Prescription Drug Epidemic

By P. C. Zick @PCZick

NOTE: Today’s blog is a little different from my usual writings about the garden and the environment, but I felt this topic needed exposure. I hope you agree.

Rock Center with Brian Williams presented a compelling show the other night about babies being born addicted to prescription drugs. “Prescription pill epidemic impacts babies of addicted moms”  shows the real life horror popping up all across the country. We associate addicts and drug dealers with back alley and parking lot buys. We imagine dark rooms and dirty drug dealers dispensing their wares to the wasted and head-nodding addict.

The reality of this epidemic is even more frightening as I recently learned on a visit to the emergency room.

Several weeks ago, a severe headache sent me to the emergency room. While I waited for a CAT scan of my head and sinuses, the doctor offered me vicodin or oxycodone, both narcotics. I refused.

Two hours later, I still lay in my cubicle awaiting transit for the scans.

“Please find the doctor and tell her I’ll take something,” I said to my husband. The pain was excruciating, and all I could do was speak in a whisper.

The nurse brought me a Percocet, which is oxycodone with acetaminophen. Thirty minutes later, I was wheeled to the CAT scan room. As the nurse wheeled me back to the cubicle and my waiting cubicle, my head screamed while the nurse attempted jokes. I couldn’t laugh something I do quite regularly. “I’m usually the life of the party,” I said to my nurse.

“Sure you are,” he said as he patted my shoulder.

“No, she really is,” my husband said.

The doctor entered and told me the scans were almost ready for her to read.

“Did the Percocet work?” she asked.

I shook my head.

“Then I’m going to start a morphine drip,” she said.

Fifteen minutes later, I saw patterns on the wall and fireworks on my husband’s face.

“You don’t see that?” I asked him.

“No, and you’re not making any sense right now,” he said. “How’s your head?”

I moved my head from side to side only to feel the same piercing stab as before. I could have been pounding a stake into my right eyebrow and not known the difference.

“Still there, but who cares?”

The doctor came into the room.

“There’s nothing on the scan. Your sinuses are clear, too. You’re probably just having a migraine. Did the medications work?”

“Not a bit, but with all these drugs in me, I don’t care anymore,” I said.

“We’re going to send you home and send the tests and results to your doctor,” she said. “Do you want me to write you a prescription for Percocet?”

“Why would I want that if it doesn’t work?” I asked, still quite woozy from the drugs in my system.

“Just thought you’d like some is all,” she said as she closed her notebook and tucked the prescription pad in her jacket pocket.

My headache is gone, thankfully all on its own. It’s the lingering aftertaste from my experience bothering me now. That night I found myself smack in the middle of a drug-dealing den, complete with bright lights, sanitary conditions, and legal sanctions.

Yes, we have a problem. Now how do we solve it?

9 thoughts on “Prescription Drug Epidemic

  1. I am so glad people are talking about this. I could write a book about all the research I have done on these pills. Oxy used to be an “end-of-life” only pill. To keep dying patients comfortable. Now wide spread use and addiction has all but destroyed so many people.
    Someone I know had cancer for many years and never knew it. She was so hooked on these pills from other health problems. So she never noticed anything else wrong with her.
    Obviously, she just walked in and had her drugs re-filled without check-ups. She died, riddled with cancer she never knew existed.
    When we cleared out her house, you would not believe how many bottles we found, the amount she was taking, this is common. The new normal.
    This article is from Feb/2012:
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2012/02/20/toronto-oxycontin-ban.html
    Yet my sister was just sent home from the hospital with a prescription.
    In my town alone there are loads of addicts. We have one gas station, one grocery store. Small town. No clothing stores, Yet there is a methadone clinic on our main street.
    I better stop, I could go on forever. It’s just so sad. I thought “Do no harm” were words our medical practitioners lived by!

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  2. Prescription drug abuse is so complex and widespread it is overwhelming. “Pain Management” has become an industry in and of itself. The documentary The Oxycontin Express is fascinating and paints a ghastly portrait of reality in Florida. Here is a link if anyone wants to view it http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/oxycontin-express/. It is fascinating.
    I had oral surgery a few years back and during the consultation, the Dr. gave me a prescription for Vicodin telling me I should have it filled before surgery so I would have the meds on hand for afterward. I told him Vicodin did not work for me and to please give me a script for Tylenol #3 (Tylenol + codeine). Codeine is the only med that works for me for pain. Therefore, he took back the Vicodin script and gave me the one I requested. The day of surgery came and afterward he gave my husband the follow up instructions and a prescription for 90 Vicodin with three refills.
    You would think he had notes in my chart that he had already given me a script for codeine and that the vicodin didn’t work. This surprised me enough, but the shock to my reality came when I was talking to a girlfriend on the phone about this. She asked me if I had ever filled it. When I told her no, she asked me to fill it and sell her the vicodin. I have known this woman for 15 years. I told her I already threw the prescription out.
    Where do we start to fix this problem? I do not know, I wish I did.
    PS – Here’s something interesting. My word spellchecker does not recognize “Vicodin” but has no problem with Oxycontin.

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    • Amazing story, Evie. Thanks for sharing. I think talking about it openly is the first step. Then when we encounter this in the medical world refuse what we don’t need. I’m not advocating getting rid of all pain medications because for some folks they are necessary. However, in both our cases, it was an abuse of a very dangerous substance.

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  3. I am glad this topic is getting some light shined on it and people are realizing what an epidemic is really is. Did you know that the pharmaceutical industry typically spends nearly twice as much on advertising as it does on research? Did you know that only the U.S. and New Zealand even allow direct-to-consumer drug ads?

    I wrote a blog post about this same issue but related to an article by Mitch Albom in the Detroit Free Press if you would like to take a read. http://healingdepression.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/our-pill-poppin-nation/

    -Nancy Liebler

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    • Thank you for commenting and providing some shocking facts. I will look at your article. I really hope folks start waking up to this problem. I keep hearing more and more and realize how it’s permeated our culture.

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