16 April, 2012

O is for Oxycontin

You can find a full list of my A to Z challenge posts here. :)

Back with another narcotic.

My dad died several years ago from complications of diabetes. Along the way, he had numerous heart attacks, surgeries, dialysis visits, and an oxycontin addiction.

He called it hillbilly heroin. Never heard of such a thing before my dad's addiction, but it's a common term and a problem all over the country. On the black market, it's expensive stuff. With prescriptions in hand and decent insurance... not so much. Either way, it's potentially deadly.

I can't remember when he first started using Oxycontin, probably after an angioplasty about a decade before he died. It's a pretty powerful opiate based pain killer and I know he was in quite a lot of pain for a long time. I vaguely remember him taking Percocets, some Vicodin, but once he got the Oxycontin, that was it. No other drug would do.

I totally understand the need to stop the pain, I do. Instead of one pill every so many hours, though, he'd take three or four at a time, all day long. I remember him having several huge bottles of the stuff, all prescribed by different doctors, there on his nightstand. He'd wrestle one open, scoop out a few, and chew them all at once. Half an hour, maybe an hour later - or whenever he happened to wake up - he'd do it again.

It bothered me that none of the doctors, especially his primary physician, did anything to limit his access. I suppose it was a case of 'we know he hurts, so let's let him stop hurting'. Frankly, I can accept and appreciate that, but it was obvious to everyone around him that my dad wasn't taking the pills to stop the pain in his feet or belly or whatever, he was taking them to stop the pain of his ever increasing addiction. And he did it for YEARS. An end of life decision to limit pain is one thing, encouraging a long term addiction is something else.

He ultimately lost the ability to think, to reason, to play guitar, to do anything but sprawl twitching and passed out in bed. He'd burn though a month's supply in a day or two. He'd get the shakes if he didn't have pills within reach. It was a horrible thing to see, and I learned that you cannot negotiate or reason with an addict. The screwy thing was he knew he was an addict and, despite a lifetime of badmouthing drunks and druggies, he wasn't at all interested in changing.

My dad's decline from diabetes was inevitable, but becoming a heroin addict along the way was sadly unexpected and added a tragic footnote to an otherwise talented life.


Jean said...

It's hard to understand, but I think the addict loses the ability to be rational about this particular subject. (I have zero experience with this, and I hope I never do, so your experience trumps anything I might say about this subject.)

It's like trying to understand why someone would choose suicide. A medical professional office co-worker explained it this when when I expressed anger at a co-worker's suicide (not for me, but at how he could do that his little girls, whom he loved). He said sometimes the internal pain in so great, the external stuff doesn't matter as much.

Thankfully, I still don't really understand, but I try. There are some things in life I hope I never understand, because it means I'll have had to walk that road myself, and there are places I'd rather my life didn't take me.

And I think I'm rambling, so I'll wander off now.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

I'm sorry you had to experience your father's addiction like that. Oxycontin seems to have become a list-topper for prescription drug addiction, and here in the Southeast, there are plenty of so-called pill mills to feed the addiction. There's always tough talk about how law enforcement is gonna shut the places down, but talk is cheap, and the will (and money) to follow through is sadly lacking. Stopped by on the A-Z. Count me in as your newest follower.

Susan Kane said...

I am so sorry about your father. That is a terrible loss, and such a tragedy.
Oxycontin is sneaky, and it takes much effort to shed its effects.

Janna said...

I'm sorry to hear about your father's addiction. My grandmother is prescribed painkillers (not sure what she's on now, but she's had percocet and morphine before). I know she's in a lot of pain, and she only takes one or two a day more than she's prescribed, but to see her that week she's run out is horrible. She basically shakes and lays on her bed and barely talks to anyone. Her doctor is pretty strict with her though, and does what she can to monitor her usage.