When Mickey first received Roxicet from his doctor, he didn’t think it would lead him into a potentially fatal phase of his life. After Mickey got his wisdom teeth pulled he was prescribed the drug to numb the pain. When he arrived back to college in Tallahassee, he realized how easy it was to get multiple prescriptions after he first accidentally left his medication back home in Jacksonville over spring break.
Mickey created stories to fool his doctor into writing prescriptions for the drug; he later used multiple doctors to receive even more – which meant more pills.
Mickey, whose real name has been withheld to protect his identity, would later become addicted to prescription drugs. In 2005, there were 598,542 reported emergency room visits that involved illegal, non-medical use of prescription drugs.
Prescription drug abuse was the second most abused category of drugs, second only to marijuana in 2007, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
“Sometimes it’s a family member whose taking pills that are prescribed for another family member, or maybe they have been exaggerating their symptoms and you don’t know if a patient is magnifying their symptoms and saying ‘their pain is a ten on a scale of 1 to 10’ if this is really the case,” said Dr. Ray Bellamy, M.D., who works in the clinical sciences department at Florida State University.
Bellamy said he has seen how prescription drug abuse can affect patients. He also said he uses his expertise to determine who is not taking the medication appropriately and who is attempting to get too much medication.
“This [misleading doctors to receive extra medication] is happening way too often and it’s not always easy to make the right judgment,” he said.
The Pat Moore Foundation, which is based out of Costa Mesa, Calif. specializes in drug abuse treatment across the country, and agrees with Bellamy. The Foundation said that it can be hard to decide if a patient is lying or telling the truth. Patients can mislead doctors unintentionally
Bellamy said there are several scenarios that lead to prescription drug abuse, yet there are ways to prevent it.
“There is no way to objectively measure pain in somebody else, all you can do is ask them,” Bellamy said.
With no objective way to measure pain, patients may be prescribed incorrect amounts of medication.
Another scenario is family or friends taking prescriptions from a fellow family member or friend with or without the consent of the person being medicated.
“People have a tendency to keep their prescriptions around because people pay so much for these medications these days and they think that they might use them again later at some point,” Bellamy said. “Kids can find these unused medications and tend to take the drugs. You should dispose of any unused medications when you’re done with them.”
Mickey would often use Roxicet, and due to the constant fear of withdrawals he could not stop using it even as mental, physical and sexual side effects occurred. The highs he received from taking the drug never equaled the lows depression would later bring along for the ride, which was coupled with the view of his family and friends who now perceived him as a drug addict.
Bellamy said people with an addiction need help and they can’t do it themselves. He stated that one clue might be if a person is getting pain medication from three different doctors. Regardless of whatever leads them to suspecting someone of abusing prescription drugs, Bellamy insists that a call along the lines of, ‘I believe (the person in question), may be abusing this medication,” needs to be made to the physician making the prescriptions. He said if any family member or friend is suspected, confront the situation because they are not going to do it themselves.
“You’re not helping anything by letting it go and it will just [become] worst,” Bellamy said. “They are a sick individual and they need help.”
Jane (whose real name has also been withheld to protect her identity), Mickey’s girlfriend, called his parents and she was the catalyst in ending his drug addiction the first time. However, relapse was inevitable in Mickey’s case as his access to the drugs still existed and newer, deeper feelings of depression came once people found out about his problem. He said this made him want to “shield” his pain with Roxicet even more.
The Center for Disease Control stated the second highest cause of accidental death in the United States is poisoning, which is second only to motor-vehicle crashes, and nearly all poisonings are attributed to drugs, mainly the abuse of prescription drugs.
Mickey, his family, and his friends questioned the possibility of his death daily. Mickey has been able to beat death through the help of family and friends with rehabilitation and recovery.
He describes the moment when everything was crashing down and his family and friends had caught him in the undeniable truth red-handed.
He said he looks forward to graduating from college at Florida State University next semester and moving on from this part of his life.
“This is recoverable and this is not the end of my life even if my girlfriend leaves, or if my parents hate me- I will pick up the pieces,” Mickey said. “This was the worst part of my life and it touched every issue in it from my physical, financial and social well being.”
He admits to losing some friends and often thinks about how in one year, things that took two years to accomplish were destroyed.
He cites Jane, as the spark that led to him eventually getting off of the drugs.
There were 23,618 reported poisoning deaths in the U.S. in 2006, according to the CDC and the majority of these deaths are due to the abuse of prescription drugs.
Around 23,000 families weren’t as lucky as Mickey’s.