Say the word “addict” and what comes to mind? Homeless beggars with brown bags? Or graffiti covered crack houses, littered with dirty needles and burnt spoons? Or maybe lonely people spending night after night pounding back shots at the local bar?
What if I said it looked like me? A healthy 27 year old that holds a full time job, raises a soon to be 3 year old, has her own car and home? I have no track marks on my body, my teeth are straight and white, I’m neither under nor over weight. I’ve never been to jail or even to rehab. But I’m an addict in recovery.
Look at my picture. Not your typical idea of an addict am I? But for the better part of 5 years I lived with an addiction to prescription pain pills. It started innocently enough. Just a young person experimenting and testing limits and boundaries. For a long time I could take it or leave it. In the beginning I did not experience any withdrawal symptoms if I stopped taking them for long periods of time. Back then I had plenty of experience with the destruction that alcohol addiction could cause. Several close family members were either currently battling an addiction to alcohol or had in the past. What I was doing seemed different, or at least that’s what I told myself.
In the beginning it caused no negative consequences for me, at least none that I could see. The high was mind blowing. This warm rush spreading throughout your body, wiping away any insecurities or worries. Feeling ten feet tall and bullet proof was an understatement. For anyone whose ever experienced it you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Looking back on it now it still amazes me how it went from a fun, casual escape type of thing to sinking its fangs into me six inches deep and hanging on for dear life. I hear people all the time saying that it won’t happen to them, or they will stop before it gets to that point. They are in denial. It will get you, and you won’t realize it until its too late. There is no secret or magical time frame. There is no rhyme or reason to it, everyone is effected differently. Some people may play with fire for a few weeks, months, or even years, but the eventual burn is a guarantee.
This is the new face of addiction. The abuse of prescription pills is at epidemic proportions. In one year enough prescription painkillers are prescribed to keep every adult American medicated around the clock for a solid month. Think about that for a moment. Every year nearly 15,000 people die from overdoses on prescription pain pills. In 2010, nearly 7 million American’s admitted to abusing prescription pills in the past month. The most abused prescription pills are opioids, which are your Vicodin, Oxycontin, Morphine, Fentanyl, to name a few. In second place is the sedatives and tranquilizers, like Xanax and Ativan. Third place belongs to the stimulants like Ritalin and the numerous other drugs used to treat ADD or ADHD. One in twenty people over the age of 12 admit abusing prescription pills in the past year. All of these statistics come from the CDC (Center for Disease Control), and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Addiction to prescription pills is everyone’s problem, not just the addict’s. This effects us all whether we realize it or not. The costs of this addiction are staggering to this country. Think of how much it costs to treat those addicted, how much money is lost through those addicted not working, or being unable to work. Think of the cost caused by crimes perpetrated by those addicted who otherwise probably would not have committed them in the first place. There is no exact number, but every organization studying this epidemic agree’s it is in the billions.
I take full responsibility for my addiction. No one forced me to do anything, I made all those decisions myself. However, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I was able to admit to myself that I was out of control and could not stop. I tried, repeatedly, but the physical agony of withdrawal was more than I could stand. Not only is it a pain unlike any other I’ve experienced (and that includes childbirth!), it is life threatening without proper medical care. I entered into treatment in January of 2010 after telling my family and loved ones that I had a problem and needed help. From that point on I’ve been free from this crippling addiction. Sadly, most people are so far in denial they cannot admit that they need help to themselves let alone others. Or they simply have no support system to help them, and care about them.
The new face of addiction is me, you, or maybe someone you love. It does not discriminate. This is not just a “poor person’s disease” anymore. Abuse and addiction of prescription pills crosses all age ranges, races, and economic status. It’s the middle school-er down the street, a doctor, lawyer, teacher, or your best friend. If we are to have any hope of stopping this disease we have to look past our prejudices and preconceived ideas about what addiction is and who it effects. Talk to your children, your friends, your family. If someone you know is suffering from addiction to prescription pills or to learn more about this disease please visit www.turntohelp.com to learn about treatment options, how to recognize the early warning signs, and what you can do to help prevent someone you care about from becoming an addict.
All poll votes are anonymous. If anyone would like to speak to me personally about my experience, or just need someone to talk to please feel free to contact me. All communications will be held highly confidential.