Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Hazelden battles opioids by dispensing them

     “Do you have any questions about your prescription?” asked the gal behind the pharmacy counter at CVS.
     “Yeah, how do you keep from becoming addicted?” I replied. She was taken aback, smiled uncomfortably and muttered something like “Oh you’ll be fine” before pushing the bag at me.
     I wasn’t worried about myself. I was picking up opioid painkillers for my son, suffering from an inflamed throat that felt like “swallowing broken glass.”
     In one of those coincidences that would look trite in fiction but happens in real life, I had just been on the phone with William Moyers, vice president of public affairs for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. He was in Chicago for a speech and called me, well, because that’s what vice presidents of public affairs do.
     “Opioids are the Trojan horse of addiction,” said Moyers. “They sneak up on us and our families and communities like no other substance of misuse. That’s what makes it so scary. They’re clean, easy, legitimate and omnipotent.”
     That’s what worried me. Fifty percent more people died of opioid overdoses in 2014 than died in car wrecks. Some 75 people die every day in the United States from opioid overdose, an “epidemic” which suddenly is being compared with the HIV-AIDS epidemic of the 1980s.

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  1. Two months ago, I had a knee replaced. The pain afterwards was the absolute worst, ever & I'm had many surgeries in my life.
    The sole saving grace was hydrocodone [Vicodin, Norco]. I also took two extended release oxycodone pills per day.
    I took it in heavy doses at the beginning & tapered off over the next six weeks, when I went to non-narcotic pain relievers, except for an occasional lose dose of it if the pain was really bad.
    In an earlier surgery, a pain specialist told me, if you're actually in pain, it's unlikely for you to get addicted.
    That's been the case for me & a few other people I know.
    As a person who often has extreme pain, as far as I'm concerned, it's not the numbers that are dying from overdosing, it's the DEA's war on doctors & patients that take these drugs for extreme pain.
    I'd like to see them live with the kind of pain I first had when the pain block that was used during the knee surgery wore off. They'd change their tune instantly!

    1. Amen, brother. My sister has had severe, chronic, undiagnosable pain going on 40 years, and massive doses of painkillers are the only thing that gets her through the day.

      It's unbelievable the hoops she has to jump through. She has to take regular urine tests to prove she's using the medication, not selling it. One of her doctors was shut down by the DEA (the most useless federal law enforcement agency this side of the TSA) for no other reason than that they disliked him writing so many opioid scripts. When she goes to the hospital, the doctors and nurses refuse to believe she needs such huge doses. Last time she was in, I had to literally smuggle her meds in to her--an act for which I could have been arrested if caught.

      This is why the war on opioids makes me cringe. It's just going to make it harder for people who legitimately need the stuff.

  2. The thing is opioids don't create problems for EVERYONE. People like me can't fathom how anyone could ever get addicted to something that while reducing pain, makes them tired, nauseous and gives them a highly unpleasant headache. Of course that's because everyone is not alike and reacts to drugs tremendously differently. I do understand that. But it's still incredibly annoying to have to deal with the possibility that the times I might genuinely need pain relief and know I could get it from these drugs, , they might be taken away because of problems other people have. I know that's a selfish attitude but it's hard not to have

  3. its not so much the people the drugs have been prescribed for that find themselves addicted. its people who find the balance of the prescription someone received for a sore throat in the medicine cabinet of a friend or family member and are interested in taking them for fun that are at the highest risk of addiction. recreational drug use of pharmaceutical opioids is difficult to sustain and very expensive. when a user exhausts the avenues for availability, they often turn to the cheaper far more dangerous alternative of heroin. a u-turn on this road is difficult to make. avoid leaving unused opiates laying around for young people to find. many of them are looking to get their hands on some and see what there all about. once they do they often want more. most of the supply on the streets come from peoples medicine cabinets because these drugs are sooner prescribed. destroy any unused pills do not store them " in case you need them later" its a prescription for disaster

  4. When I broke my wrist a few years ago the doctor gave me Vicodin for the pain. I took one dosage and experienced severe vomitting (which was more severe than the pain I felt from the injury). Apparently, I was allergic to it. So, luckily I never had a chance to get addicted! All I've ever taken for pain after that was ibuprofen or tylenol.

  5. Disgruntled. That's what I get from the photo. Was that intentional? Related to the opioid epidemic?


  6. A thoughtful column about a difficult subject. But I also agree with Clark St. After a few bouts with intractable pain myself, I wouldn't want that kind of relief denied anybody who needed it. I seem to remember Congressman Henry Hyde pushing legislation that would exact criminal penalties against doctors for over-prescribing pain medication, a difficult call for law enforcement to make.

    As for dealing with addiction, the Hazelden approach seems humane and realistic.

    Tom Evans


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