Why the Opiate Epidemic Is Not Going Away Any Time Soon

A brief recap of my interactions with opiates:

Several years ago, I had an acquaintance that for a short period of time had access to and sold painkillers. Not wanting to miss the opportunity of exploring a new high, I bought several Oxycodone pills from him. That night I went home, crushed two of them into a fine powder and railed them as if they were lines of coke. The euphoria that followed was completely unprecedented.

There was a garden of pretty flowers growing from the center of my belly and stemming toward my limbs. I was so light that I felt almost weightless, both physically and emotionally. All the darkness of the world had instantly and magically dissipated. It was an intense, unique and incredibly addictive feeling that I have only experienced at that level with opiates, which led me to the conclusion that this was a big-league substance, one with the ability to cause major damage in one’s life.

The acquaintance eventually found himself in jail and I lost touch with a steady supply of pills, which, in retrospect, most likely saved my life. I continued on with my alcoholism and later on with my Xanax addiction, but never again were opiates a headliner, which I am deeply grateful for.

Knowing the power that these pills have, however, and seeing the growing epidemic and rising number of deaths due to them, I want to weigh in on a couple of points that I believe everyone needs to be aware of, because with this problem everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, is at risk.

Who’s at Fault

How the heck has this problem gotten so out of control in the past few years? The answer is simple: We have not done enough. There is way too much profit to be made with opiates, and that is the main reason I don’t see things getting better anytime soon.

Back when I went off Xanax cold turkey for the first time (not recommended, don’t do it) I began having several physical symptoms that landed me in the emergency room a number of times. I was having chest pains, severe stomach cramps, dizziness, fogginess, pain in my legs (to name a few) and because the mix of things I was describing was so erratic– and I was so visibly freaked out at the time– most doctors that saw me came to the conclusion that I was a junkie lying to get his fix. That’s when I realized that emergency rooms are in the volume business, and it’s more feasible to give a worthless drug-addict without insurance a few hydrocodone pills and send him on his way to free up the bed, than actually taking the time and the right measures to treat him.

This is not the exception to the rule. The harsh reality is that medical professionals are still overprescribing opiates, and Big Pharma supports them. Why wouldn’t they? This had led people that have never had a history of substance abuse to buckle under the powerful addictive properties of unnecessary dosages of medicine. We have been raped by greed and doomed by misleading information, lack of education and awareness, and the fact is that opioid addiction is getting the attention it deserves a little too late, only after it has already become an epidemic of epic proportions.

Protect Yourself

No one else will. Educate yourself and don’t let doctor’s put you at risk. Question their decision for prescribing you certain pain medication, and always ask if there is a safer alternative. Do not put yourself at risk unnecessarily. If you have to take opioids because of a chronic condition, make sure that you take them as directed, and if you find yourself overdosing from time to time, seek professional help immediately.

Once the addiction gets out of control and extremely expensive is when people start searching for cheaper and deadlier alternatives like heroin, and with drug dealers mixing Phentanyl to make a stronger product without true knowledge of how much can kill you, addicts are finding themselves playing Russian Roulette every time they shoot up. And believe me, people get there faster than you think. This is a very powerful substance we are talking about here, and without you even realizing it, it can bring you to your knees.

Stay Alert. Educate Yourself. Spread Awareness. We will be fighting this war for a very long time.

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