Study shows association between opioids, heavily medicated families in general

Poppy field photo courtesy of Pixabay

Research published today in JAMA Internal Medicine reveals something not too surprising: When one member of a household has opioids, such as Vicodin or hydrocodone, other family members have a greater likelihood of dipping into it, too, when compared to households that simply stock NSAIDS.

What’s surprising is that the increase is miniscule: Less than 1 percent over the course of one year of opioid use.

This massive study of 20 million insurance beneficiaries covered prescriptions dispensed from 2000 to 2014. Two-thirds were given opioids; a third were given non-opioid pain relief.

Marissa Seaman led the team of Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers. They looked at a range of patient ages, from newborns to the elderly.

The study illuminated a nuance, if nothing else: Households receiving opioids, as opposed to NSAIDS, were more likely to be stocked with other addictive and/or mind-altering substances as well. Those medications included benzodiazepines (anxiety medication), SSRIs (depression medication), muscle relaxers and more.

In a value-driven consumer healthcare system, patients have very little problem obtaining opioids, benzodiazepines, or anything else they want, particularly if they do not appear to be in the throes of addiction.

And even if they are. Check out my report for Dual Diagnosis: Astonishing study shows that people who non-fatally overdose often continue to get refills from their doctors.

Those who are considered upstanding members of a community can continue to get refills – even hop to multiple doctors if their docs aren’t using prescription monitoring databases (and sadly, most aren’t).

Stigma is killing your children, your parents, your neighbors

It all adds up to addicts being created behind the most unlikely of faces. Often, those who become addicted to opioids in this manner face another dangerous demon: Stigma.

They’re not going to tell anyone they are abusing prescription medications, most likely. And if they do, often family members keep it under wraps anyway.

I know that in my family it is taboo to talk honestly and openly about addiction. As a result, I don’t talk to my family anymore, on either side.

My own sobriety is too important for that.

Nothing hurts worse than being punished for trying to do the right thing. You are too important. If you know you need help and your family is putting the kibosh on it, either because they are too embarrassed or because YOU NEED TO PULL IT TOGETHER! just seek treatment yourself.

Take it from me. It’s far more empowering anyway. And remember: There is no “right way” or “wrong way” to get sober. Only your way.

Likewise, if your son or daughter, mom or dad, is struggling with addiction and your reaction is to ignore it, I beg you to read S.O.B.E.R. by my friend Anita Devlin and her son, Mike.

You can check out this piece I did on Anita and her son for Universal Health Services/Foundations Recovery Network.

Pain pills, anxiety pills, breath mints, oh my: What’s in your purse?

Is your purse well stocked with anxiety medications and pain pills not prescribed to you? Do you harmlessly hand them out at the bar or to those you honest to goodness are trying to help when having anxiety attacks?

That’s fine, because as a bus driver and I recently discussed, we used to not know how serious this all is. But we do know now.

So, it’s not a blame game at all. Nobody is to blame if this blog hits a note.

The only people to blame are our lawmakers, who cozied up to Pharma and Big Healthcare. It’s nauseating. We elect them to protect us, not hurt us.

Check out my blog about a 60 Minutes piece a while back which honestly is the biggest story since 911 as far as I’m concerned.

Except there are more fatalities. The CDC estimates our nation is losing 91 people per day to opioid overdose.

‘Keep it Simple, Stupid’ works for me, but it’s not the reality most people live in

I find that keeping as incredibly simple a life as possible (no car, low-stress work, total minimization of external noise such as phone and internet) works for me like nothing in my life ever has.

And medical cannabis. My writing, and a whole lot of exercise, keep me sober.

And I know that’s a Fantasy Island story for so many addicts struggling to feed their children and hold it together themselves. They have to do whatever it takes.

I can’t imagine to know that struggle, but I’m learning it in a Facebook group I joined. It’s a group of people struggling with addiction, as well as the loved ones of those who are gone now. It’s powerful. And respectful.

It’s the best support group I ever have been in. And my issue never was opioids (but I dabbled in them). I can relate to the people and don’t feel threatened. I can’t explain it.

But I’ve had relapses. I went 2 ½ years though. So, my take is that I went 2 ½ years. Not that I “started over” last January. Why would anybody with low self-esteem, likely the cause of them to begin drinking and drugging in the first place, want to subscribe to anything where they are told things like that?

There are plenty of places out there that aren’t like that. Of course, they’re the full ones.

Until next time.

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