For this first post I was planning on introducing myself but instead I’m sitting here reading the New York Times and being gobsmacked all over again about the fact that folks STILL don’t get addiction.
The New York Times’s “Well” column today tells us we really, really shouldn’t be afraid of the Tylenol in Vicodin and Percocet. All we have to do is take it as prescribed.
BTW today’s column is a followup to a July 1 piece about a federal advisory panel’s recommendation to the Food and Drug Administration to ban Vicodin and Percocet, “two of the most popular prescription painkillers in the world,” because of the toxic effect on the liver of massive doses of Tylenol.
I was floored when I read this. Banning Vicodin for the Tylenol would be like banning hot dogs for the preservatives. There would be a strong outcry, especially from the owners of, say, baseball teams?
One wonders how much influence a possible complaint from McNeil, Tylenol’s wealthy manufacturer, could wield over the editorial content of the NYT’s website. Because a statement on www.tylenol.com, issued last week by the senior medical director, Edwin K. Kuffner, M.D., offers pretty much the same viewpoint as today’s “Well” column: Don’t worry about Tylenol.
But a word of caution: if you are someone who has ever used Vicodin or Percocet “not as prescribed”—notice how little this physician’s statement either understands (or admits) why enough folks are taking too much to worry the federal government.
Where is the word “addiction” in all these statements? Absent, as usual.
The word “addict,” in the public imagination, conjures a low-life waste-case heroin junkie cooking and shooting under a bridge. A sad-sack patient in an early-morning queue at the methadone clinic that nobody wanted in their neighborhood. Even yuppie partiers snorting coke off a toilet lid in a dirty downtown club might not be “real addicts”—they’re just “having fun.”
An addict surely can’t be an ordinary person with a very common illness that has psychological, neurological and behavioral components, who buys her drugs at—a drugstore.
It is very difficult to get good statistics on how many people use drugs because of the stigma still surrounding drug addiction. The Monitoring the Future survey, which the federal government claims is one of the most reliable, polls school kids ages 12 and up. The 2007 results on Vicodin: 2.7% of 8th graders, 7.2% of 10th graders, and 9.6% of 12th graders had used Vicodin for “nonmedical purposes” at least once in the previous year. Which, if anything, points to how accessible the drugs are. All that stuff’s just out there, waiting to be picked up.
And our society has become so used to taking a pill for every condition.
Why we take too much Vicodin or Percocet: our head hurts; the site of our injury/surgery/chronic condition hurts; it helps us deal with stress; it calms us and stimulates us; it helps us sleep; it helps us wake up; it helps us get through boring parts of the day; it helps us not explode in impatience when our spouse or kids irritate us—
I invite you to add your own below.
If you’re already free of opioids or other substances, please tell us how you did it.
And tomorrow I’ll tell you who I am, what I do, and why I’m here…