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Posts Tagged ‘drug addiction’

When is too much of a good thing bad for you? How does passion turn into obsession?

It turns out the Pumpkin is a pretty natural soccer player. I drove him to his soccer game over the weekend and listened to everyone calling his name. He was laser focused on the ball, charging the opposite team without fear. When he scored a goal my heart leapt for joy.

I told him that I used to coach his Uncle’s soccer team when the Rocker was his age. He looked up at me incredulously… Nana coached soccer? And I remembered those bright, crisp mornings filled with orange wedges and Gatorade.

We graduated to ice hockey and the Rocker finally found a sport he loved. All I had to do was get up before dawn and drive and sit in the stands and shiver. We traveled to ice rinks all over the state of NJ lugging his equipment in a huge duffel, just about the same size as his pre-adolescent body.

But one morning he didn’t suit up for the rink. I had to wake him with the news that his Uncle Dicky had died. Bob brought the Bride into his bedroom and we explained to them both that Daddy’s brother had been sick for a long time; he had a drug addiction.

Dicky had been a sweet uncle with an infectious smile. Sometimes he would disappear for months. The hardest part was telling Ada. It was a watershed moment for us, I believe that this was our family’s cautionary tale; this was the moment our children grew up.

I’ve been thinking about Dicky since I read that drug overdoses have increased exponentially since the start of the pandemic. And not just needle-in-the-arm street heroin – plain old pain pills. Synthetic oxycodone that strangely enough, one can buy online. I read that 4 out of 10 pills can be laced with fentanyl.

“The new CDC data show that deaths at least partially attributable to synthetic opioids likely increased by around 20,000 (54%) in 2020, while deaths involving cocaine (21%) and other psychostimulants like methamphetamine (46%) also rose dramatically. In 2015, synthetic opioids were involved in only 18 percent of all overdose deaths; in 2020, it appears to be more than 60 percent.”

https://www.commonwealthfund.org/blog/2021/drug-overdose-toll-2020-and-near-term-actions-addressing-it

A record high of 93,331 synthetic and prescription drug overdose deaths competed with 345,323 Covid 19 deaths in 2020. So naturally the media follows the pandemic, and after all the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma are old news. Today it’s all about ridiculous school board mask-mandate meetings, and poor Mark Milley…

It’s misleading to cite drug overdose deaths as the ninth leading cause of death in the US. And for some odd reason, ODs are not even listed in the CDC data. So I had Bob do some digging – it turns out the number ONE cause of death for young adults 25 – 44 is overdose. More than motor vehicle accidents and homicides (of which almost 90% involve guns). I’m sure you heard that murder rates were up last year by almost 30%! https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2778234

In short, we need to change our public policy around drugs, and yes guns too. Sure a pandemic is a public health emergency, but at some point it will end, right? At some point in the future we will have ‘the talk’ about addiction with the Grands and the ties that bind our family in sorrow, love and pain. But not now. Now is the time for apple cider, shin guards and soccer balls.

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Had a short talk with Bob yesterday about Philip Seymour Hoffman. And we both thought it’s a shame, but not for all the general reasons everyone’s been talking about, like his life and character and talent. Because ever since some 19th Century chemist decided he could change morphine into heroin –  thereby making it much more euphoric, easier to administer, lasting longer and with lower dosages – people have been overdosing on this drug. A drug that is still used medicinally in the UK…because for really sick, terminally ill people, there is literally nothing like it. It is the opiate on steroids! For many years people, I mean ordinary brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, black, white and brown, have been dying for/on heroin for over a century.

What’s different is that now another celebrity has died of addiction. But really, what’s different? A bag of heroin costs about $10 and an oxycodon pill costs $40, so that’s different. PSH had the money to go out and buy a week’s supply of heroin, he didn’t have to perform a sex act on the street to get high, so that’s different.

Doctors are encouraged to “Treat Pain,” nurses have us rank our pain on a scale of 1 to 10, in fact in some states if a doctor or NP doesn’t “treat our pain” he/she can be sued. There are whole buildings being built to deal with pain management in health centers across America. So in the same way we’ve become aware of the dangers over overprescribing antibiotics, doctors need to become more aware of the addictive powers of pain killers. Because for some of us, as Jim Carrey said of PSH: “For the most sensitive among us the noise can be too much.” 

I might say after knee surgery, “That pill makes me feel funny,” so I stop taking it. But the addict, probably 10% of the population, has a part of the brain that recognizes that narcotic in a primal center of their neural cortex, the addict says, “More please.”  Someone I knew well once said, “There are no 50 year old junkies.”

But here is a conversation we need to start in DC. Why not make Naloxone (aka Narcan) available over the counter? This is a miracle drug which can bring a dying, overdosed person back to life, and instead of waiting until an EMT or ER doc is available to administer it, which is often too late, why can’t families and friends of addicts purchase the drug as a nasal spray to keep in their home? Well they can in a program in MA, oh God I love that state! I knew it when they went for McGovern!

The problem has become more urgent: Heroin overdose deaths in the U.S. nearly doubled over the last decade, from 1,725 in 1999 to 3,278 in 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During the same period, deadly overdoses from opiate-like drugs, including painkillers, have nearly quadrupled, from 4,030 to 15,597. Naloxone works by blocking certain drug receptors in the brain. It has no effect on alcohol or cocaine overdoses but can be used against such painkillers as OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/26/naloxone-drug-overdose-antidote_n_1456531.html

There was no one with PSH at the time of his overdose, so having Naloxone nearby may not have helped him. But once the rest of the country follows MA’s lead, we may get the chance to save more lives, because I believe recovery is possible. One day at a time. read more: http://healthland.time.com/2012/04/13/naloxone-debate-fda-hears-testimony-about-making-an-overdose-antidote-nonprescription/

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