Opioid analgesic painkillers, one of the largest growing segments of prescription drug abuse, are medications such as Oxycontin and Vicodin and many other narcotic pills. The side effects Vicodin include lightheadedness, sedation, dizziness, mental clouding, anxiety, fear, dependence, mood changes, respiratory depression and many more (Spratto and Woods 809). More than 201 million prescriptions were written in 2007 for products that have a potential for abuse according to Verispan, prescription information database (Hansen). It was the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that found 96. 6 percent increase in prescription pill for pain relief-related deaths from 1997 to 2002.
During the same period, deaths from cocaine overdoses increased 12. 9 percent (Hansen). The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that the numbers of new, non medical users of prescription Opioids increased from 600,000 in 1990 to over 5. 2 million in 2006 (Inciardi). There are many cases where the use of prescription pills for pain management and other pills are needed and essential to patients with life altering or terminal illnesses, however, the increasing number of prescription pill abuse and death is so shocking that monitoring programs should be more strictly enforced.
I interviewed Jimmy Johnson; he suffers from chronic pain from many years of work and hard labor. Jimmy was employed for 15 years at a factory that manufactures insulation; there he frequently lifted over 100 pound bags of material. After so much time had passed of heavy lifting Jimmy’s right shoulder tendons began to tear and fray terribly, which frequently happens to people who do hard labor over such a long period of time. Doctors performed surgery on Jimmy’s shoulder, at the age of 49 and left him with only ten percent of his arm and shoulder mobility and flexibility. The cause of his chronic pain is now due to the surgery and the tearing of his tendons in his shoulder: also, numerous other injuries he sustained over his lifetime.
A time after his surgery he was prescribed Vicodin and today takes Oxycodone, which treats higher levels of pain than Vicodin. Without his medication of prescription pills Jimmy’s pain would be almost unbearable. He only takes the needed amount each day for his pain management and tries his hardest to not abuse the narcotic drugs like many do (Johnson). However, in the past Jimmy was not always so concerned with worrying about not prescription pills abuse. While working hard most of his life he obtained an abundance of injuries and was prescribed potentially addicting prescription pills. Jimmy reminisces, “I felt that the prescription pills helped me get through the work day.
” Jimmy has been prescribed Vicodin, Oxycotin, Oxycodone, Percocet and much more in his lifetime. However if it was not for these pills daily activities would be extremely difficult for him to complete and make it through the entire day. From the many years of prescription pill use Jimmy has developed liver and kidney problems. The liver and kidneys filter the body’s waste and sifts out the materials useful to the body (Spratto and Woods 809). These organs must work extra hard to filter the prescription pills that you intake daily and due to this Jimmy now suffers from damage to the kidney and liver.
I have extensive personal experience with my grandmother, Jane Eckles, and her many medical issues before she passed away. My personal experience with her over the years has given me some medical knowledge relating to her illnesses and diseases. Jane was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus at a very young age. Systemic lupus erythematosus, commonly called lupus, is an autoimmune disease, which means the body recognizes its own antibodies as harmful substances and attacks it in attempt to kill it off (Eckles).
Throughout her life she suffered many other injuries, infections and diseases because of the lupus and it’s depletion of the body’s immune defenses. Toward the end of her life, at the age of 68, Jane was treated for a fractured tibia bone. She was prescribed a low dose of Vicodin for the pain she was experiencing during her recovery time period. I can remember her saying her lower leg hurt quite a bit and the pain medication helped but would make her feel very cloudy and somewhat groggy. Because of this cloudiness, Jane was not fond of the prescription pill medication but consumed it anyway to help her cope with the pain.
(Eckles)A short time after her leg injury, she suffered a hernia that required surgery. The surgery caused her a great deal of pain for a few weeks after. Jane had to wear a brace around her abdomen during her recover and again was prescribed Vicodin for pain management. Jane was in a great deal of pain from both injuries and she said it was the prescription pain pills that assisted and enabled her get through the recovery with more comfort and ease.
On May 16 2007 Jane was admitted to the hospital and her health was quickly deteriorating. She had collapsed in the bathtub while taking a shower and was raced to the hospital in an ambulance. She was in a great deal of pain and the doctors knew there was not much hope for her because of her lupus and her failing state of health. They gave Jane high doses of pain medication intravenously and declared her terminally ill with a very short time span to live. The medication eased her through the time she had left to live but made her very drowsy and forgetful. She was often would find it very difficult to identify the day of the week, where exactly she was or even who she was speaking too because of the high doses of pain medication given to her to ease her passing.
It can be difficult to see the ones you love in that state, such as forgetting their own relatives; because of the pain management medication they are receiving. However, it is harder to see the ones you love in excruciating pain. In these instances prescription pills or medication are essential to people’s life. For terminally ill patients pain management can be quite vital.
In certain occurrences there are patients with legitimate pain and suffering that require some sort of pain management prescription pill to make it through the day. Without pain medicine it would be impossible for people to accomplish daily activities. There are instances where patients are prescribed prescription pills for pain but the pills are highly addictive and after the injury is healed or the problem is solved the consumption of the pills do not cease. I interviewed Joe Rodriguez and he told me his story of pill abuse and his struggle to quit.
Joe was your average young boy with a typical fun loving childhood but at the age of sixteen he was involved in a fight and was struck in the left cheek bone with a plumbing pipe. He was badly injured and busted his left cheek bone very badly, it required facial surgery and he was implanted with two metal face plates and eight screws. At this time the doctors prescribed him Hydrocodone commonly known as Vicodin and soma, which are highly addicting and abused pain reliever and muscle relaxer, for the pain he was suffering. At the time Joe was not aware of the potential harm he would endure for the pills and this accident could be said to have marked the beginning of a very long journey for him.
Following this accident he began to take the pills prescribed to him for three months straight but shortly after he stopped using. Approximately seven months after Joe’s first accident he shattered his wrist and forearm in a skating accident. Again Vicodin prescribed and another muscle relaxer called Flexiril. This time he began to abuse the Vicodin and enjoy the high the pill could give instead of just simply for pain management. He quickly ran out of his prescription pills, so was forced to stop consuming them and the abuse went on an intermission. Roughly another seven months after the second incident when he broke his forearm and wrist Joe then got into a motorcycle accident while on a ride.
Once again Joe Rodriguez was prescribed a high dose of Vicodin and Somas, but this time it was different. The doctor prescribed him approximately two months worth of Vicodin and it was all consumed in one month’s worth of time. At this time Joe Rodriguez began to become consumed in the pills. His prescription for the Vicodin and Somas ran out again but his cravings for the pill’s effects did not.
He began to buy pills off the street and would become so desperate at points he would take any prescription pill he could find to maintain his high, euphoric feeling he received. After taking prescription pills daily for over a year at the age of 19 he was taking on average 20 Vicodin a day. If the pills could not be obtained through means of the street or from friends Joe would go to doctors and complain of back or face pain from his past accidents. The doctors would then prescribe him at least 30 pills and sometimes up to 60 with at least two to three refills available. This continued steadily for the next four to five years and spent approximately 16,000 dollars a year primarily on prescription pill drug use.
During the period of his pill abuse Joe over dosed once from Oxycontin and taken to the hospital to get his stomach pumped. Another time while consuming Xanax Joe blacked out as he was driving he went onto the curb and hit a tree on the side of the road. He sustained no major injuries and drove away fine. He says, “At times I would take so many Vicodin I would be scared to go to sleep in fear of never waking up,” (Rodriquez).
Joe like many people in the United States was caught in the prescription pill battle and for a long period of time he was losing. When he finally realized what he was doing he sought help from his regular family doctor, about his pill abuse problem. His doctor then prescribed Joe methadone to help him with his prescription pill addiction. Methadone is a narcotic pain reliever, similar to morphine. It reduces withdrawal symptoms in people addicted to narcotic drugs without causing the high associated with the drug addiction and is used as part of detoxification programs (Spratto).
However, as the doctor prescribed him Methadone he still had his prescription of Vicodin and according to the doctor his reasoning was so that he would not get addicted to either pill. In some instances doctors may make people’s fight against pill abuse so much more difficult because it is so easily accessible. Most people do not believe but the overuse of prescription drugs is also considered drug abuse and should be treated like any other drug abuse problem. Being around an addict is very difficult, especially if you are close to that person that is abusing the pills. It is often hard to trust them and you constantly have to decipher if the users are lying to you about their consumption. Once an addict or pill abuser runs out of their substance that gives them a high they become agitated and often take their anger from the cravings and frustration out on the people around them.
When an addict says “I only took two pills today,” or “I am quitting tomorrow,” it can play a toll on your mind questioning whether they are lying. However, a common logical fallacy about prescription pills is if any person is taking a narcotic drug for an extended period of time are going to abuse it and become dependent. An abundance of Americans believe that because the pills being prescribed by the doctor that it makes the drug more safe and less likely to harm. While this can be true, however, it is important to remember that these are still considered dangerous drugs and have a very high abuse potential.
Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing form of substance abuse and the death rate of prescription pill users from overdose has increased tremendously over the years. Doctors should be more closely monitored for their Opioid prescriptions they provide to patients. It seems that in today’s society doctors are more concerned about being paid by the amount of pill prescriptions they supply then the quality of care they that they should be offering to each individual patients. Doctors should first search for alternative methods of treatment, such as holistic methods, instead of immediately turning to prescription pill narcotics.
There are countless reasons why prescription pill abuse has become so popular in the recent year, one of which is because prescription pills are very easily accessed in today’s society. However, those who need prescription pills benefit greatly from them. This can include patients who are terminally ill and need help to ease their passing, those who require prescription pills for high pain maintenance, for such things as chronic pain, or people with life- altering illnesses. On the other hand, there are several down falls to consuming prescription pills, such as, they have a high abuse potential and also, an especially high rate of possible over dose or even death.
There have been several people in my life, who I have experience with, who have benefitted from the effects prescription pills. In addition to, numerous others have abused the medication and even over dosed from them. In society today, medical doctors are over prescribing pills to people and prescription pill distribution should be more closely monitored and controlled. The cons greatly outweigh the pros when it comes to Opioid pain pills and prescriptions should only be written for a specific group of individuals or prescriptions only be given for a short amount of time while they are actually needed.
The American government should put a regulation on a person’s amount of pill prescriptions to hopefully bring down the number of fatalities and prescription pill abuse possibilities in patients. Works CitedEckles, Crimson. Personal Experience. March 2004- May 2007. Hanson, Karmen.
“A Pill Problem: Rx Abuse is Fastest Growing. ” National Conference of State Legislatures. March 2010. Web. 2 June 2011.
. Inciardi, PhD, James A. “OPIOIDS, SUBSTANCE ABUSE & ADDICTIONS SECTION. ” PainMedicine.
Center for Drug and Alcohol Studies. 2009. Web. 2 June 2011.
Johnson, Jimmy. Personal Interview. 11 June 2011. Rodriguez, Joe.
Personal Interview. 12 June 2011. Spratto, George R. , and Adrienne L.
Woods. 20th Anniversary Edition 2011 Delmar Nurse’s DrugHandbook. Clinton Park: Delmar Cengage Learning, 2011. Print.