISTEN to the reason for using the Pain killer. Are they coming up with new or more reasons to take a pill?
3-MONITOR ATTITUDE - Withdrawal comes with irritability but also increased cravings that heightens their determination to get more.
4- WATCH FOR CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR -
The good news is that there is treatment to get off of opiate based pain killers. The bad news is that the treatment requires ongoing drug testing, regular office visits and should include good counseling services to create a life that supports a drug free life.
I used to call the life of a hard drinking client a 'six block life' - as a client had shared with me that when he was busy drinking he lived, worked and drank in a 6 block radius of his home. He rarely ventured away from his apartment,employer, bank and bar. The beer distributor delivered to his home. When we reviewed how much he spent on alcohol and cigarettes over a 20 year period of time - it was over $100,000. That's just on a beer diet. Opiate users often spend $800-$3000 a month! Beware- pills are more than street heroin.
I call the life of an opiate user a 'Couch Life'. If you really talk and listen to an opiate abuser - they have created an entire life that consists of getting supply or using supply. If they don't get a regular supply they will lapse into withdrawal symptoms that are ugly - messy - painful and embarrassing. Unlike alcohol withdrawal death is not the danger - dehydration, choking on vomit, or falls from muscle spasms and weakness are. If an abuser can't get a supply - these symptoms begin about 12 hours after their last use.
What I am seeing is that their lives become completely strangled by being under the influence - getting the next supply -or fearing the beginning of withdrawal.
One thing that loved ones should know and understand about opiate addiction is that it can begin with simple physical addiction. You do not have to have a vulnerability, family history of addiction or want to 'escape' by using drugs to become addicted. The addiction is more physical first - than any other type of drug. This is why you are seeing non-typical people becoming out-of-control addicts.
It starts with a simple need to manage pain. I see it after sports injuries, car accidents, recreational injuries, oral surgeries, and outpatient procedures. Patients are given a prescription, often before the treatment, to deal with the expected pain. Sounds simple. Take for initial pain - wait until body heals - get back to work, school, life. . . what can happen too often is that you can become physically addicted- so on that day you're supposed to return to work - and your prescription ends - you're experiencing the beginning of physical withdrawal. Initially, you will have a runny nose, sweating more than usual, muscle aches, anxiety and trouble sleeping. These symptoms may get in the way of focusing at your job or school so you ask for either another round or for something to help. Often this stage is overlooked as having a 'flu' - to both the patient and those around them.
In less than 72 hours these symptoms get more significant and severe. The person without a renewed supply will now have symptoms that require them to stay home, in bed, in the bathroom and or in the shower. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, goose bumps and intense cravings begin. A person can 'survive' them - but the discomfort is remarkable and more often than not - the person will seek relief by finding more supply. This can go on for years.
The family or friends surrounding them either ignore it, support it or try their best to manage it. Many don't realize that the addict is in their most euphoric state when they look like they are sleepy - when they are actually 'nodding' under the veil of a drug induced high. The 'couch life' is because there now has to be constant -nonstop management of staying high. Addicts spend that 12 hours between 'fixes' to obtain their supply - whether it's 'road trips' to an urban area to a 'quick stop' location where users simply drive around a block 2x+ times and dealers make their drop right at their car. Many have female friends wait in the car while they go into a dealer's place - because cops are less likely to suspect drug using if a female is in the car. Some go as far as having a baby seat, child or dog along to act as decoys.
There are hundreds of ways an addict can secure the next fix. The easiest is to have not just one physician but several coordinated to provide multiple prescriptions of the various drugs popular to consume: Percoset®,Vicadin®, Oxycontin® . Some will obtain their supply through others who can get them through insurance and government covered prescription programs - that they exchange for cash. This is more often done by the 'working poor' and/or senior citizens who need cash to pay for heating and basics and have limited ways to increase their income. It's why the problem gets ignored or discussion avoided. It's a secret that families keep because there are real benefits.
More often than not the addict will 'befriend' someone they know who is already using them, has had a need for them and doesn't need them now or they check out 'stashes' in the medicine cabinets of others. Teens usually start in their own homes - then share them with peers. Pills and pocket change are probably the most 'stolen' items in a household - they're small - people rarely count them, most don't lock them up and more often than not - they are accessible.
Faking pain is easy - you can't tell at what level it is - so 'patients' can lie easily. Hospitals and their physicians are required by law to 'treat pain' - but if you don't have insurance they don't want to admit you if they don't have to - handing you a prescription of pain killers keeps you 'happy' and they followed the law. Now you just need to keep having 'injuries', 'accidents', 'procedures' or treatments that require ongoing pain management.
This can go on for years. The addict will become more dependent and tolerant. They will go to more risky levels to secure their fix. Many switch to heroin -finding it cheaper and actually 'easier' to secure. No appointments, co-pays, sitting in waiting rooms. Laws have required the manufacturers of most opiates to change formulation so that they don't give a 'buzz' if ground up and snorted so heroin is the replacement. Everyone who has come into my office after using heroin all started with the pill form first. It is the same thing. As I said in the beginning - opiate pain killers have made MD's 'legal' drug dealers.
Now what do you do to stop the insanity??
So hopefully this information helps - I see too much of this to stay quiet. It is blindsiding families, employers are seeing it and I just want everyone to know there is a way out! If you are in my area - contact me for an appointment today!