Death is the Prescription, how many more?
Prescription drug abuse, which I term medical drug addiction, like all addictions including alcoholism, (addiction to ethyl alcohol), though more widely recognized nowadays, is still not widely understood. And of course, combining the abuse of prescription drugs, (obtained legally or not), with "street drugs", maybe adding alcohol to the mix, though highly dangerous is commonplace too. My substance abuse Professor, James Crossen Ph/D, coined the generic term "Drugoholism" to cover all Chemical Dependency Issues, because though they have surface differences, most of the underlying downward spiraling progression process, towards ultimate destruction and death, is the same. Poly-substance Abuse is the technical term.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, nearly 7 million Americans are abusing prescription drugs, more than the numbers who are abusing cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens and ecstasy combined. The DEA says the number of painkiller addicts has nearly doubled from 2000, when 3.8 million Americans were hooked, Prescription and illegal drug overdose is the second leading cause of accidental death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. "Nearly all poisoning deaths in the United States are attributed to drugs," according to the CDC, "and most drug poisonings result from the abuse of prescription and illegal drugs." Prescription drug overdoses now kill more people than homicide.
How do we reconcile these facts with the continued over-prescription of these drugs, and the continuing high profile celebrity deaths, only the more visible tip of this massive iceberg? Compare the two following statements. "He was rocketed to stardom, but unable to handle the pressures of money and fame, he turned to drugs." Or, "His career was going downhill, and unable to handle the pain of failure, he turned to drugs." As a young man stated on the phone to me as a "hotline" counselor, "I only drink when I have problems." I replied, "It seems to me that life is full of problems, so that means you will always be drinking!" Appalled silence on the other end, then a small voice, "I never thought about it like that." Really!!
Similarly, "He is drinking because his wife died." What about the majority whose wives have died, who are not? Mistaking effects for causes, and vice-versa, in the self-feeding reciprocating cycles of Drugoholism, is usual rather than an exception. "Often what happens is someone experiences discomfort, anxiety, or pain. They start being treated with medicine, and need more," said Dr. Steven Juergens, an assistant clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Washington and a private addiction specialist in Bellevue, Washington. "They feel better when using the medication and often feel like "they need it,""† "I'm not an addict, I never took a drug to get high," maintained Michael Jackson. Dr. Paul, another Psychiatrist, reports in his hilarious history of personal Drugoholism, titled "Doctor, Addict, Alcoholic," "I never took a pill I didn't have the symptom for." From the book, "Alcoholics Anonymous." Anyone who is in the position of refuting that they have a problem usually has one. By the time any question comes up, some kind of difficulty has usually begun. When was the last time your Sunday Church going, one sherry at Christmas Great Aunt Maude, had to disprove ideas she has might have a problem?
What is missing in most media reportage on celebrity addiction is that THE PERSON is the addict, and more specifically, the person's choices have become dominated by addictive thinking. All chosen behavior is the result of thinking, so addiction is in the addict's head, not in the pill or bottle in their hand. Recently I read on the web another hypnotherapist's statement, "After twenty five years of practice, my observation is that addiction is 10% physical and 90% psychological." Otherwise those leaving incarceration, rehabs, or hospital detoxification units, who are physically sober, would never relapse! Right! One client I was counseling, an early stage milder case, could not "get it" until I said, "You are dependent on changing your mood with a chemical to get through the day." His eyes focused and lit up. "That's me," he exclaimed, and his resistance to recognizing his alcohol abuse evaporated. This was despite being comfortable with the concept of addiction, as applied to his intermittent cocaine binges. A facet of the times perhaps, or it's relative undeniability in his case, as he hated the effects of his cocaine use, while still clinging to the far slower destructive direction of his alcohol consumption.
So the persons chosen response to inner and outer "stress" is the missing link, this is what creates a drugoholic. An addiction to the "quick fix", to the easy way out, ensues. This, apart from any other factors, becomes an ingrained increasing habitual response, including response the real or imaginary stress created by the addiction itself. One of the many self-feeding cycles of addiction, independent of the "host" personality. Part of the cognitive, (thought), behavioral habit apparatus, known as psychological habituation in Drugoholism. And the alterations of cognitive processes and perceptions produced by ongoing use, whether physical, due to chemical toxicity in the brain, or psychological, from the addictive process itself, continues to actually create and additionally amplify perceived stress, as the condition, ( the dis-ease) progresses. So there is an increasing reliance on chemicals for stress relief, and increasing amounts of stress, real or created mentally, to relieve. This process underlies the confusion created by focusing on any combination of chemicals, or circumstances, at any given time.
All of this mentality applies to the withdrawal physiology of the body, when a drugoholic initially attempts to "clean up". So this becomes a major source of the drugoholic's terror at the idea of, or results of withdrawals, rather than the withdrawals themselves. This is irrespective of the fact that with severe physical, (metabolic) dependencies, that may be both physically and psychologically horrendous. The problem is not the initial withdrawals, for a true drugoholic, insurmountable as they might seem. The problem is learning to live a life on an ongoing daily basis without resorting to chemicals to escape/recoil/retreat from inner and outer reality in any way.
How much of Michael Jackson's "weirdness" and reports of him being a "complicated" person, were not due to his personality, but were in fact his response to medical drug addiction I wonder? And the degeneration into, histrionic emotionalism and other forms of narcissistic immaturity, that so often accompanies the overall deterioration of Drugoholism, as exhibited by Anna Nicole Smith too. Even worse, many categories of psychiatric drugs can cause potentially horrendous reactions. Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, Xanax, Lithium, Zyprexa and other psychiatric medications may spellbind patients into believing they are improved, when too often they are becoming worse, without the individuals realizing that their medications are semi-permanently deforming their way of thinking and feeling.
There are many reasons for this confusion around Drugoholism. Myth, misinformation, misunderstanding and ignorance, using a true meaning of the word which is, "lacking information", abound. In "The First Session with Substance Abusers." Nicholas A. Cummings, Ph/D, quotes studies that show MD's identify .05% of alcohol/drug problems in those who cross their door, while those well trained in Chemical Dependency identify 100%! Two hundred times more! Psychologists and other allied professions fare not much better in my experience and opinion. The psychology of addiction is a specialized field. Though MD's and clinical psychologists are highly respected and often quoted authorities, unless they have this specialized education, it is more likely to be a case of the blind leading the blind.
The current usual attitude to prescription drugs blinds MD's to what is happening. How many times is a new wonder drug trumpeted abroad? Sleep aids, Barbiturates etc., (Mebaral and Nembutal). Stimulants, ("uppers" such as Dexedrine, Adderall, Ritalin and Concerta). Tranquilizers, (Benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax). Painkillers from Oxycontin type opioids on down? These are now the source of endless drug problems. I never tire of reminding people, "The first medical use for Heroin was as a cure for Morphine addiction." So when medical people proclaim the latest painkiller or anti-anxiety medication as non-addictive or non-habit forming, I retort, "Except for those persons with chronic long-term anxiety, or chronic long-term pain." This is in respect of any combination of these factors, plus those induced by the medications themselves, addictive, real or imagined of course.
As Drugoholism is stigmatized, people are loath to attribute a bad "character flaw" to another, especially those idolized and celebrated for other genuine talents. And the ongoing mental, emotional and physical deterioration/degeneration process of Drugoholism is attributed to other sources to excuse the addicts again, in order to avoid personally "denigrating" them. This goes hand-in-hand with the addicts blaming defences. In actuality, the vulnerability to addiction in recent, (2009) studies increasingly reveals a 50% genetic/biochemical basis. There is also another additional constellation of factors that are outside the person's current will power or control, from pre-verbal cellular level infantile trauma, to role modeling from early childhood onwards. And there are many others too. Current psychic pain, "His wife died..." is the last and perhaps least factor, as is blaming it on childhood pain. Again, there are many with severe childhood pain that display no addictive tendencies whatsoever.
Another source of confusion is the actual disinformation put out by the psychiatric-medical-pharmaceutical complex. This has been rigorously documented by the psychiatrist Peter Breggin, MD., dealing with the medical bureaucracy at its highest levels. He reports how the drug manufacturer Eli Lilly was taken to court for offences tantamount to criminal fraud in this regard. In the mid 1990's, his "Toxic Psychiatry." outlined the growing problem of medical addiction. "The commonest drug addict in America is a female in her mid forties, addicted to barbiturates and a benzodiazapine," he stated at the time. The description of negative aspects of commonly prescribed psychiatric medications above, is taken from his website, http://www.breggin.com . He exposes the growing propaganda infused into the medical community, including the FDA, which diminishes, sidesteps or flat out denies the negative effects of commonly prescribed psychoactive drugs.†
This is partly responsible for the idea that medical drugs are not as harmful as other drugs, and are legitimate, so those hooked on them are not real addicts. Also a convenient denial for the drugoholic themselves. In fact, being 100% pure, it needs to be stressed they can be worse. Oxycontin from the Doctor is as bad, IF NOT WORSE, than heroin from the dealer. It is similar to the confusion around alcohol, another socially acceptable drug. Many can drink with enjoyment and impunity. But once the ominous earmarks of the addictive process begin to appear, a trained counselor can identify the condition years before the final accelerating deteriorative spiral.
Due to the subconscious nature of much denial, and the stigma and ignorance surrounding this process, those close to the addict are often the most totally blind to the malady. The fact that Elvis Presley obtained FIVE THOUSAND pills from Doctors in his last months was invisible to his personal staff. The obvious obscuring corrupting interlinked interpersonal influences of fame, power, status and money, as the deteriorating celebrity surrounds themselves with yes men, are a special factor for the wealthy and those in the public eye. But how many alcoholics leave a complaining spouse to later marry someone with fewer objections, often an alcoholic themselves.
So now I hope it becomes more evident that addictive processes include prescription drugs in exactly the same way as with illicit ones, and that celebrities are not exempt from the identical states of mind and body that occur in these circumstances. Specific drugs may have different results, but the inexorable addictive process will take its toll in similar ways for the rich and famous, just as the scythe of Drugoholism cuts down the ill-educated poverty stricken ghetto street addict. If this article helps one person, I deem it a success, though I do of course hope for more.