Please click here to view a two-and-a-half minute YouTube trailer for ACCIDENTAL ADDICT.
I hope this timely book gets widely read. Linda Crew’s experience has been shared by millions of Americans and many have lost their lives. The medical community has accidentally created an epidemic of addiction by overprescribing narcotics, and now everyone, including prescribers, needs to know how easily these drugs can destroy lives.
Andrew Kolodny, MD—Executive Director, Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing
After telling in lucid prose how she become an Accidental Addict, Linda Crew provides a prescription that all of medicine should heed: “A doctor should never prescribe a drug without an understanding of what it takes to get off of that drug, and a willingness to help his patient accomplish this.” One hopes that everyone who prescribes benzodiazepines and opioid painkillers will read this compelling memoir.
Robert Whitaker, Anatomy of an Epidemic
ACCIDENTAL ADDICT on Amazon
The ebook for your Kindle is available NOW. Print copies to come soon.
LETTERS FROM WAKE ROBIN FARM
June 22, 2017
At the time I finished up Accidental Addict, I had only the kindest things to say in it about Benzobuddies.org, a message board for people trying to get off of benzodiazepines. Now I have a few afterthoughts and, as Rachel Platten puts it in my favorite line of “Fight Song:” All those things I never said, were wrecking balls inside my head.
It’s time to say them!
For me, it was a relief to sign onto the Benzobuddies board, to find that others were suffering from this mysterious discontinuation syndrome that most people could not get their doctors to even recognize. I was not alone! It didn’t take long, though, to clue into the playground nature of much of the discourse, and note how anger at doctors and a person’s situation could quickly translate to anger for others on the board.
Along with the sharing of comforting commiseration, a continual frustration against the medical community is voiced, and everyone laments our seeming inability to get the word out about the dangers of these drugs. Here’s where I thought I had a contribution to make. It seemed clear to me that people still in the throes of withdrawal and recovery from the brain damage done by benzos cannot be taken seriously by their doctors. It’s too easy for them to write everyone off as simply nutcases. My plan was to heal and then tell my story. Since I was already a writer, this assignment seemed like a no brainer. I innocently thought the fact that I had such a squeaky clean record for prior substance abuse made me an excellent poster girl for this issue. How could the plot be anymore straight forward? I was a solid person. Xanax and Oxycodone damaged my brain. I struggled to heal and finally did so, and without the help of any medical professionals. So, beware, it can happen to anyone.
It’s not like I was the only one to consider writing a book about this, though. In fact, it’s a popular topic, the books people on the board will write sometime in the future when they’re finally up to it. People float their ideas and collect endless encouragement. People compliment each other on their writing and say how wonderful these unwritten books are sure to be.
When I posted on the board that I was already writing a book, however, the moderators jumped all over me. I guess it was threatening, somebody going ahead and actually DOING it. I was told, for the first but not the last time, how seriously they take their rules. Got it. But I knew I didn’t need anybody’s approval or encouragement to tell and publish my own story, and that seemed to disturb them.
When I posted that I had indeed published Accidental Addict, the moderators removed my post, citing rules against linking to any commercial sites. Same thing if I ever said I’d done a blog post people might want to check out. Nevermind that there were no links. Never mind that the picky rules they would laborious write out were enforced only selectively, and others were allowed to post links to blog posts, books of interests, YouTube videos etc. When I would speak up about my book, the moderators—one in particular—would swoop in like a pack of the witch’s flying monkeys and disappear my posts, issue stern warnings against me.
I came to feel that the Benzobuddies board has rules, but the moderators have no wisdom in their “rulings.” And it’s not about these stated rules anyway. It’s about breaking the larger, unspoken rules. The consensus on the BB board is that we have nothing to be ashamed about and our story should be told, but people who actually dare to speak up, go out there and take this story public are penalized. I watched in dismay as a fellow BB friend interested in setting up a boots-on-the-ground group to help local suffers was reprimanded. What? She should have been encouraged. Privacy rules were cited, but what if people aren’t worried about privacy? What if some of us truly DON’T feel ashamed of the position we’ve been put in and actually mean it when we say we want to help educate people about the dangers of benzos?
The Powers at the BB board look askance at anybody who actually wants to try to help out in the wider world. This was most evident in their booting off of Monica Cassani, a San Francisoco woman who worked tirelessly for years to offer a website—Beyond Meds—which contained resources for people trying to get off of psych meds. The technical rule she broke, according to BB, was posting a link to her site. It was commercial, they ruled, because she had a button for contributions. Ha! As she put it, she didn’t collect enough for a weekly latte! Never mind. The real rule she broke was that, like me, she refused to kneel before the moderators. As one of the mods put it, “she was such a difficult woman.” Right. Difficult because she never signed onto the idea that the mods were all powerful and all-knowing.
In the end I was thoroughly excoriated for unabashedly using the term “addict” in my title. Reams (if that’s a word that can be applied to on-line posts) are written on the BB board lamenting the misunderstanding in the wider world between the terms addiction and dependence, as if avoiding the label of “addict” will help the slightest in speeding healing. People, I’m here to say that your brain doesn’t care what you call it, the physical effects are the same. I had doctors who treated me like an addict and doctors who insisted I wasn’t one. None were any help at all, so what difference does it make?
Yes, we desperately need the doctors to understand what’s going on here in both the benzo epidemic and the opioid epidemic, but in the meantime, shouldn’t everybody be encouraged to get their stories of iatrogenic addiction out there? My idea, in sharing my story, was to give people a heads up and let them know they better have their own backs in accepting prescriptions of any of this stuff. It’ll be great, someday, when and if doctors understand all this better, but in the meantime, save yourself.
Read all the cautionary stories you can find. The question is not whether you are officially to be labeled an addict; the question is whether the drugs you’re taking might be hurting you without your even realizing it.
Many people find help on the Benzobuddies board, and you may too. But please don't take what you read there as the last word on anything.
June 2, 2017
Apparently handsome actor Mike McGowan did a good job for Astro Zeneca in convincing people to plead with their doctors for Movantik, because they’ve come out with a new commercial featuring him once again as Frank, the construction foreman with opioid-induced constipation.
Absolutely shameless! Commercials like this ought to be illegal! Watch as Astra Zeneca cynically attempts to normalize addiction to opioid painkillers. The theme tag on this one is especially appalling, something about “Standing up to your opioid-induced constipation.” In other words, Don’t back down! Don’t be a wimp! Stand up for yourself! Be a man and bravely march in to your doctor’s office and demand another drug! The drug you deserve and are entitled to!
Please note here: sympathy for your constipation. It's really a bummer! And sympathy for your back pain too. Of course you need to be on opioids. That goes without saying, buddy.
But guess what? Don't be looking for any sympathy from the medical community for the effects of trying to get OFF of these drugs. By then you're an addict, and probably deserve it, right? Your doctor won't be able to wash his hands of you quickly enough.
The whole concept of Movantik is ridiculous in the first place. As an opioid agonist , it actually counters the effects of the opioids people are already taking. This means that one of the side effects is feeling like you’re in opioid withdrawal. Duh! If you’re going to go through all that, might as well bite the bullet, get off the opioids, and win the prize of being clean.
But no, the pharmaceutical companies would rather have you paying to take two different drugs which will fight it out in your brain and your body. This is not going to feel good. So why not be brave in a way that will not involve filling the coffers of Astro Zeneca and whichever pharmaceutical is selling you your narcotic of choice?
Taper off of your opioids. It may take awhile, and it’s not going to feel good, but opioids can actually make your pain worse in the long run, so if you kick them, you’ll eventually have less pain and be healthier.
And you’ll have better things to think about than worrying whether you can go to the bathroom!
I wish you good luck in finding one of the rare doctors who has the slightest clue what patients are being put through in first being prescribed these drugs and then being told to get off.
May 30, 2017
I wrote the following piece for the Oregonian newspaper in response to a letter to the editor stating that "the only way a person can become addicted is by buying street drugs or having an unethical doctor." Not sure why the editors are fine with repeating such falsehoods when they come from someone claiming to be in chronic pain, but my experience (and reputation as an Oregon Book Award winner) give me no credibility. My viewpoint seems to be unique. I'm a lone voice, crying in the wilderness.
Oh, well. I've spoken up and told my story in Accidental Addict, and I have my own blog. If the Oregonian chooses to ignore me, I can post what I want here. This is what they chose not to print:
MY OWN PERSONAL OPIOID CRISIS
The opioid crisis debate has settled into a three-way fight. First we have government agencies enacting laws to restrict the flow of the drugs to the population. We can’t have all these people overdosing and dying! Then we have the doctors on the defensive, insisting it’s not their fault, and if only we had better means for detecting who is an “addict type” in the first place, they could do a better job of withholding painkillers from these already flawed patients. Lastly we have those in chronic pain who insist the whole problem is those who abuse drugs and are now making it difficult for the compassionate doctors to the worthy and deserving to continue to give them the pain medicine they so desperately need.
Did I forget anyone? Well, the hopelessly addicted. But then, they’re too busy just trying to rustle up their next dose to argue and write letters.
Oh, and then the people like me.
While my heart goes out to anyone caught in a downward spiral of chronic pain, I have to speak up when I read comments such as Dick Bancroft’s, published in the Oregonian on April 28th: “Really the only way a person can become addicted is by buying street drugs or having an unethical doctor.”
This is simply not true. I became addicted to Oxycodone after knee replacement surgery by the prescription of a kindly, well-intentioned doctor who was not so much unethical as clueless. I never took one pill more than prescribed, never bought anything on the street.
The fact is, if you take opioids for any length of time, it will be difficult to go off. The drugs may have actually made your pain worse as they sensitized you, leaving you with what is called Hyperalgesia. Call yourself dependent, not addicted, if that makes you or your doctor feel better, but your brain doesn’t care where you got the opioids, and your withdrawal symptoms will be just as horrid as those of the addict with whom you most fervently do not care to identify.
When Oxycodone first came out, its maker, Purdue Pharmacy, promised doctors that less than one per cent of their patients would become addicted, and the doctors drank this Kool-Aid. They especially didn’t think they needed to worry about nice, white, educated ladies like me.
A study by the pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts, reported in the New York Times December 9, 2014, found that nearly half the people who took opioid painkillers for whatever reason for a minimum of thirty days were still taking it three years later. So, not one per cent. Fifty per cent.
A group called Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing caught onto all this a long time ago. This isn’t about who’s a nasty addict and who truly deserves pain medication, it’s about the fact that this stuff is ultimately poison for just about everybody.
May 19, 2017
I guess I was born too soon to be a Chris Cornell fan, but this morning when my 37-year-old son delivered his baby for a morning of grandparental adoration, he confessed that his one teenage transgression had been sneaking out of the house and walking the two miles to town one night for the midnight release of Cornell’s band Soundgarden’s 1994 album “Superunknown.” Who knew? Not me.
And now Cornell is dead. It just keeps happening, doesn’t it? Every time I read an obituary without a cause of death or see the latest headline about a famous person who was “found dead,” the first question that pops into my mind is What drugs were their doctors’ prescribing them? What opioids or benzodiazepines were they struggling to get off of?
In no time at all Cornell’s unimagineably distressed wife was insisting she can’t believe her beloved husband, a guy who flew home for Mother’s Day, would have deliberately killed himself. She points out that he was on Ativan and mumbled on the phone he may have taken too many. I believe what she says about this man she knew better than anyone else, and I would bet this benzodiazepine in some way contributed to his death.
Remember when rock stars like Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix shot up heroin, overdosed, and died? Now it’s all about prescription drugs, the stuff the doctors give folks supposedly to HELP them.
Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll Stevie Nicks has been outspoken about the way the gates of pharmaceutical hell opened for her. After kicking cocaine in rehab, a psychiatrist put her on Klonopin, saying it would help prevent a relapse. Ha! Instead she lost the better part of a decade, poignantly, as she puts it, the time when she might have even had a baby. She eventually recovered, but not before suffering far more damage from prescribed Klonopin than she ever did from cocaine.
It doesn’t require a history of street drug abuse to get in trouble with opioids and benzodiazepines such as Ativan, Klonopin and Xanax. I had an almost stupidly squeaky clean record on drugs, and yet, coming off of my very small, occasional dose of Xanax made even me suicidal. If it could happen to me, it could happen to anyone, and this is what made me decide to tell my story in Accidental Addict. Everybody needs a heads up, not just rock stars with longstanding addiction issues.
I feel terrible for Chris Cornell’s wife. She not only has to suffer the tragic loss of her husband, she now has these people pouncing on the diagnosis of suicide, with all the judgment that goes along with it. He killed himself? Well, bad on him! How selfish! How weak!
The story—a true tragedy—is not that simple. The drugs doctors prescribe us can ruin our brains. Coming off them can turn a happy person suicidal. With no help from the medical community, I somehow managed to survive. Others don’t. Take care. Take care of the people you love. Don’t believe everything a doctor might say. They are not gods, and the drugs they are prescribing are killing people.
May 11, 2017
My friend Marsha Ham and I go way back. We met around the time our first babies were born, so that means we’re talking 35 years at this point! We always take each other out on our birthdays and share the latest stories of marriage, motherhood and now, grandmotherhood.
In the summer of 2013, I asked if we could postpone her August birthday lunch for a month. I was in over my head with trying to ready a little bungalow to put on the market, and looked forward to the massive relief I expected when the stress of this was behind me. I thought we could drive the hour up to take a look at the farm property her daughter had just bought and then have lunch in Silverton.
I’m glad I didn’t know at the time it was going to take me three-and-a-half years to make good on this suggestion! That summer, I had no idea how sick I really was or how long it would take before I fully recovered from the effects of prescribed Oxycodone and Xanax.
Now that I'm well and busy reclaiming my life, I don’t often visit my old message board for people trying to get off of benzodiazepines, but the other day somebody wrote asking about anhedonia and wanting stories of people who’d recovered from this. While I never felt inclined to write blog posts about being sick, I now find I do want to write about the joys of being well. I want to help spread the message to anyone on this same path that yes, recovery is possible.
Anhedonia, for those unfamiliar with the term, is defined as a condition characterized by an inability to experience pleasure in acts which normally produce it. And we’re not just talking about sex or other peak experiences here! It’s everything. Most of us don’t even realize the simple, moment to moment pleasures involved in daily life—the first cup of coffee in the morning, for example—until they're completely stripped away.
I didn’t realized how thoroughly compromised my brain was that summer. I thought I was just over-worked, sick of life, and mad at everybody. Ditching my entire family and running away sounded like an excellent idea. In my darkest hours of bleak despair, I was, frankly, suicidal.
Nothing to do but hang on and live through it, which is the story I describe in Accidental Addict. Eventually I started having what people call “windows,” where I’d notice myself having positive thoughts again, and now, finally, I’m back to my old self. But it took a ridiculously long time.
That’s why my outing to Silverton with my friend yesterday seemed so momentous. I savored my awareness that my thoroughly healed brain was capable of delighting in every little thing: the blessed sunshine after this long rainy Northwest winter, the pleasure of reconnecting, of being out in the world again. I loved seeing Marsha’s pistol of a daughter in her element, and we both marveled at her energy, remembering our days as young back-to-the-land moms when we were ourselves trying to rehab ramshackle houses and grow gardens, all with kids underfoot.
So yes, it’s possible to heal from this horrific symptom, and for people who come out of anhedonia, it’s almost like a religious experience. We have a renewed appreciation for the essential sweetness of life itself.
Anhedonia is a concept I feel is missing from so many discussions of recovery from drug addiction. Nobody talks about just how long it takes for a brain to recover. Addicts manage to ditch their street drugs and go through withdrawal, only to find themselves thinking that life “clean” isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. But that’s because they’re not really well. It’s too soon to judge. It might take a couple of years after being technically “clean” before a person begins to experience the everyday joys of life again. I used to be as judgmental as the next person, feeling all these reported relapses were just instances of bad decision-making. Now I understand the despair, and I wish addicts could get less judgment and more emotional support in trying to stay clean long enough to let time do its healing.
If this is you, if you’re suffering from anhedonia after withdrawing from drugs—street or prescription, it makes no difference to your brain—hang in there. It often takes longer than people expect, but you will heal in the end. My Rx is simple—no going back on your drugs, no layering on of new drugs to “help.” Just give it time. Eat right, rest, exercise, try not to tear it with the people who care about you, and keep hanging on to the belief that if you stick to this path, one day for sure you’ll again be walking back out into the light.
May 2, 2017
This past weekend’s issue of The Wall Street Journal featured a front page article by one of its own reporters, Andrea Petersen. I began reading with great interest since it was entitled “Up From Anxiety,” and I’m always interested in hearing how people recover from such a diagnosis. Ms. Petersen chronicles her early start with panic attacks and all the different therapies and medications she’s tried over the years.
While she attempts to be upbeat about her current situation, the conclusion of her story, the “up” part, broke my heart: she’s on Klonopin. “Klonopin can melt my anxiety and many of its annoying accouterments—racing heart, shallow breathing, twisted thoughts—in about thirty minutes. It can even derail a full-blown panic attack if I take enough. I don’t take it often, my life ‘before K’ and ‘after K’ is starkly delineated.”
Having just spent several years regaining the health of my brain after taking a very small dose of another benzodiazepine, Xanax, over the course of five years, I found her implication that Klonopin was the ultimate solution horrifying. During recovery I read hundreds of stories of people on a benzo recovery board, everybody suffering the tortures of the damned trying to get off of these drugs, most people feeling they’d give anything to go back and try to deal with their anxiety issues without drugs. The anxiety attacks for which they were originally prescribed the benzo are nothing compared to what they’re trying to survive now.
I’m finally well and I can look back and see how this worked on me. Yes, like Ms. Petersen, I found Xanax to be amazingly efficient. She’s not lying—these things DO calm anxiety. At least initially. But people build up a tolerance. They start having symptoms that are actually interdose withdrawal—the drug saying Hey, time to take more! Doctors who have originally prescribed the drug are loath to ascribe side effects to the very drug they’ve prescribed. Instead they’ll tell the patient that their original anxiety is just coming back. They will up the dose or layer on some different pharmaceutical until the person is what is referred to as “poly-drugged.”
I didn’t see the harm in Xanax either. I thought of it as a little something in my toolkit for dealing with life. A stressful situation? Yes, why not make it a bit easier? And a half a tab at three am reliably put me back to sleep. I never felt bad in the morning and God knows I was no drug addict type. Where was the harm? Like Ms. Petersen, I was saying, “I don’t take it often.”
Now, having suffered through withdrawal, I’m a person who conks out when my head hits the pillow and sleeps straight through the night. Who knew I was actually teaching my brain to NEED the drug to go to sleep? I’m now calmer than I’ve ever been in my life, free of drugs.
I feel terrible for Andrea Petersen and her family and I wish her the best. I don’t mean to be judgmental in any way of the fact that she’s taking Klonopin. I just don’t think it’s going to be good for her in the end, and I would hate to see anybody read her story and feel validated in giving this poison a shot.
I would like to give people the heads up I never got!
April 16, 2017
Something quite lovely happened one day last week at Wake Robin Farm. I was working in my office, and when I heard a car in the driveway, I got up and looked out the dormer window. Not too many people show up out here on the farm, and unfortunately a high percentage of the ones who do are interested only in converting me to their religion. No, thanks.
But these folks parked their truck so deliberately in our two-space, picket-fenced “lot.” I considered just not answering the door, but somehow, watching the man and woman walking up the gravel drive, I impulsively decided to take a chance. I hustled down the stairs and opened the door.
“Jenny!” It was our tenant who’d lived in the other old farmhouse on our property many years ago.
“And you remember Rick?” she said.
Of course. Rick and Jenny had actually held their wedding in the living room of the old house Jenny had rented from us for several years. Now she said they had decided to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary by taking a nostalgic tour, and took a chance on checking out what had become of Wake Robin Farm. They weren’t surprised their house was no longer standing (it was starting to fall apart even then) and said they were just relieved the whole acreage hadn’t become a development.
Then Herb showed up from town and we all sat around the living room trading stories of the old days and how our lives had gone in the thirty-five years since they married and moved away. Jenny and I agreed it had seemed like Herb and I were so much older than them back then. The age gap between being a bride of twenty-five and a young mother of thirty-one was way larger than those same six years seem now.
We were all so happy to find out both marriages had survived the rough patches and that we were still hanging in there together.
For almost twenty years now the Millsaps have had a storybook house on a farm of their own up in Mulino, a country community outside of Portland. Jenny has a studio out back for creating her beautiful glass beads. They even have a willow tree just like the one that still stands by the old site of the house where they were married.
Rick and Jenny—thanks for showing up! You made our day.
April 7, 2017
An NBC online headline the other day breaks my heart: Chronic Pain Sufferers Are Scared by Ohio’s New Opioid Rules.
In a nutshell, the state of Ohio is trying to restrict the flow of painkillers in order to help fight the plague of opioid abuse. Those who take the pills for chronic pain are of course freaking out, blaming the government and people they see as the actual addicts for their dilemma.
I feel terrible for them, but this is a false construct, setting up the issue as a three-way fight between government regulatory agencies, the doctors, and the patients dealing with chronic pain. The government tries to stop the problem by turning off the tap of opioid drugs, the doctors fear getting in trouble with the government and try to develop strategies to defend themselves from “addict types,” and the people in chronic pain rail against everyone who they perceive as conspiring to keep their drugs from them, and this includes those they characterize as the “real” addicts.
Having suffered the difficulties of getting off of these drugs myself, I feel like a lone voice, crying in the wilderness. The question is not, are you an addict? It’s are these drugs you’re on helping or hurting you?
Of course those who are addicted (okay, call yourselves dependent if it makes you feel better, but your brain doesn’t know the difference) insist that they can’t even begin to continue with their lives if somebody doesn’t prescribe them these drugs. That’s right, because they’re addicted, and their brains, without the drugs, will rebel.
A crucial fact that nobody talks about much is something called Hyperalgesia. It means that while the drugs initially knock back the pain, eventually, the person taking them actually becomes more sensitive to pain. Got that? It makes the pain worse. This is why opioids are not considered a viable, longterm option for chronic pain.
All the energy that will go into these folks desperately trying to make sure they can still get their drugs should actually be applied toward figuring out a program of getting off of them. Rather than now shunning them as addicts, the doctors who prescribed the drugs in the first place should be helping them, not just sending them off to so-called “pain clinics.” A common line is, “I’m not comfortable prescribing these to you anymore.” Apparently they were comfortable enough with the prescription to get the person hooked in the first place.
I know about pain. I’ve lived through this. I’m not on any of these drugs anymore and I’m not in pain. If you want the gory details, it’s all in my book, Accidental Addict. I should warn you that one reviewer claims I’m not a real addict, I guess because once I went off, I never relapsed. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have to hang in there and suffer through the months and months of withdrawal.
Also, check out Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, a group that has been trying to get to the root of the problem by getting doctors to understand that, despite what they’ve been told by the pharmaceutical companies, opioid painkillers can be highly addictive for anyone.
Do I have to remind you that the drug companies do not have our best interests at heart? They want us addicted. What better way to sell the maximum number of pills?
March 5, 2017
I was completely disgusted when I saw my first TV ad for a new drug called Movantik a few months back. It featured a woman of my general demographic who admitted to struggling with constipation due to her doctor-prescribed opioids. Great! First the drug companies convince the doctors they needn’t worry about addiction in prescribing opioid painkillers to their patients, then, once the patients are hooked, they’re right there to sell them another drug to deal with the side effects. But see, she’s a nice lady. Clearly not an addict. Nice people can take opioid painkillers. You got that message, right?
AstraZeneca’s newest commercial is equally insidious. It’s entitled “Frank’s Moment,” meaning the moment this completely healthy-looking construction foreman—ACTOR PORTRAYAL flashes briefly on the screen—gets the enlightening news from his doctor that his problem with OIC—Opioid-Induced Constipation—can be fixed simply by popping another pill! Yay for modern medicine!
The cynicism of the drug companies and these ad copywriters is breathtaking. They know that a huge percentage of middle-aged men who wind up on opioid painkillers arrive in this predicament by way of lower back pain, something that’s extremely common, especially among construction workers prone to “throwing their backs out.” So Frank’s world, the exposed floors, two-by-fours and staircases of a substantial new house going up, is familiar to them.
Please note though, that Frank is the boss. He’s not carrying anything heavier than his laptop. He’s in a position of power. He points people here and there. But, hey, look what a stand-up guy he is, taking a coffee break with his underlings. Also—this is important—he’s ridiculously goodlooking and fit. Actor Mike McGowan, playing “Frank,” delivers his lines to perfection. Sure, these words flash briefly on the screen: OPIOIDS SHOULD BE USED RESPONSIBLY AND ONLY WHEN PRESCRIBED BY A DOCTOR. But anyone with half-a-brain can see that if a great guy like Frank has no problem taking narcotics on a daily basis, who are they to go beating up on themselves? Nobody’s calling our Frank an addict, right? Hard to picture him going home to a wife who nags him with her concern about his prescribed drugs.
Appealing, affable Frank displays winning comic timing, the way he winces in acknowledgment of the bad puns he has no choice but to deliver, inviting his TV-watching buddies to bond over the essentially embarrassing nature of constipation.
Stop! I can’t take it! Because, people, this is not about constipation. It’s about addiction, which is way more than embarrassing. It’s deadly. An ad like this is quite simply enabling; it tells the viewer that as long as their doctor is still writing their prescriptions, they’re safe.
But they’re not. Opioids are not a good solution for chronic pain, and Frank does not represent the reality of a guy taking opioids long-term. The real guys get fat. Or they waste away. What they don’t do is stay as fit and cheerful as Frank. They go on disability and withdraw from life. Through a phenomenon called Hyperalgesia (increased sensitivity to pain) opioids eventually make their pain worse until their sole daily goal is making sure they continue to get their drugs. These are the guys who eventually contribute to the statistical uptick in deaths among white, middle-aged men in America.
Finally, here’s the real capper about this new wonder drug. Guess what one of the listed side effects is? Symptoms of opioid withdrawal! Isn’t that rich? In an effort to go to the bathroom oftener, you may experience sweating, chills, anxiety, irritability, nausea and stomach pain. Hey, here’s an idea: Why not just bite the bullet, get yourself through the horrors of withdrawal to come out drug free rather than suffering with these symptoms as you continue to layer on even more prescriptions?
I could go on, but I wrote a whole book—Accidental Addict—to explain how I lived through this myself and why I have the feelings I do on the subject. I’m starting to hear from people who’ve read it and who see parts of their own stories or their loved ones’ in mine. Please check it out.
Save yourself. Save somebody you love.
January 22, 2017
To anyone reading this who went on one of the marches yesterday, thank you! To show up in Washington, D. C., when it was first announced sounded like a great idea to me. And then, scaling back, I thought about traveling the two hours to Portland. In the end, I didn't do it. I stayed home.
But you all left your homes. You left your chairs in front of your computers, walked out the door, got on busses and showed up. You marched and raised your voices and refused to sit down and be nice girls.
I admire you so much, and I want to thank you for the inspiration and uplift the rest of us got from watching it all from afar.