Addicted to Pain Pills? Watch These Short Videos and Learn How to Get Clean

Pain pills, we are a country of pain pill abusers, and in the last year or so (at least according to the DEA) an additional 1 million pain pill abusers have joined our swelling ranks.

7 million people in America are using pain medications to get high – every day. A lot of these people want out, but as the story goes, this ride is a heck of a lot easier getting on than getting off.

7 million – people with a big problem, a lot of people that never expected to be "junkies" and a lot of people that just aren’t sure how to get off these medications.

And a few of these people are sharing their stories in a way that I think has real power to help those still uncertain about a journey through recovery.

Cold turkey, weaning off, Methadone, Buprenorphine, Suboxone, Subutex…? A lot of choices – and it’s very hard to know what to do.

I have been watching a number of opiate addicts as they share their recovery story through personal videos posted online. These videos are never well produced, but they are always honest and they describe the options for pain pill recovery from the perspective of someone going through the process – and in real time.

If you know you need to get off these pills, watch and learn from other going through it – and get more comfortable with the process; and ultimately, jump in with both feet and start your own voyage back into "real" life.

Methadone

This guy is describing his first few days on methadone – how he feels after 6 days on methadone, and what the process of taking methadone is like.

Methadone

 

Cold TurkeyCold Turkey

A video describing another young addict’s weaning and cold turkey detox attempts of off of OxyContin

Oxy – MethadoneOxy - Methadone

A young woman talking about her journey from OxyContin to Methadone

Methadone…a long treatment that may not work as well as advertised

Does gradual methadone detoxification work?

The first study, by the University of California at San Francisco, compared the success rates of methadone therapy in a controlled study of two groups. The first group of heroin addicts was given methadone maintenance therapy, with some limited peer group and educational support services. The patients in this group received methadone at a maintenance level, and the doses of the drug were never tapered down. The second group received 120 days of methadone maintenance therapy, coupled with intensive education and drug rehab programming, and for the final 60 days of the study, the doses of methadone were gradually tapered down to nothing.

The results were that long term methadone maintenance induced greater heroin avoidance than did intensive therapy and methadone reduction, although the usage of heroin remained relatively high amongst both groups. Essentially, neither program worked very well, but the program that tried to wean addicts off of the methadone worked very poorly.

Are methadone patients abusing other drugs?

A second San Francisco methadone study as published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, looked at the actual occurrence of concurrent drug taking during methadone maintenance therapy, and wanted to see if the actual occurrence rates matched commonly accepted statistics of abstinence as released by the methadone treatment centers. The way they did this was to increase the frequency of drug urine testing performed on participants in several methadone maintenance programs.

Most programs will test monthly for the initial period, and decrease the testing to as little as once a quarter after the initial period of treatment. The study authors, aware that many drugs are metabolized out of the body relatively quickly, estimated that actual drug taking prevalence rates might be significantly higher than published rates. By testing as often as every 2 days, they found that heroin or other opiates were being abused 50% more regularly than the clinics had reported, and that cocaine was being abused 77% more regularly.

So what do these two studies tell us about methadone therapy?

Firstly, it seems to me that if the ultimate goal of methadone therapy is to ultimately wean the addict off of the drug, then the very low success rates of the methadone detoxification study indicate that perhaps this is unrealistic. There may be nothing wrong with a very long, or even indefinite, program of methadone therapy; but if that’s what’s actually needed then we should be clear on the true obligations of treatment, and addicts considering methadone should be aware that they may be signing up for a very long commitment.

Public health officials may promote methadone as a very cost effective solution to a drug problem, and it may very well be the cheapest way towards societal harm reduction, but individual addicts signing up for methadone therapy may not have access to the needed therapies towards sobriety. Something caused the initial abuse, and simply by eliminating the pain of detox from an addiction, you have not conquered whatever it was that led, and will likely lead back, to continuing abuse. Methadone therapy may allow for better opiate sobriety, but if an addict starts using cocaine instead, had anything good been accomplished? Methadone therapy is extremely contentious, and advocates for the therapy argue passionately of the benefits and of the thousands saved by the program.

I would never argue that methadone has not worked for many, and we need to keep any aspects of drug treatment that have efficacy; but I would argue that the methadone treatments as currently offered don’t do enough to rehabilitate addicts, and that the statistics of success are likely very inflated. Advocates for methadone often point to the high recidivism rates of conventional drug therapy, but if methadone therapy is not offering better recovery rates, and the commitment to methadone may well be for life, is it any better? And if even intensive therapy and methadone doesn’t induce much change, maybe there is something fundamentally flawed with the idea that withdrawal doesn’t require discomfort?

I have trouble looking at addiction as a public health issue since I have felt the pain of addiction personally. What is good for the many is not always good for the individual, and although methadone may well decrease crime and HIV as advertised, it does not seem to offer enough of its participants the hope of a life free from addiction.

The risks of drinking while taking pain pills

A lot of people using and abusing pharmaceutical pain pills and sedative hypnotics tend to occasionally or more than occasionally consume alcohol concurrently to maximize the intoxication effects of the drugs. We all read the warnings that come with each and every package of pills, and since almost all of them seem to dictate an avoidance of alcohol; I think that we become complacent as to the real risks of concurrent alcohol and pharmaceutical consumption.

I was always suspicious as to the real risks, and since pharmaceutical companies seem to include just about everything under the sun within the fine print, I always thought that they just saying to avoid alcohol to cover their collective "butts" in the event of rare disaster and resultant legal responsibility. It generally starts with pills and one drink, and when nothing tragic occurs, that one drink can become two, three and more. Unfortunately, research has shown that the dangers of alcohol and pain pills together are real, and when taken together there is an increased risk of addiction, overdose, and toxic effects.

Basically, the pharmaceutical companies aren’t just kidding around when they warn of the dangers of concurrent alcohol and pharmaceutical consumption.

The dangers are essentially three fold. There is an increased risk of dependence and addiction, there is an increased risk of overdose, and there are increased risks of bodily harm.

1 Greater addiction

Whenever the intoxicating effects and perceived pleasures of a high are increased, the psychological addiction to that substance increases. A lot of people use alcohol to increase the potency of the pills and to get a more intense and pleasurable high. This unfortunately accelerates the risks of dependence, and when dealing with already very addictive substances like prescribed opiates, doing anything to increase the risks of dependence should not be considered wise. Additionally, once addicted, the detox off of opiates and alcohol together is far worse than the very difficult detox off of opiates alone. Opiate detox is torture, and I can’t imagine going through an intensified version. Don’t mess with alcohol and pills unless you’re prepared to pay a very high price come detoxification time!

2 greater health risks

Addiction to both alcohol or opiates results in cognitive declines and an increased risk of psychiatric conditions, but these risks are exacerbated when there is a co addiction. Additionally, the danger to the liver, already taxed through a single addiction, increases when there is the co consumption of two drugs simultaneously; and since so many of the most widely abused opiates contain high amounts of acetaminophen, the risk of liver failure when taken with even moderate amounts of alcohol increases substantially. Basically, taking alcohol and pills together amplifies the harm of either substance and accelerates the bodily damage.

3 Risk of death

Because both opiates and sedative hypnotic prescription medications are central nervous system depressants like alcohol, there is a very real risk of accidental overdose and death. When too much of a central nervous system depressant is taken, the brain can slow to the point at which basal respiratory and cardiac functioning’s are curtailed. It’s just a very bad idea to take pills and alcohol together. The temptation to increases the potency of a limited supply of opiate type pills increases the temptation to co abuse alcohol, but the potential price of this co abuse is very high.

I’ve been addicted to alcohol and pills, but not together, and I feel for anyone that needs to tackle these two dependencies concurrently. Since the detox is so tough, a supervised rehab and detox should probably be considered as the best bet. If you are taking or abusing pharmaceuticals, don’t fall into the trap of adding alcohol to your problems. The effects of both addictions compound the damage of either, and the resultant poly drug addiction is even more difficult to break free from. I’m not too trusting of pharmaceutical companies, but it seems that when reading the warnings against alcohol consumption with opiate type drugs, they’re telling the truth at least this once.