I will confess: I am an addict. My current active addictions are vanilla coke and facebook. I don't lightly toss around the label either. One class had us give up something for 3 weeks and write about our experiences, and I went through serious facebook withdrawal. It was awful and agonizing and when I got facebook back, I totally started using it twice as much as I had before WITHOUT MEANING TO (like I must check it about 3 times an hour, minimum). It just happened... I didn't mean to type in facebook when I opened a new tab to... do something... what was I doing again?
I mention this because I am currently (at 5pm yesterday, since this will post early morning Thursday) sipping a very delicious vanilla coke. I know I shouldn't. I will doubly never sleep if I finish this thing. My teeth are in bad shape and more coke will not help, but I had a headache...
Also because one of the topics that inevitably comes up, over and over again, in pharmacy school is the increasing prevalence of addiction to pain killers. CNN has (what appears to be) a nice one-hour feature on the problem of accidental overdoses due to prescription drug use. It will be rebroadcast this Saturday at 8 and 11pm eastern and pacific time in case you want to watch it. Hint: it's a great idea to watch it and get a feel for what we all can do to help.
Did you know that the leading cause of accidental death in the US is prescription drug overdose ("accidental poisoning")? That more people die of overdoses than in car accidents? Did you know 80% of the world's narcotic painkillers get consumed in the US, even though we have 5% of the world's population? Most people don't know that. We should all know it. We all need to act to halt this epidemic.
I'm one of those future "attack counseling" pharmacists who will tell every patient getting a narcotic or sedative not to take it with alcohol because it can kill you. I'll probably tell them every time, just for good measure, because sometimes people aren't listening the first time. I know several people who have very nearly died mixing a glass of wine and some vicodin and maybe a Valium too. It's not a game. It is your life that hangs in the balance.
Misusing prescription pain medications is a really easy way to die. Keeping extras around the house when you are feeling better is a great way to inspire the addicts in your life (read: any and everyone could be an addict, so don't assume you don't know one) to steal them and to give rebellious teens looking for a "safe" way to get high the chance to get addicted. If your doctor writes you a prescription for more than you need of a narcotic painkiller, you can ask the pharmacy not to give you all of it. I understand about pain, I really do. Pain doesn't make you an addict, but so many addicts start out in pain and get way too many pills with little supervision, it's scary.
No, it is not OK to share your prescriptions ever with anyone else. It's illegal, and you could be liable if you gave someone the drugs that killed them. No, getting high or buzzed is not one bit safer if you take a prescription medication rather than one you bought off the street (and remind your children of this when they are 10 or 11 and getting high is still scary). No, it is not safe to let people get a month's worth of heavy duty painkillers all at once but we do it anyway. If you need them, yes, get a prescription AND then get some way to lock up those meds so they don't get stolen or "fall in the toilet" or whatever. (aside: I'm amazed at the number of people who keep their medications above their toilet. Don't do that please.)
Treatment works and it's worth seeking help early and often if someone in your life needs it. 10-15% of the population will be addicted to drugs or alcohol at some point in their lives. We are all in this together and we need to keep an eye out for signs of addiction - doctor or pharmacy shopping, medications disappearing around someone (after they visit, for example), working all the time or suddenly changing behaviors (like being sick from work all the time).
My active addictions are pretty harmless, but not all addictions are. It's a serious, progressive, fatal disease to be addicted to drugs or alcohol. Let's all step up and do our part to make sure fewer people die of it.