Oxycontin abuse. You do not have to be a junkie.

 I read the stories that were provided on your page regarding Oxycontin addiction, and I wanted to add a note from the moderate-usage camp. Both of the stories provided on your webpage are pretty extreme cases - one person using 320 to 640 mgs a day orally; another person snorting the drug with (presumably) the time-release ingredient burnt out. What I want to tell people who visit your site is - and please everyone, pay attention:

"YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE A JUNKIE, OR BE TAKING MORE THAN YOUR PRESCRIBED DOSAGE, FOR THIS DRUG TO RUIN YOUR LIFE."

I've had chronic back pain for years due to dislocated and torn discs, which are the product of a lifetime of cheerleading and gymnastics. I had taken every other type of pain reliever - Lortab, Vicodan, etc - and they were getting to where they didn't work anymore. So I went to see a new pain management specialist in September of 2002, and he put me on Oxycontin. There was never a word said to me by this physician or any of his staff regarding the addictive nature of the drug, or how dangerous its side effects can be, or how high the potential for abuse is. They started me on two 20 mg's a day, then steadily bumped me up to 120 mg's a day (three 20's morning and night). I did not "abuse" the drug, did not take more than my recommended dosage, never chewed, crushed or did anything else to the pills. I'm a housewife with three little ones, whose closest acquaintence with drug dealers or abusers is watching NYPD and ER - how could I be a narcotics addict???

The dependency was stealthy and I had no idea how physically dependent I was becoming on this drug, until one day last month when I needed to go pick up my prescription, and the doctor had to cancel appointments due to a family emergency. I couldn't imagine what I was going to do if the doctor didn't get back in time to write my new script and allow me to get my monthly little bottle of pills before I ran out. He did return in time, which seemed like a relief when it happened, but it started me thinking. When was the last time I'd felt energetic? When was the last time I'd cheerfully decided to overhaul my entire house and clean everything out (something I used to do on at least a twice-a-year basis)? When was the last time I had not gotten tired just going up the stairs in my own home with my baby in my arms? As I took a really close and honest look at my home, my life, my kids, and most importantly at myself, I was horrified at what I saw. So, on Monday, July 28, I did one of the hardest (and most ill-informed) things I've ever done - I took what remained of my prescription for the month and flushed it down the toilet.

I woke up sometime around 3 on the morning of Tuesday, July 29, gasping for breath. All the muscles in my body - and especially my back - seemed to be trying to go in fifty different directions at once. It wasn't painful exactly, it was absolutely MADDENING. Like your entire body is being tickled constantly and there's nothing you can do about it. I could not eat, drink, or move around. I had chills but I was sweating. My skin felt as though it was sunburned to a crisp. I felt as though I could not get a full breath of air into my lungs. I actually called 911 and was driven by ambulance to the hospital, while my kids went to stay with relatives. Having never been through narcotics (or any kind of) withdrawal before, I had no idea what was happening to me; I just laid there in the ER wondering if I had West Nile virus. Surely this could not possibly be the result of not taking a pill??? It wasn't until two days later, on my third trip to the ER, that I finally mentioned the Oxycontin to the doctor and the light dawned in his face. He immediately was able to give me some comfort in the form of IV liquids (Oxycontin dehydrates you horribly) and he called a counselor from the local rehab center.

The counselor was very nice and asked all the questions on his little form, and at the end we agreed that I was not a candidate for detox; my dependency was physical, not mental, and it could be handled medically. The ER doc gave me Ambien to help me sleep (big no-no there, but his heart was in the right place) and sent me home. I managed to stay home for another 24 hours, and on Thursday evening, July 31, thoroughly out of my mind with dehydration, lack of food or sleep, and hopped up on Ambien, I tried to drive myself back to the hospital. Instead, I drove my Suburban out onto the highway and nearly killed myself (and probably several other people - I honestly don't remember much about it). I woke up Friday morning in rehab and ended up staying there for two days. I was stunned to hear the physicians there telling me that Oxycontin withdrawal is actually worse than Heroin withdrawal.

In a lot of ways, God has been with me during the last week; His hand was certainly on me when I was driving around Thursday night, out of my mind. But I also made some stupid mistakes through simple ignorance, which could be avoided if people received the right information regarding the drugs they are given.

1. Just because a doctor prescribes it for you, does NOT mean it's good for you. Do your own research, and when you see as many warnings as there are out here for a drug like Oxycontin, just say no! Unless you are an end-stage cancer sufferer, there is absolutely nothing that could possibly be hurting you badly enough to be worth what Oxycontin will do to you. Do chiropractic, acupuncture, ANYTHING to stay off narcotics, opioids or opiates. If you decide you just can't live without the narcotics, then at least inform youself thoroughly regarding the side effects, dangers, and problems that you're liable to have quitting later on. I probably can't say 100% that if I had been told what a mess this was going to be from the outset, that I would have refused the drugs; my back pain is pretty bad. But at least I'd have been making an informed decision, rather than just chugging down whatever was given to me.

2. Know - and admit to yourself - when you cross the line to physical dependency (which will be very shortly after you start taking Oxycontin, if you decide to use it). The stories you've heard about all the addicts are NOT a bunch of street-drug-using-losers who just can't control themselves. There are Oxycontin addicts in your PTA, your church, your workplace, and your grocery store. There may be one in your own house. And keep in mind that there's a difference between physical dependency and addiction. Being physically dependent on Oxycontin is easier to beat than addiction, but it's still a painful process.

3. If you decide to quit, do not try to go it alone. First of all, it's dangerous to your body; and second of all, it puts you through needless suffering. The doctors and nurses at rehab and detox centers have the right training and medications to make your detox as painless as possible. It's not going to be fun and games by any means - you're going to do some suffering no matter what - but they can limit it, and that's very important.

Today is day 8 for me being Oxycontin Free, and I still don't feel very good - very weak, no appetite, can't sleep, and so forth. But I do have the pride of having taken the first steps towards getting away from this drug, and hopefully will have a day in the near future when I feel better than I have felt in months and months - a day when I can take my children to the park and run alongside them while we fly kites or play with our dog. Things that I could not do while Oxycontin had control of my life.