Like countless others, I have fallen victim to the dangers of prescription medication. I started taking pills to alleviate pain, and this habit grew into an addiction that culminated in an accidental overdose a little over a year ago.
Although my darkest days are behind me, my daily struggle to stay sober continues. And I'm not alone: prescription drug abuse has grown so rampantly in our country that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now classifies it as a "deadly epidemic." About 15% of all high school seniors have taken prescription drugs for recreational use, according to a 2012 study by Monitoring The Future. And most sobering of all? More than 15,000 people die every year from overdosing on these drugs, while the pharmaceutical industry continues to make billions.
As a child, I saw my father battle with drug addiction, which ultimately resulted in his imprisonment for a large portion of my life. From then on, I knew how powerful and impactful addiction was. Despite what I experienced with my father, I wasn’t exempt.
I had my first experience with prescription pills in my mid twenties. A friend had given me some Oxycodone one night before going to a party. Taking prescription pills for recreation soon became a common practice for me.
A few years ago, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and prescribed Ativan to combat my anxiety attacks.
I had no idea that I'd be riding the tidal wave of addiction for the next few years. I was taking Ativan for anxiety and Vicodin for migraines, which had become chronic after a car accident.
I was physically and psychologically dependent on medication for nearly three years before I decided that it was time for a change. Doctors wanted to wean me off of Ativan by placing me on something “less addictive” but I rejected the idea. Having survived an accidental Vicodin overdose, I didn’t want to continue the cycle of treating my illnesses with medication.
About a year after I committed to getting off of all medication, I was able to overcome my addictions and control my anxiety by leaning toward the practices of eastern medicine. I changed my eating habits, started practicing yoga, adopted a daily green juice regimen and got back to my weekly workouts.
I understand that all medical conditions require varying levels of treatment and this is not to say that medication is never useful. But we cannot overlook the obvious disconnect in society when the concept of holistic healing is preceded by the instant gratification of prescribed medication. We can’t deny that our desire for “quick fixes” has turned into a health epidemic for younger generations.
Studies show that most teenagers who take prescription pills for recreational use get them from family and/or friends. There are more deaths associated with prescription medicine than heroin and cocaine combined. The idea of “street thugs” selling drugs to our children has been replaced with the irrefutable fact that medical professionals are now the biggest suppliers of narcotics in America. Who should we fear, the guy on the corner or the guy with the medical degree?
The problem with prescription medicine is never one dimensional. One person may be using it for relief, while someone else is using it for the high. Both can be fatal and can lead to a life of dependency.
Have we not learned anything from the woes tragic deaths of Heath Ledger, Cory Monteith, Dana Plato, Michael Jackson, and Anna Nicole Smith--all of whose deaths were linked to prescription medications? Are we going to wait until there are more teenagers in rehab than in college before we finally amend our conventional outlook on sickness and treatment?
I challenge you to confront the ideals of modern medicine. I challenge you to ask yourself: are prescription drugs killing me and my kids? Let’s encourage our children to look into healthy alternatives. Only then will we be able to change the prospectus of health and well-being in our country for generations to come.