Wednesday, February 20, 2008


As a confessed CHOCOHOLIC, I thought a blog about addiction would be appropriate for the month of February - when people overdose on sweets.

Let's talk about addiction.I had a very unfortunate experience recently regarding a conversation about addiction and "accidental overdose." Addiction has three levels, in my opinion. Let me give you a rundown.

1st Level: Illegal Drugs

A big dose of tough love here. No such thing as an accidental overdose! Everyone, and I mean everyone, knows the difference between legal and illegal drugs. And unless you live under a ice block in Antarctica, you know that illegal drugs are addictive from the first use. You also know how dangerous they are and that death is a possibility every time you snort up, shoot up, smoke up or whatever. I really don't care how much you LOVE your favorite celebrity. If they died after use of an illegal drug, whether they intended to die that minute or not, it was NO ACCIDENT.

2nd Level: Prescription Drugs

Now this is a touchy subject for a lot of people. Prescription drugs are regulated, but often misused. Prescription drug abuse is a huge problem. It's also one that I think could lead to an accidental overdose. At the starting line of this race are the doctors who prescribe the drugs in the first place. Then there are the pharmacists who have a system that prevents people from mixing medications that might cause complications. And then there are the people who actually take the pills. Let's assume that the doctors explained the risks and procedures surrounding a particular prescription. Let's assume the pharmacists ran a check on all your outstanding prescriptions, and seeing no problems, explaining the risks and procedures surrounding a particular prescription. Then it's up to you. If you knowingly abuse a prescription medication, then an overdose is NO ACCIDENT. But if your doctor failed to explain things to you. Or if the pharmacists didn't pay attention to the 7 other medications you were taking, then there is a possibility of accidental overdose.

Case in point: Heath Ledger.


Either the system that doctors and pharmacists use for keeping track of people's prescriptions isn't that reliable or Heath Ledger did some lying. Maybe both. Either way, I seriously doubt that the doctors and pharmacists failed to explain the purpose and dosage of those medications.

I'm at a loss here. Are the doctors at fault for prescribing so many medications? Or was Heath at fault for abusing those medications? I think it's both in this instance. If he didn't have access to those medications, then he obviously wouldn't have had an overdose. But no matter how many medications you have, you should always follow the dosage instructions. That much is Heath's fault.

3rd Level: Over-the-Counter Drugs

Meth labs everywhere have shown the world first-hand how dangerous over-the-counter medicines can be when put in the wrong hands. I think that there are more "wrong hands" than it seems. My hands are wrong hands. Your hands are wrong hands. Any hands without a medical license are wrong hands.

Case in point, yours truly. When I was in high school, I started having problems with my allergies and sinuses. I was plagued with headaches every day of my life. One day, I went to the medicine cabinet to see what I could take for my headache. I reached in and grabbed the first pain reliever I saw: Ibruprofen. I hadn't heard anything about Ibruprofen. I just needed something for my headache. So I took the recommended dosage and it worked great. If I would have seen a bottle of Tylenol, I would have taken that. But Ibruprofen is what was available, so I took that. The next time I got a headache, I took the Ibruprofen. And the next time. And the next time. And the next time. Always taking the recommended dosage. When the bottle ran out, I bought another. And another. And another. Again, always taking no more than the recommended dosage. For 6 or 7 years, I took 3-5 doses of Ibruprofen within a 24-hour period for headaches, never thinking anything of it.Until I met my husband. He was the first person to notice how much Ibruprofen I went through. And he commented on how I bought a bottle almost every time we went to WalMart. He worried me so much that I went to an ear, nose, and throat doctor to see if he could figure out what the source of my headaches were. He asked a lot of questions. When he found out about my use of Ibrupprofen for headaches, he informed me that Ibruprofen is highly addictive. And that while I may have started taking it for legitimate headaches, the continued headaches were probably just cravings for more Ibruprofen. I weaned myself off of Ibruprofen and started taking Tylenol for headaches only when the pain was extremely bad.

Now, I still have severe allergies and chronic sinusitis. And I still wake up every morning with a headache and have frequent headaches throughout the day, but I've learned to treat my allergies and sinuses first and only take something for a headache if the pain persists.

I learned something very important from my ENT: that Ibruprofen is addictive. It doesn't say that on the bottle. I learned something else from him, too. That Ibruprofen is an anti-inflammatory and shouldn't be used for headaches. Tylenol is a general pain reliever and non-addictive. Ibruprofen should only be taken for inflammation. But inflammation can only be diagnosed by a health professional.

What the-!?!Am I crazy, or should Ibruprofen even be on the OTC market?

The point I'm trying to make is that OTC medications are not regulated, promote self-diagnoses, and are VERY dangerous. My advice is to talk to the pharmacist before you take anything OTC. And always follow the recommended dosage. And if you find yourself taking OTC pills for a recurring problem, go see a doctor to find the source of the problem. Don't get in the habit of treating and treating and treating your symptoms.

Overdose on OTC? It happens. Sometimes it's an accident. Sometimes it's not. Again, unless you live under an ice block Antarctica, you should know better than to take an entire bottle of anything. Or even a handful. But I do believe an accidental overdose if possible at this level.

Well, you heard my LENGTHY thoughts. Now tell me what you think.



Delia Latham said...

What do I think? Well, obviously we have a world of people out here who are addicted and don't even know it. Obviously (again), that's dangerous stuff.

OTC drugs present perhaps one of the biggest OD threats, and yeah ... much of the stuff that's so readily available on the local markets should be put on a prescription basis. And yes, doctors need to be more aware of what medications their patients are already on before prescribing more. I watched my mother nearly die from prescription overdose - taking the prescribed dosages, but being prescribed waaaaay too much medication from various doctors.

As to street drugs ... 'nuff said. From the first snort/shoot/smoke, the user is aware of the risk and willingly puts herself/himself in danger. Sorry, one to blame there but oneself. Sure, the dealers need to be locked behind bars, but very few people are forced to buy or use. Responsibility still rests squarely on the shoulders of the user.

Anonymous said...

DeLyn Fisher says...

Wow! I totally forgot to mention the risks of a mis-dosage from doctors. I've seen that happen to my husband's grandmother. She was diabetic and they gave her waaa-aaay too much insulin and put her into shock. We almost lost her.

You are absolutely right...and you brought up a great point: we put our lives in doctor's hands. This is another reason why they should streamline the system so they doctor's can easily see what other doctors have been giving their patients.

And with older patients, because they take so many medications, they need to get frequent follow-ups and tests (initiated by the doctor) to check on the dosage. A regular dosage might be too much for a patient who's system is weakened by age, illness, and other meds.

Or patients could lie, which is what I believe happened with Heath Ledger. He was 28! My age! What illness or ailment could he possibly have at that age to need narcotic pain killers? And did he have more than one sleeping pill? I saw on a magazine where they showed pictures of all 12 of his prescription meds and listed them. He must have went from doctor to doctor to doctor. It's sad, really.

I'm sorry to hear about your mother. You're not alone. This is something that I feel very passionate about, and I hope things get better for all.


Nathalie said...

I am also totally addicted to chocolate.

For sleeping pills... doctors are very careful with those, however, some people go see different doctors and don't tell them what they take... these are addictive!