Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Pill people. WHAT is with pill people? It used to be that we only took pills when we were sick (oh, yeah – I am really showing my age here, hey?). Now, they are a source of recreation. They are a way to leave reality when life becomes too hard.

Sometimes, a person develops a significant pain issue (think “The Back From Hell” here , folks). When we hurt….really hurt….we will do just about anything to stop that pain. Enter pills. Narcotic-type pills like Vicodin, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Percocet, Oxycontin, Methadone, etc. These medications are designed to be used for a short period of time to help someone through truly God-awful pain. Sometimes a doctor will allow a patient to remain on them longer, in moderate doses, if nothing else addresses the pain. The problem is that the dose that worked yesterday may not be enough to control the pain today. The hurting person wants more…and then more… in order to stop the pain. Perhaps the doctor will even raise the dose somewhat. There comes a time, though, when the dose cannot be increased without placing the patient in jeopardy, and the ethical doctor balks. Too much of these medications can cause us to stop breathing (uh…isn’t that what happens with death?). So when a patient’s tolerance for the drug gets to a certain point, the doctor will not increase the dose. Sometimes patients whose pain is out of control will then hit the streets trying to get the drug without a prescription. Problem is, when we purchase such drugs in this manner we have no idea what we are truly getting (anybody remember some years back when heroin was being cut with rat poison and we watched a rash of deaths from this around the country?).

Sometimes, the person who initially took such a drug for pain develops a craving for the “high” they experience when they take such pills. I always thought that, with pain, narcotics only addressed the pain and did not produce euphoria or cause an addiction. I was wrong. Working on an in-patient unit in a drug-rehab facility showed me just how wrong. As two different doctors I spoke to stated, “It’s a very slippery slope!” Many people become seriously addicted to these pills quite rapidly. Any addiction is a serious problem, but the alarming increase in the number of people who are becoming addicted to these narcotic pills is almost unbelievable. The devastation such an addiction wrecks, not only on the person taking the drugs, but on their family members, friends, work situation, etc., is truly tragic. Relationships end……people lose their jobs…..quality of life goes down the tubes. Getting off such pills when one is addicted is not pleasant, and absolutely not easy. Here in Florida, with so many pill mills – supposed pain-management centers that are just a front for dispensing these pills –it makes obtaining prescriptions much easier than in other parts of the country.

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with pills, there is help available. Sometimes only in-patient treatment will work. For others, working with a team comprised of a psychiatrist, a counselor, a support group and family and friends, one can “get off” pills and regain his/her life. There are ways other than these pills to manage pain. In addition, there are important, new, non-narcotic, pain management medications on the horizon (can’t get here too soon!).
To take such potent narcotic medications simply to get “high” is to tempt fate. ANYONE can become addicted to these pills. Please do not think that because you have used them and been able to stop that you will ALWAYS be able to stop. You are not the exception… just may take a little longer before you are captured by them. Please, smarten up and stay safe. This is definitely not a problem you want to create in your life.

Sandy Fournier, M.A.,. LMFT

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