Interview with Rod Colvin on Prescription Drug Addiction
March 28th, 2011
Addiction to prescription drugs has been a part of American culture for years, yet this issue is seldom addressed as seriously as illegal drug abuse. With so many addictive prescription drugs on the market, many with adverse effects to users, and by extension, their families and loved ones, we decided it was time to learn more about this addiction.
So, we talked to Rod Colvin, the author of Overcoming Prescription Drug Addiction (visit his website: Prescription Drug Addiction), who took the time to answer a few of our questions about prescription drug abuse.
AllTreamtent: Can you briefly describe who you are and what you do? Is there a story behind you getting into the recovery world of prescription drugs?
Rod Colvin: I am currently an editor/publisher for Addicus Books Inc., a company I founded in 1994.
I am also a former journalist. During the time I was a journalist, I wrote the first edition of Overcoming Prescription Drug Addiction. The book first came out in 1995; the updated, third edition came out recently.I became interested in the topic of addiction to Rx because of my younger brother, Randy’s, long-term addiction to perscription drugs. He was an addict for fifteen years. Throughout all this time, my family and I tried to help him. We tried to save him. But of course, we could not save him. (Someone who is addicted must want help.) Sadly, my brother died at age 35. The years of abuse to his body took a toll; he died of a heart-attach in his sleep.
After his death, I wanted to do something that might help others—addicts and their families—who struggle with addiction to Rx. This was the motive behind my writing the book.
AT: What is your view on prescription drugs in general? Is there any currently available that you are particularly worried about?
RC: Today, prescription drug addiction is one of the most serious drug problems in the nation.
It is ravaging families across the country. The clever addict can get virtually any drug he/she wants. This is a multifaceted problem in our society. Clearly, the person who takes a pill has a responsibility for such action. However, our health system is very susceptible to abuse; people can acquire pills either legally or illegally. Also, historically, law enforcement has not taken this problem seriously; they don’t have the budgets to fight Rx abuse and much of their time is spent fighting the illegal drug war.
AT: How would you say is the most common way someone becomes addicted to prescription drugs? Does it usually begin as treatment and then turn into abuse, or do you see more people taking prescription drugs recreationally without ever using them for treatment? For example, I have read about a trend where teens are sneaking into open houses to steal prescription drugs from bathroom medicine cabinets.
RC: There are no solid statistics on how addiction occurs, but I believe many addicts are what I call “unwitting addicts.” They’ve had no history of drug abuse or addiction, but they started taking a narcotic or tranquilizer for a legitimate reason—either physical pain or emotional pain. All of the sudden, this drug makes them feel wonderful. (Maybe they have undiagnosed depression or anxiety and the drug makes them feel really good.)
So, they want to continue the drug…even when they don’t need it. They start taking more drugs because their bodies begin to adapt to it (and they need more to get the high). They take larger doses. And then, before they realize it, the addiction has them by the throat. If they try to stop the drug abruptly, they get very sick with withdrawal symptoms. (I’m told these symptoms are like a terrible flu.) So, then they need to take more pills to fend off
the withdrawal. The descent continues.
Many experts describe addiction occurring as a person continues to take a drug in spite of the negative consequences it brings to their lives—lost jobs, car wrecks, lost marriages or relationships, and personal injuries—from falling down stairs etc.
AT: Could you tell us some early signs that someone is slipping into addiction without potentially realizing it?
RC: Sometimes it is difficult to tell that someone is addicted to pills. Other times, the signs of addiction may be obvious—the person may appear intoxicated and have slurred speech. Other symptoms of addiction may include:
• Showing relief from anxiety
• Changes in mood—from a sense of well-being to belligerence
• False feelings of self-confidence
• Increased sensitivity to sights and sounds, including hallucinations
• Slurred speech, poor motor control
• Decline in hygiene and appearance
• Altered activity levels—such as sleeping for twelve to fourteen hours or frenzied activity lasting for hours
• Lack of interest in activities previously enjoyed
• Unpleasant or painful symptoms when the substance is withdrawn
• Preoccupation with running out of pills
AT: Is there any last comment you would like to add about prescription drugs which
we have not yet covered?
RC: Life does not come with a training manual for how to handle the situation when someone you love is addicted. All too often, family members and friends try help the addict by rescuing them. This rescuing often enables the addict—someone is there to “pick up the pieces” of their messes, so they feel no need to change.
Addiction is a chronic, progressive disease that is ultimately fatal (it may take years) if not brought under control. Addiction doesn’t just get better…it gets worse unless the person who is addicted takes action to recover.
The other thing those struggling with addiction should remember is: feeling helpless and hopeless goes with addiction. Many addicts feel they can’t be helped. The reality is….they can be helped. However, they need to ask for help.
Millions and millions of people have made it into recovery. Recovery is possible.