So, you see a lot of articles and television stuff about the “opioid crisis” in America lately. This is a real, serious epidemic here. Let me rant on a bit here and give you some of the scoop from inside an opioid addict’s life and mind…bear with me, this may be a bit harsh to some, and I also offer up a trigger warning – some of this is very graphic.
Let me dispel some basic myths first. No one “wants” to be an opioid addict. It happens for various reasons. I have seen the gamut of people addicted to heroin and prescription opiates. From high-school aged kids – both from up-scale homes and street raised – to doctors, lawyers and pharmacists themselves. I know addicts in every kind of job and walk of life. The addiction doe NOT discriminate at all. YOU can easily fall victim to this powerful drug epidemic. Break your leg, they will prescribe you oxycodone, probably 15mg tablets, 4-6 times a day…take those for 4-5 days and POOF you ARE addicted to them and when you stop taking them you WILL experience withdrawals, irritability, nausera, and depression – stay on them long enough and those things will all occur at once, sending you into a desperate need and search for something to stop that pain and agony you are going though. You either get a new prescription, a refill, or you “borrow” some from your neighbor, sister, brother, other relatives, or kids. Everyone seems to have them nowadays.
Not only do opioid drugs like oxycodone or heroin, morphince, methadone and Vicodin help to block pain in the body, they also induce a euphoric state; a feeling of well being and they boost your energy. Doesn’t that sound like something we ALL would like to have? Wouldn’t you like to simply pop a little blue pill and have your day go 100% better, have lots of energy, have a nice warm feeling in your body and feel at peace? THAT is what opioids do, they enhance the sense of well-being, feeling good, and energy and those become feelings that you need every day. I’m sure there is a chemical thing that happens in the brain that causes all of this, I am not a medical professional – I am an addict – and thus I can only give you a very personal view and personal first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to BE an addict; how I got here and how it entwines with my life.
As I was saying, anyone – YOU – can become an addict in a short few days. Prescription opiates (pain killers) are the gateway to addiction. It’s a double bladed sword, we need something to relieve pain when necessary. Suffering with severe physical pain is never a good thing for anyone. Some pain, such as that associated with cancers eating away at a body, must be combatted with prescription opiate pain killers. I would never want someone who is going through that kind of intense pain to NOT have what they need just because a doctor is worried about addiction. Addiction at that point is mute.
When one goes from a prescription pain killer addiction to street drug addiction it is always for one reason – they were cut off; denied further prescription medication. THIS is the part that the medical community needs to really, seriously deal with . When you develop this addiction by “accident” because you are put on prescription opiates they need to EDUCATE the patient – YOU – about several things.
- #1. The chance is VERY good that you will develop both a physical and mental addiction to the “feel good” pain killers.
- #2 You cannot just STOP taking them without going through what can be severe withdrawals, like vomiting, the shits, shakes, yawns, sneezes, watery eyes, irritability, depressiona and yes, sometimes even suicidal thoughts.
- #3 Over time you will require higher and higher doses (usually in milligrams, mgs) to achieve that same pain relieving, feel good feeling.
- #4 Never mix opiates with benzos…cocktail for death…Google it. This can also cause some weirdness and has frequently lead to suicide in many patients. Same goes for mixing these powerful opiate drugs with alcohol, cocaine and methamphetamines. Always consult your doctor – or google if you are a street user – for information. Even better, don’t be stupid and mix ANYTHING with your prescription pain killers just to be on the super safe side.
- #5 When it’s time to stop the pain killer you need to talk to your doctor AT LENGTH about HOW you are going to do that without going off the deep end, or seeking them (or substitute drugs) outside of medical care. i.e. on the streets. You should develop a “plan” to taper down your dose slowly over a couple of weeks until you can stop without going into withdrawals, without having the DTs and without having serious “cravings” for the drug.
Addiction is serious. It’s easy as pie to become an addict too. As I have explained above it can happen in a snap with the simple injury that requires opioid pain relief.
Not all addicts entered the world of addiction via this prescription route. Some started directly with street drugs, heroin, fentanyl, dilaudids, morphine, or opium. They (we) start this way for other reasons. But generally there IS pain involved – it might just be emotional pain one is trying to mask with the use of the drugs, it might be the remnants of a traumatic incident or situation in their (our) lives. There are many reasons, each addict of this kind has their own.
My story: As a kid I started to “dabble” in illegal substance abuse at an early age – 14. I was emotionally disturbed, hiding my sexuality and identity all the time and under stress from doing that. Doing recreational drugs with people I saw as “friends” at the time was an escape for me. It made me feel good about myself and took the “pain” away for a little while. I messed with a wide range of substances, pot, LSD, mushrooms, PCP, cocaine and prescription (illegally gotten) stuff like Vicodin and Percocet.
To keep it brief here, I stopped for a number of years. But I was still an addict in my mind. I still had the cravings, still had the inclination to “slip” although I did not for many years – 18 all told.
Then I fell into the prescription drug rats nest. I had degenerative disc disease in my back, herniated discs in my cervical spine and lower back as well. I have neuropathy (a pain and tingling feeling in arms and legs) and I was miserable.
A doctor in Boston one day handed me a prescription for Oxycodone, 30mg tables (magic blue pills) and said, I quote, “They make these for a reason, you are the reason…you shouldn ‘t be in pain, these will help. Let me know when you need more.” unquote. On that day I became a prescription opiate addict. Those little blue pills helped me a LOT. But not only did they mask all of the pain, they gave me a feeling of elation, lots of energy and took away my depression. I thought they were gold. And for the next several years – about 7 in all I guess – I got refill after refill, legally. AND he added Morphine 30mg, 3x a day tablets (long acting contin) to my regimen. My pain was under control. But what I did not realize at the time was that I was becoming a serious prescription drug addict.
In my mind I was a recovered addict. I quit the “drugs” I had been doing recreationally years prior, so I didn’t have a problem anymore — or at least so I thought. And I was living a pretty “vanilla” lifestyle with my wife on the farm during those years, so I definitely wasn’t an “addict” again. Hell, I had a legal doctor’s prescription for the magic pills. AND I had NO idea that I was actually part of the beginning of a huge epidemic in this country. Yes, it was a rather naïve time in my life.
The story is one I know many can relate to. As time went on I required more and more of the pills, higher doses. My doctor happily obliged and upped my dosage so I wouldn’t run out of pills. Everything was going along swimmingly. I was working, living and having a good life.
My life changed one day. My marriage ended. My friends were gone (with the ex). And I found myself alone. I struggled a bit. I ran into “old friends” from my younger days. Some were not so good of influences on me. One showed me that the magic pills (oxycodone 30’s) were great to “get high” on. You could crush them and shoot them intravenously. Somehow, at the time, my mind thought this was just a novel idea! And thus began my “abuse” of my prescription drugs.
This lasted to the end of the 7th year on them. Then, I changed doctors. The new doctor wrote me for a while…then she got suspicious that I was abusing them and started to cut me back, told me I needed to wean off of them and find new ways to deal with the pain. I worked on this, I did inter-skeletal injections, in my back, in my neck, and in my shoulders. I continued to get the oxy’s for quite a while, just fewer of them, and by this time my “friends” were always around begging to buy them off of me, too.
I ended up at he Pine Care clinic. Another name for legal prescription drug abuse in my opinion now. They continued with the morphine 30’s and Oxy 15’s (yup down to 15s!) and I did that tight-rope walk for a while. They would only give a 1 week supply at a time. My “habit” – the amount I NEEDED to not be sick with withdrawals – was MORE than they were prescribing. So I began also buying the thru other channels. You can get anything you want if you know the right people and have the money. I did that for a while…then the Pain Care clinic cut me off – COLD. NO taper, NO weaning off, NO help whatsoever. It was sheer, utter HELL for me.
That is when I took my addiction back to the illegal substance market. I swapped out the oxycodone and morphine for heroin and fentanyl.
I tell you all of this to give you a personal chronology into the making of an opiate addict. I just want people to be aware that ANYONE can be an addict. This shit doesn’t care WHO you are, how much money you make, what kind of high powered job you have, who your parents are, or what your “social standing ” is in the world. It will sneak up on you and bury your ass.
Today I am in recovery once again. I no longer use any of the prescription or illegal substances. No oxys, no herion, no fentanyl – and no other recreational or illegal drugs. I am in group therapy weekly and on Suboxone strips daily. Suboxone is a maintenance medicine that blocks the effects of opiate drugs in my system and helps control my cravings / urges. Its’ working very well for me. How long I will have to take it I do not know. Could be 2 years, could be longer.
One day I will be free of all of it. THAT I know. In the meantime, I am here, I am fighting the good fight and I am winning. I made it this far for a reason, as to what that reason is remains to be seen.
I hope you got something from this. Even if it was just a little better understanding that addiction is a disease that some of us have to battle for whatever reason. We’re not “bad” people. We’re not “criminals” just because we use. We are your family, your neighbors, your grocer, the guy at the gas station, your lawyer…maybe even you.
Be kind to one another, because you never know what another person is dealing with behind the scenes.
Peace & Love. ~MainelyButch aka Ang