Substance abuse a Lifestyle choice or an Unwanted Addiction

Back in the last century up until the latter 1990 period illicit drug use could quite often be classified as a lifestyle choice. Many factors could have lead a person down the road from peer pressure, depression, tragic life changing events and the list would go on and on.

Note: Approx 70% related to drugs

Then in the USA we became a society and a people of the pill popping nation. For whatever ailed us a quick doctor’s appointment 10 minutes of our precious time and we were out the door with a prescription for our drug of choice to make all of our worries go away.

This also was a time when the practice of medicine was undergoing a profound change. Physicians were being taught to more aggressively treat their patients pain (this is thought to have started in regards to aggressive handling of a patients pain during various stages of cancer). So the physicians began to follow what they had been taught prescribe, treat acute and chronic pain, prescribe. Also during this time the pharmaceutical industry began to make drugs that were a godsend to those suffering from legitimate chronic pain issues. Autoimmune disorders became more prevalent and stronger drug treatment protocols were sorely needed for these.

Another issue prevalent today in medicine is that doctors believe they went to medical school to practice medicine. Monitoring patients prior to treatment, verifying that drugs were properly being taken and post treatment testing all fell to the wayside. Even though there are urine & blood tests which will give the medical practitioner a valuable insight into their patients use of a medication along with any illicit drug use these tests are rarely if ever performed.

To physicians this felt to them as though they were being asked to perform law enforcement duties which they still feel to this day. This is another component that has lead to a proliferation in prescription abuse within various drug classes. Newly created addicts, long-term addicts being able to continually get medications with ease has all lead and complimented the exponential growth and scope of this present day issue with alarming affects and growing post-mortems.

Having trouble sleeping there’s a pill, sore back here is another one and if your back still hurts here are some more pills, maybe take something stronger that might help.

Above some of the issues and thought processes of doctors are discussed, however there are also financial incentives as well. If the doctor fails to provide the drugs the patient will just go to another doctor who will, by doing the right thing the physician who refuses, tests or offers alternative therapies loses a paying patient, damned if they do damned if they don’t.

You go see the doctor for a few months during treatment they feel you are doing better and their prescription pad goes back inside their lab coat. However you still crave or feel you have a need for the drug so possibly you turn to other avenues to get what you feel you need or deserve. However your need keeps growing and now you need either stronger pills or more of them or both (rationality has left the equation by this time).

Then your home & professional life start to suffer as you spend more time and money seeking out your drug of choice and less time with your family, lies and dwindling bank accounts don’t help this situation they only make it worse. Friends begin to notice your erratic behavior and how you have become more unreliable as time passed, that is if you have already not cut-off communications already.

Possibly you sought help from a rehabilitation center only to have them give you another drug to help you, yet you only become addicted to that drug as well, rather then helping it was only stringing you along, quite often for years.

Rehabilitation centers do have their place and if you need help seek them out. Just do your research for your first attempt unless you are an IV (intravenous user, Injecting) ask about less addictive therapies. If you are only Orally (by mouth) abusing drugs there are other drugs besides Methadone or Suboxone. Ask about all the available drug therapies and their average duration, just don’t go blindly into a program and take whatever They decide not You. For many a less addictive alternative is Clonidine while it will not take away all of your withdrawal symptoms it will make them tolerable, the suggested treatment protocols are shorter and the addictive qualities Greatly reduced.

Picture this, you are a young professional with a family, children, house, great friends, nice car and all the trappings of a successful life. Then when driving home one day you are involved in a car accident and sustain a back injury. Seeing your personal physician the next day you were prescribed an Opioid drug for Acute pain, say Oxycontin.

Note: Oxycontin was only introduced in the United States during mid-1995 as of 2006 over 85% of the worldwide consumption of the drug occurred within this country, during 2006 sales totaled $2.5 billion dollars.

After seeing your doctor you began taking the pills to deal with your acute pain related to your accident. However during your doctor’s appointment the physician Never told you of the addictive qualities of this drug. You also did not notice the chemical changes that were occurring inside your brain, liver or circulatory system among others. Your heart/cardiac arrhythmias were unusual however they were infrequent so you were not that concerned with them at the time, maybe you become a little more irritable.

Because you were not made aware of the dangers of these drugs you felt no need to be overly concerned with your children gaining access to the drug they had always been trustworthy before and had always been exceptional children and now young teenagers. So into the medicine cabinet they went along with the aspirin and other over the counter medications found in every household.

As your life was getting somewhat back to normal things were looking up, soon you would be able to stop taking the medication as your symptoms of discomfort were apparently getting better. After around 4 months of being treated via a prescription medication, your family practitioner felt as though the medication was no longer needed and you felt better knowing that now you could get your life fully back on track. There had been a few bouts of diarrhea, your heart had maybe raced a few times and maybe you had on occasion been a little irritable with some sporadic insomnia.

During your entire treatment regimen with your physician no lab work was requested or taken for drugs. These could have been important diagnostic tools yet even certified pain management physicians often neglect to comprehensively treat their patients. The 10 minute doctor visits of today do not provide patients with good quality care, however this is how most medical practices operate.

Then the day after your last doctor appointment some problems began to come to the surface after you stopped taking the drug. For some reason your heart was racing a little more than you had previously experienced. You were feeling more agitated and a restless anxious feeling was coming over you. Something was telling you that you needed the drug again even though your back had healed up just fine. However as your doctor had not felt the need to educate you before prescribing the Powerful Opiate based drug Oxycontin you had no idea what was coming.

The withdrawal period for most people is around 3-5 days the problem is the overwhelming compounding symptoms make this feel as though it is much longer coupled with the psychological issues/cravings. After the initial withdrawals the psychological need can stay present for weeks or months.

The human brain is a wonderful organ and is still quite a mystery to mankind. Prior to your accident your brain had been producing and self-regulating the release of Endorphins within your body along with all it’s other duties. Endorphins have many automatic actions or jobs to do within the body and when in balance they are regulated by the brain which releases the needed quantities to the self regulating organism (you). However drugs can interfere with these processes in this case we are talking about Opioids or Opiates. They cause an excessive release of the pleasure hormone Dopamine in simplistic terms the drug takes over for the brain in this regard. One of your bodies important regulating systems has now been thrown out of whack or become imbalanced via addiction and you never saw it coming, nor were you warned. The drug has taken over this process or need your brain has one less duty to perform and you never saw it coming.

You now became more restless, your heart arrhythmias/racing became more frequent. As you try to sleep along with the insomnia being ever-present your legs have become restless, your mind is anxious and your having irrational thoughts coupled with possibly abnormal troubling dreams. Somehow your life has taken on a disturbing trend of some sort, adding to your growing list of problems is the nagging depression that is creeping into your psyche.

Not quite knowing what is going on your not feeling well, you didn’t take all of the medication the doctor gave you for your previous pain prescription. So you take one figuring what the hell it might help. While all of the feelings don’t go away they are substantially better now.

Perhaps you return to your doctor and tell them what has been going on upon hearing your plight they might recommend a Methadone treatment program to get you off of the drug in a rehabilitation setting, unless of course they are Certified in this medical specialty. At this point you may be extremely confused your doctor is telling you to take a drug to get off of another drug? Or maybe you might be told to Tuff-it-out the symptoms of withdrawal will only last a few days. These are our doctors we trust them wholeheartedly even though sometimes this is a misplaced trust.

Then you might be thinking Withdrawals, Nobody said anything about all this before they gave me this drug? You just feel the need to get things back to normal all of these undesirable symptoms are causing problems at home and work and you just wanted it to stop.

So the doctor may say tuff it out, oh and let me give you a tranquilizer to get you through the rough spots. Maybe a nice Benzodiazapine ( Clonzepam, Xanax, Valium) of course they may fail to tell you of the addictive & additive qualities of these drugs. This as well the issues that can occur with concomitant (multi-drug use) which can prove to be hazardous or even deadly.

Opioid & Benzodiazapine drugs are CNS depressants (Central Nervous System) as with opioids; tranquillizers, sleep-aids, anti-anxiety medications can slow down your respiratory system (breathing) for one thing. Put the two together and they may be more of a problem such as going to sleep after taking both medicines, your body stops breathing for you and you die. Note; this would most likely only occur with an Abusive patient who was abusing/over-taking the needed medications and possibly supplementing with alcohol or illicit drug medications, not a very good mixture.

It is Very Important to Note; that when drugs prescribed by a doctor are taken properly following the doctor’s direction you should not have any Issues. This piece deals with addiction, abuse problems & misuse, not those under a doctors care for short or long-term pain management.

So you tuff it out take your Xanax however you feel worse, your at work, nauseous, agitated, restless and you feel your heart racing inside your body. So living in the society we do with Instant Gratification ever-present in our minds you take another one of the left over pills you have with you, at work no less. Again your symptoms subside somewhat and you at least feel as though you can cope with the rest of the day.

However day turns to night you are at home and the feeling of withdrawals are coming on again. You didn’t feel like eating, your favorite television program is on and you do not even want to watch it, although you used to just love watching each and every episode.

So again you take some of your leftover prescription and your night becomes tolerable. Still the leftover pills that you have are becoming less and less you start to count them figuring how much longer will they last.

You remember a friend of yours who was prescribed the medication however they didn’t take it because they didn’t like the way it made them feel. Maybe tomorrow you will go visit them even if you had never done so before, they have what you want and until you get it they will become your best friend. Or even worse depending on the length of the addiction you might turn to the street and find yourself a drug dealer to fulfill your growing need.

Well you have now crossed the threshold from a patient needing a drug for pain into an addict needing the pain medication just to function. How could this have happened to you, your educated had never previously abused alcohol, drugs or anything else for that matter during your entire life. Just a few months ago everything was so great, now you were plotting how to get more of a drug for which you no longer had a medical need, only a psychological dependence.

Here you are 40 years of age with two teenage children and a loving spouse, both of you have excellent jobs, your children are fantastic, what else could someone ask for in life. How could this have gone so badly, you did everything you thought was right. You went to your trusted doctor they said you would heal up just fine and then gave you a prescription, how could this have gone so dreadfully wrong.

Monday comes along as you awake in the morning you feel horrible there is no way you could go to work feeling this way, so you called in sick.

However you weren’t so sick you couldn’t go visit your friend (instead of your doctor) who you knew had the drug you thought you needed. The two of you had never been close, there was the age difference and you really had never spent much time together.

Yet still you visited and made as much small talk as you possibly could that morning. You knew that if you asked her outright for drugs she would have refused and seen right through your plan. So after 20 minutes you asked to use the restroom where the medicine cabinet was located. Sure enough on the back of the middle shelf was a full bottle of the drug you were after. She wouldn’t miss it, so you took the entire bottle that should last you 3 weeks or so you though giving you enough time to slowly withdraw from the drug. So this is what you attempted to rationalize in your mind for your actions that fateful day.

After a little more small talk and a promise to get together more often you made your excuses to leave and were on your way out the door. After getting in the car you carefully removed your friends name from the prescription bottle and took two pills (previously you had only ever taken one at a time). Before making the ten minute drive home you would have to stop to pick up your daughter from school.

As you were driving home you didn’t even feel impaired, yet at an intersection an elderly gentleman for some reason felt the need to pull his car directly in front of your car. There was little you could do barely having time to hit the brakes before the collision. The accident while jarring could have been much worse you just received a few small cuts and some bruises, luckily your daughter secured in the back seat received no injuries whatsoever.

The ambulances arrived along with the police as the paramedics looked you over the officer looked around as well and noticed the pill bottle without the required identification attached. The police officer asked if the pills were yours to which you replied they were not and that you didn’t even know how they got there. As you needed stitches to close some wounds you had sustained the officer also asked the hospital to test you for the presence of drugs, he had in fact found drugs in your car so this was a reasonable request.

After waiting in the emergency room and finally getting treated while upset, things were looking better. The accident had not been your fault and you were trying to look on the bright side of this whole ordeal.

A few days later while you were still trying to figure out how to tackle your recently acquired addiction issue someone was knocking on your door.

As you opened the door there stood the police officer from a few days before. The blood test that was requested at the hospital had come back and you had tested positive for the presence of drugs. Also as the pill bottle had been found in your possession you were presumed to be in possession of a controlled substance (illegal narcotics).

The police officer also notified you that the elderly gentleman involved in the accident had died just that morning from injuries sustained in the accident. This had now grown from just an unpleasant experience into a nightmare with no escape.

The officer began to read you your Miranda rights as you were now being charged with Vehicular Manslaughter, DUI, Felony Possession of illegal Narcotics as well as Child Endangerment. Then you were placed in handcuffs as you began your entry into the judicial system. The charges were Very Serious and the reality of a lengthy prison sentence had become a real possibility.

While the story of our young mother is fictional it is not beyond belief that this could occur, it does. A woman in her early forties living the American dream, great husband, children, a fantastic job and a nice home in suburbia. Yet it could all be swept away, first drugs were prescribed for acute back pain as they probably should have, then addiction set-in and for brevity I sped up the time line. Does this happen in real life, many of the addicts of this country will tell you, yes it really does happen. Was she totally at fault, was she just a defective human being, NO. Opioids can and do Adversely Affect Brain Chemistry taking an innocent (never abused drugs in their life) person and for all intents and purposes take over their lives.

I have heard so many people say that drug addicts are just defective people, they brought their addiction upon themselves and they alone should suffer the consequences.

If it were this cut and dry it would be simple I believe that we should pay for our lifestyle choices, just like a convicted bank robber should pay for theirs.

However when the medical community fails the patient by not adequately monitoring their patients and doctors fail to educate their patients as well this becomes a very murky convoluted road indeed and simplistic snap-judgments just do not fall evenly into place. Also after the physician becomes aware of an addicted patient rapid concrete steps need to be taken to assist the patient in the withdrawal process. However this is quite often not the case and the patient spirals down the addiction rabbit-hole unsure of how they will land. This occurs with or without the all needed medical insurance coverage.

In the mind of a teenager Prescription medications are much safer than Illicit Street Drugs.

For teenagers these drugs of abuse are usually readily available in either their parents or a friends parents medicine cabinet. Some of these drugs are designed to be long acting, so a prescription drug when taken properly has a longer duration of action. However street-lore educates the young drug abuser rapidly they learn to crush and snort or inject the drug for a more potent effect. Unbelievable but true the manufacturers of these drugs even stated this on packaging materials (in regards to the crushing), so let the experimenting begin.

However again these drugs are CNS depressants and can slow respiration (breathing) along with other affects. A teenager abusing this type of drug with little or no tolerance can crush, then snort these drugs go to sleep and never awaken again. The brain normally would be able to successfully address this issue, noting that the oxygen concentration was getting low the brain would then fire the needed synapse (trigger) and the body would respond by increasing breathing activity or the body would begin to take deeper breaths. However the drug has the Nasty little affect of shutting down this autonomic (automatic) response and the patient can expire.

It is Imperative that parents keep these types of drugs or all drugs locked away or secured to keep their children or their visiting friends from finding them and possibly using them.

A teenager who experiments with prescription drugs has an exponentially higher probability of becoming an addict versus someone 21yrs of age or older does after they are prescribed one of these medications.

Some people have abusive tendencies built into their genetic make-up for self-medicating (drug or alcohol abuse). Teenagers are especially in danger because of the fact that their brains are not fully developed until around the age of 25 years when the area of the brain specifically the Pre-frontal Cortex has reached maturity. This area of the brain controls impulse-control, judgment, decision-making, planning, organization and is also involved in other functions like emotion yet until approximately 25 years of age the Pre-frontal Cortex is not fully developed/matured.

In our present age of single parent households teenagers have quite a bit of unsupervised time on their hands (latch-key-kids). They are known to be inquisitive some are rather adventurous and the teenage-invincibility argument is sometimes put forth. Their lives are going through profound changes during these early years and experimentation is around every corner. Street lore or somewhat knowledgeable yet dangerous friends can take a well balanced teenager and turn them down the wrong path which may lead to drug or alcohol abuse.

Parents, Grandparents, older Nieces, Nephews, Aunts & Uncles unguarded medicine cabinets can turn into drug wonderland.

Even the best and brightest of our children can become friends with troubled teens. Even as we trust our children (in regards to drugs this should not be the case) their troubled friend may ask to use the restroom with their only intent being finding the drugs that can be found within. Also after these troubled teens abuse the family medical cabinet they can then try to get your child to experiment with the very same drugs they did.

So this is a Cautionary tale not some wild fiction from a novel. Be open and honest with your physician if you are prescribed a medication take it properly and Destroy what you do not use (not by flushing it down the toilet). Keep your medications hidden or locked away so that only you or your caretaker knows where they are stored.

Remember Teenagers View Prescription Drugs as being Safer than Illicit Street Drugs

If after taking a prescription medication you fall into the Addiction Pool first ask the doctor who prescribed you the drugs for help. If that fails then Do Not Hesitate to get help from a doctor who will treat you. Drug addiction is nothing new to the medical profession and you should not have any trouble finding a doctor willing to treat you who will give you caring comprehensive medical treatment to return you to your pre-addiction status.

Even though your child is an angel what would be the harm in having a drug screen done on them with their yearly physical. It’s also a consideration to only give your child or teenager 24hrs notice if that much, of their impending physical so they cannot attempt to take counter-measures to produce negative results when they are in fact self-medicating.

From 6 to 60 drug addiction is a real possibility, getting a drug prescription under false pretenses and then selling (redirecting) the drugs might bring you some cash. However it might also get you placed in one of America’s prisons. Teenagers your young lives are difficult enough as is, adolescence comes with it’s own sets of problems. Try not to add drug abuse to your list of challenges.

For adults think about following or at least considering some of the ideas I’ve written about and to also consider being more compassionate to those who are suffering, remember not all of these people just woke up one day and said, “hey today I’m going to become an addict and throw my life away”.

Also remember that should you confront or a friend confides in you their problem.  You are way in over your head, get them some help from a medical professional. That is If and Only If they admit they have a problem and that they alone have decided they want to stop. No amount of money or well intentioned acts will work unless the patient decides they need Help.

Drugs prone to abuse; Cocaine, Heroin, Hydrocodone, Vicodin, Oxycodone, Oxycontin, Percoset, Percodan, Roxycotin, Soma, Benzodiazapines; Klonopin, Xanax, Valium,Tricyclic & MAO anti-depressants and the list goes on and on

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.


About Slowdecline's articles on current issues facing us today
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