It may take longer for prescription drugs users to realize they have an addiction and seek treatment because they don’t think they are using “hard drugs.” This sentiment is expressed most recently by Eminem is his new documentary How to make Money Selling Drugs which is in theaters this week.
In the documentary Eminem goes into detail about his battle with prescription drug addiction and his path to recovery. He shows that his denial ran deep by recalling, “People tried to tell me that I had a problem. I would say …. ‘I’m not out there [bleeping] shooting heroin. I’m not out there putting coke up my nose. I’m not smoking crack.’”
At the height of his addiction Eminem was taking as many as 20 prescription pills a day. This amount is not uncommon for addicts who begin using recreationally and build up a tolerance and habit that results in full-blown addiction. Eminem says he started out by taking a Vicodin and expressing the sentiment most addicts experience he says, “I don’t know at what point exactly it started to be a problem. I just remember liking it more and more.” Eventually the enjoyment fades and using becomes more a necessity than a recreational experience.
Prescription pill addiction is becoming a national epidemic because many start out taking pills recreationally not realizing the addictive power of drugs like Xanax and OxyContin. They also justify using and remain in denial for an extended period of time because they think prescription drugs are not “illegal” drugs. In fact, according to the Partnership for a Drug Free America, there are 2,500 teens in the US who try prescription drugs to get high for the first time each day. Upon trying it, they are unaware of the addictive power or the fact that it is not legal. In many states, possession of just one pill without a prescription that is a controlled substance is a felony. In Florida, possession of pills with more than a weight of 4 grams is considered trafficking.
Unfortunately, many don’t seek prescription drug addiction treatment until they have faced major legal or health consequences. The incidents of accidental overdoses are high – in 2009 there were 8 drug overdose deaths per day on average in Florida. Prescriptions drugs were implicated in 76% of these deaths. Sometimes an overdose can occur even the first time someone uses a prescription drug or a drug cocktail which are especially dangerous. Eminem’s drug cocktail or mixture of Vicodin, Xanax and Valium that almost killed him. He says, “Had I got to the hospital about two hours later, I would have died. My organs were shutting down. My liver, kidneys, everything.”
Fortunately he survived and has been sharing his story ever since both through his album Recovery and his documentary now in theaters. Hopefully through shared experiences like Eminem’s, people refrain from recreationally trying prescription drugs at all – and those who have become addicted realize that prescription drug addiction is a grave as cocaine or heroin.
Here at Synergy Group Services we offer prescription drug addiction treatment in South Florida. If you or a loved one suffers from addiction to Xanax, OxyCodone, Vicodin or other prescription drugs, we can help – and as Eminem says in How to make Money Selling Drugs, “It does get better.”
The high rate of addiction to opiates has been a consistent problem in the state of Florida. Several attempts have been made to quell the high volume of people addicted to prescription opiate medications including changing how the drugs are formulated, cracking down on pain clinics and enacting new laws and policies for doctors and patients.
For example, since May 2011, there have been 3,390 prescription drug related arrests in the state, resulting in the seizure of 785,295 pharmaceutical pills and the arrest of 61 doctors and closure of 254 pain clinics. Also, the popularly abused opiate Opana was reformulated in 2012 so that addicts could no longer snort or crush the drug to inject. After long term abuse of opiates, oral ingestion of the drug no longer suffices and addicts seeks a faster, more intense high and resort to snorting or injecting the drug. The pharmaceutical company that created Opana reformulated it with the hope to cut down on its abuse and set the precedent for other opiate manufacturers to do the same.
However, last week TN health officials reported that Opana is the culprit of a rare blood-clotting problem for people who inject the drug despite its reformulation. When any new policy is enacted to entice change there are unintended consequences – this is clearly one of them. The blood clotting disorder is called thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), which causes clots to form in small blood vessels, which occurs in only about 1 in 100,000 people. However, in the state of TN alone, 15 cases were reported from August to October of 2012. Of the cases reported, all but one was related to IV injection of Opana. Fortunately none of the patients died but unfortunately the intention of remaking Opana so addicts couldn’t shoot it fell short.
One error in the good-intention idea to reformulate Opana was that it didn’t account for the fact that once addicted, there are few tactics that can scare or deter an addict. Once the line of addiction has been crossed, particularly with opiate drugs, nothing short of inpatient addiction treatment and being completely removed from the drug works. Changing its composition may have persuaded a few to ingest Opana rather than shoot it, but changing its composition isn’t a viable long-term solution – ultimately because the addict still has access to the drug. A long-term solution for most is complete abstinence from the drug and seeking addiction treatment for opiate addiction.