A 71 year old walks into a doctor’s office. She’s well spoken, intelligent, nicely dressed. She is middle to middle upper class. She discusses her many medical ailments: Shoulder pain from a rotator cuff surgery, back pain from a slipped disk, migraines, and severe knee pain, which she uses a cane for.
She is new to the area and looking for a primary care physician. Right now, though, she needs a new prescription for her oxycodone, which her previous physician had her on. In her chart it is noted the specifics from before.
So a basic physical is done, multiple prescriptions written, and she goes to the pharmacy to refill them.
At home, she falls asleep at the dining room table. Sometimes her family can’t understand what she is saying because her words get jumbled. She forgets things, trips, and can’t remember how she fell.
She has a drawer filled with various medications, both current and ones that are no longer prescribed. Many state that they are to be taken as needed. She will take a few more than the dose when she feels particularly sore. When she is anxious or depressed or frustrated, she will take some to just get out of the world for a bit, to just sleep.
And yes, she mixes them up, but the doctors seem to be okay with it since they gave her all of them. Even when she is in the hospital because of a fall or other scare, she asks for and demands more medicine.
Mostly the doctors give in. She looks fine, and sometimes they just give her what she wants. Medication piles up, and up, and up.
She is the newest face of opioid addiction. She is your neighbor, your aunt, the woman who leads the bible study at church. She is your mom, your grandmother, your sister.
When people argue that these addicts shouldn’t be given narcone over and over, when someone calls in to a radio show and states that they should just be left and let nature take its course, for them to be responsible for their actions, they are not thinking of their 82 year old father. How can a strong, respectable, intelligent person be addicted? Not their neighbor.
There are many conditions that elicit sympathy. If you are paralyzed, no one will say you should just be left to figure out things on your own. Cancer? Of course it should be treated. What about lung cancer that is caused by years and years of smoking, or a failing liver of someone who is an alcoholic?
It’s easy to think that opioid addiction is limited to a certain population, or that it would never happen to you. That’s the problem with addiction though. It sneaks up on you when you least expect it. If a doctor prescribes it, it must be okay, we think. When your best friend takes a shot of whisky with her Xanax, it’s fine. I mean, she’s old enough to do what she wants, right?
Opioid addiction doesn’t discriminate. Doctors may miss the signs of it. Family members could just accept this because they’ve tried to help but he is resistant. He’s stubborn, so really, what’s the point?
All lives matter, and all lives deserve to be saved when there is a treatment available. Even it you might think they did it to themselves. Even if you assume that they are asking for it.
Don’t think that because someone is of a particular social group, race, socioeconomic state, religion, or age opioid addiction cannot happen to someone you love, or even to you.
And you don’t know who will be in that church who is overdosing and needs a treatment to save their life. Don’t think because it’s an elementary school in a good part of town that Narcan is not needed.