Our nation has an epidemic related to pain medication. In the past, doctors prescribed benzodiazepines (benzos) and opiate drugs like candy. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now as research reviews the practice, long term issues are better understood. That on top of the already significant issues related to alcohol and other drugs have caused deaths, relationships to implode, and so many other social issues. As the nation looks at the damage done by over prescribing those drugs, many people are struggling with the physical and psychological addictions. Those addictions will cause issues for many years to come. As states begin to put significant restrictions on the medications, there needs to be more money funneled to substance abuse programs to treat the problem that we created in years past.
I live in Florida, and Florida recently passed legislation to restrict prescriptions, and to scrutinize doctors who prescribe benzos and opiates. Doctors are working to try to manage a caseload of people that have been on the medications for many years, and are afraid of what this means for them. Although the physical addiction can be overcome quickly, the emotional addiction is harder to overcome. Many patients I have seen have been on the meds for a long time, taking high doses a day, and they are afraid of what their lives will be like when the doctor cuts them off. They have come to rely on those medications and have few skills to manage without them.
As the country struggles to get along, many people in this country are only at the beginning of a struggle to manage their lives in a different way. They are afraid of a future and scared of loosing the quality of life they do have because they don’t believe they can function without the medication that they have been prescribed, for some since the 1970’s. How will they cope, and make it through? They need support, education, and skill building to begin to rely on other medication and skills to manage in the future.
People have the strength to make it through. They just don’t know it yet. Addiction is a very scary thing. From addictions to drugs, to addictions to alcohol, or porn, or gambling, or sex, or anything else, it can take over a person’s life. Although many of the people having to detox from benzos and opiates were put on the medications by their doctors, they learned to rely on the medication to make it through the day, like an alcoholic makes it through the day by drinking. It was a sanctioned way to manage your life, and many people didn’t have to self-medicate any more. They were stable, and functioning, but now that will all change.
There are no real answers about how all this will happen. There doesn’t seem to be any more services or support for the people that are being taken off their meds, and the mental health services (already severely lacking in this country) will become overwhelmed as things get worse before they get better. If you know someone who is or will be going through this, support them if you can. Help them access services if they need it. Help them find new ways to manage life, and maintain a quality of life.
Substance abuse is a difficult topic, but it’s about to get worse as the country makes changes for so many people. Be aware. Be helpful and be understanding. The people going through it will need it, so they can get back to being happy, for life.