When I saw the heading to the Join Together article, "Friends and Relatives Provide Nearly All Oxycontin to Abusers", I have to tell you, I had a moment. Never say never, they say. I try never to say "I have heard it all" because the second you do, you hear something so beyond the pale of human logic, reason or experience that it makes you want to scream. Scream loud and long, and run like hell into the night. It makes you want to blame the messenger and curse the truth and kick a dog--anybody's dog. It brings out the worst.
But I felt like I had now officially heard it all.
Let me put it this way. The heading could have read : "97% of all sudden childhood deaths linked to friends and relatives providing rat poison to children", and it could not have hit me any harder.
I am not going to quote extensively from the article. Join Together is an excellent newsletter, committed to bringing the best and most current news in research and policy to anyone interested in drug and alcohol issues. They have been around a long time, and if they reprint research, you can take it to the bank, as we used to say in the good old days before the economy went in the tank.
I say this simply to make it clear that this is not some wild piece of tabloid crap. This is the real deal.
And what it says, in essence, is like what old Walt Kelly used to say in Pogo:
"We have met the enemy and they are us."
We're the bad guys.
That guy lurking around the schoolyard to get the kids on dope? Us.
The guy drawing in his guillible pigeons with the offer of the first one for free? Us.
The guy comforting the wounded veteran with a drug that will turn him into a zombie? Us.
Us. Us. Us.
Feeling about as crazy as I do right now?
Let me explain.
Oxycontin is a marvel of Big Pharma, containing a large dose of narcotic pain medication in a time release caplet. For people with extreme or chronic pain, it began as a godsend. It allowed people to function who had been debilitated for years by pain.
All good, until someone discovered that the time release could be beaten by snorting it. It moved into the blood and brain much faster, essentially replicating what happens when someone snorts another narcotic, popularly known as heroin. That's right, heroin: 100% addictive, tolerance increasing exponentially so a bigger dose is needed almost from the beginning; agonizing withdrawal symptoms that cause the addiction to progress so rapidly that someone using it may not realize they are addicted until they begin to experience withdrawal. Which, by the way, can come on only hours from the last use. From there on out the addict isn't using to get high anymore; he or she is using just to keep from getting sick.
Heroin. Oxycontin, both equally addictive, equally progressive, equally devastating to individuals and families, and ultimately equally lethal.
Most of us, though, are not too likely to have heroin in our medicine cabinet.
Not so with Oxycontin. They are prescribed for everything these days from headaches to backaches to kidney stones. Originally, the idea seemed to be that this was a good med for people with crippling arthritis or fibromyalgia, or some types of cancer. But like any good drug, it soon became much more widely prescribed.
And like any good mood changing drug, it began to be abused.
It seems harmless enough at first. It meets the big caveats of any denial system. It's pharmaceutical and a Doctor prescribed it. Well, darn, that's good enough for me!
Remember when Doctors endorsed cigarettes, back in the 50's? I do. But enough of that.
We are a society that takes it to heart the old dictum that we pursue pleasure and avoid pain. And man, do we avoid it. We are constantly bombarded with sophisticated advertising that tells us that physical and emotional pain are unnatural states. We take extra strength and super strength. We take meds that improve our dopamine and serotonin levels to the point where we are probably way too happy for our own good. (My old mentor as a therapist wouldn't accept happiness as a goal of therapy. History, he would point out, is full of happy ax murderers and dictators.)
So here is the bottom line. You have things in your medicine cabinet, or your night table, or bureau drawer, that are as addictive as heroin. You don't give them to your kids for sleeplessness, or your neighbor for a headache, or for a guest who drank too much (God forbid!). You don't keep them because you paid for 'em, dammit, and you might need them again. You dispose of them responsibly when you no longer need them. Your doctor can advise you about that, or the cops, or a drug counselor like me. You don't dump them down the toilet. Never mind why, just don't do it.
Become an educated consumer. Ask your doc about prescriptions, read those little inserts, look them up online at one of the many good medical sites. Do not give them to someone, or share them. These are not lightweight drugs we are talking about here, these are deadly.
And if, as the survey strongly suggests. we are the enemy, that's the news right now. It doesn't have to be the news next year. And if, by then we are the good guys, look at all the good we will do. The largest supplier will have left town, and maybe we can begin to close the book on what has been a long painful chapter--The O.C. Chapter.
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