There are not too many things I’d bet my life on. So, if you told me that “Danny” would some day become addicted to opiates, I’d have bet all I had. Just name an indicator of stability and this 29-year-old had it. Open, honest and direct are just a few.
It all started with an alcohol hangover. The medicine cabinet was open and on the way to the Tylenol, an old prescription sat. Hmm, Percocet was a pain reliever. Just what the doctor ordered. Poof, the pain was not only gone, but it was replaced by euphoria. Whoa, he thought, an instantaneous reversal of fortune. Just once can’t hurt.
As life would have it in the universal justice system, the trial was short and the error, well, the magnitude became painfully obvious. He recently described the withdrawal symptoms to me as “having the ache of the worst flu, times twenty”, with cramping, vomiting, sweating, etc. You’ve seen the movies.
The term opiate describes any of the narcotic alkaloids found in opium, as well as any derivatives of such alkaloids. On the street they are super plentiful. Danny almost instantaneously developed a habit of 25 pills daily with a $900-a-week habit. “It was literally the blink of an eye. I had no clue how quickly one hangover could lead to addiction. These things are as available as candy. What are doctors thinking when they prescribe these things?” As a behavioral health therapist, I called a friend and fellow professional.
Dr. Adam Koelsch is a local psychiatrist, who also treats opiate addiction. In a recent conversation, I asked him why these highly addictive opiates, including Vicodin, Oxycontin and oxycodone, are so readily prescribed.
It appears doctor’s choices are limited. Alternatives such as Cymbalta and Lyrica have side effects — dizziness, weight gain, insomnia and nausea. Ibuprofen and aspirin over time can irritate the stomach lining, with the possibility of eventual kidney damage.
Subsequent to our conversation, I wondered for nearly a nanosecond why the choices were limited. It was then that the big “duh” hit me. According to Theodore Dalrymple’s book, “Romancing Opiates: Pharmacological Lies and The Addiction Bureaucracy,” why would time, effort and millions of dollars go into research for non-addictive alternatives, when the aforementioned pain relievers are … ahem, addictive?
I won’t further damage your spiritual well-being with the exceptionally gross profits made maintaining the pharmaceutical status quo. It’s in the billions and yes, they’re heartless, soulless companies. I also wonder on which planet their children play?
Years ago, I had the distinct pleasure of conversing with actor Paul Newman subsequent to a race at Road America in Wisconsin. His son, Scott, died from drug abuse and his pain was scintillating as we spoke.
Parents, have you heard the term “pharming parties,” as in pharmacological? Mexico is a particularly cost-efficient place to purchase these opiates. The kids call them pharming runs.
There’s no doubt as to the epidemiological status of opiates in this country. Young adults, please learn to recreate with sanity. Trauma victims, please get help from a professional counselor or therapist; learn to cope appropriately. To all physicians, I ask for your consciousness in regard to opiate addiction. Please prescribe non-addictive meds when at all possible.
As for “Danny”, his substance abuse treatment includes medication management from Dr. Koelsch and psychotherapy from this therapist. He realizes how important a support system is, inclusive of 12-step meetings, particularly in the first year of recovery. When asked how he views his addiction, he recites an old mantra: “I’m really sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Opiates are indeed a deadly game of Russian roulette with a loaded revolver in addiction’s revolving door.
Excellent Op-Ed piece Sunday East Valley Tribune, 9/12/10.
As a behavioral health therapist, it appears that America has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Americans are in a state of chronic shock, and will be until we resolve and process our anger and hurt over 9/11. Unfortunately, we’re lashing out at each other, as your editorial points out.
Time will help, but so would finding Osama Bin Laden, dead or alive. Until then, we’ve got to forgive each other for transgressions, real or perceived. The perception we choose is the reality we get.
The world’s authentic spiritual leaders preach a serenity called forgiveness. Let’s try to remember that to everyone else, the neighbor we love is us and that today’s karma is tomorrow’s reality. It’s a prescription for PTSD. The prognosis? Guarded.
Originally published in the Mesa Tribune Sunday, October 25, 2009
Have you ever felt the sting of sexual harassment? I’ve always felt that as a society, we haven’t taken very good care of our little girls. In general terms, trauma creates fear; fear creates controlling behaviors from the traumatized, oftentimes resulting in a fear of intimacy, one of the leading causes of relational conflict and ultimately divorce. Long-term data consistently demonstrates the above from a wide spectrum of sociological and psychological sources.
Researchers from the University of Southern Maine showcased a study in the journal, “Sex Roles”, July2008, indicated an alarming statistic: 35% of 522 students aged 11 to 18 reported being sexually harassed. This is, however, not an entirely new phenomena. A1993 study entitled, “Hostile Hallways” surveyed 1,600 students, 8th through 11th grades, indicated 83% of these girls experienced sexual harassment. Research shows that the younger the child, the more impactful and traumatic the experience.
As a behavioral health provider and psychotherapist, I’m appalled at the sexual violence in our schools and that’s exactly what sexual harassment is. Nan Stein, research scientist and author would agree. “We have a lot of sexual violence going on in school and it’s happening at younger and younger ages”. As previously mentioned, the data is prolific.
Parents with daughters in elementary and high school know of these truths. Our educational institutions have a wide range of policy from the mindlessness of zero tolerance where the only lesson appears to be: don’t get caught, to more progressive approaches, inclusive of open, honest dialogue between students, parents and educators. We are, after all, there to teach and teaching appropriate boundaries is about respect, for self and others. Both educators and parents need to understand: there is no avoiding uncomfortable conversations. It is here that we must lead by example. There also are no excuses, including budgetary constraints and time limitations.
This dialogue is more than a teaching moment, it is verification of the love that must manifest itself in these crucial, primary relationships. We either take the time….or we don’t. Common sense, real world,inclusive choices must be made. We educate about the dangers of children around backyard swimming pools and the vigilance necessary. Repeated sexual harassment can lead to low self-esteem and eventually self loathing. How about “good touch, bad touch” and the security that defining and implementing appropriate sexual boundaries provides? As adults, we need to push ourselves past our own discomfort…and now. Daddy’s little girl deserves it.