Disclaimer: I am not licensed or qualified to diagnose, prescribe, advise or even render a professional opinion on addiction other than my own (personal) experience and those who’ve agreed to be interviewed.
Are you (secretly) a part of the invisible epidemic that has hit baby boomers? Are you addicted to opioid painkillers? Were they prescribed by a doctor? Are you self medicating from chronic pain? Mental illness? Emotional anguish? Lonliness? Divorce? Aging? Have you tried to stop and can’t? Have you lied to the doctor to get more? Bought them on the street? Convinced yourself taking the pills outweighs the potential for abuse? Been desperate? Have the pills taken over your thinking? Are you always anticipating and planning out when the next dose will be taken? Looking forward to it? Or are you dreading it?
Opioid addiction is the best kept secret among the baby boomers that is about ready to explode. And in more ways than one.
We are a group who experimented in youth and early adulthood with illicit drugs and alcohol. We also experimented with sex and doing things our way.
We participated in high-impact aerobics, we grounded in repetitive motion sculpting our abs, triceps and asses. We spent long hours running on treadmills going nowhere.
We lifted heavy weights, tried steroids and loved the glamour women and the lifestyles of Dynasty and Dallas. In the seventies and eighties we had little respect for our bodies and even less for our minds.
John Travolta and Saturday Night Fever had us dancing in stilettos into the wee hours of the morning fueled with whiffs of white powder, gulps of Harvey Wallbangers and smoking Marlboro Red’s in the box.
As we grew older and matured we began having children, honing in on our careers and planning for the future.
We quit smoking, hanging out in bars all night and no longer associated with our buddies from back in the day. We experimented with green drinks, cut out red meat and did yoga.
And then it hit: “Seniorville.”
Our bodies were breaking down. Obesity skyrocketed. We began landing on the couch after work for a night of mindless TV, drinking red wine to relax after being hunched over a desk all day with a headset in our ear that had begun to take its toll.
Knees started to hurt, hips were letting us down and backs were giving out. Rotator cuffs gave us fits. We hurt all over. We went to our family physicians and demanded relief. Doctors in the nineties started prescribing Loracet, Percodan, Vicadin, codeine, and prescription strength cough medicine.
We were prescribed a rainbow cocktail of little blue, white and yellow pills that took away the physical hurt. We found the painkillers also temporarily veiled the stress and disatisfaction in our lives from the poor choices we’d made or maybe the consequences from living other peoples lives.
The little colored caplets dimmed the disatisfaction and disappointment that was slowly unraveling, revealing the truth: life is difficult and navigation is sometimes non-negotiable. Not everything turns out like the fairy tales read we believed as children. Life doesn’t always end “happily ever after” and more importantly they forgot to share the in between. There was more to life than a beginning and an ending.
Today there are millions of boomers who are medicating real physical pain and secretly finding relief from mental anguish and emotional disturbance through opioids and alcohol. The painkillers are prescribed (in most cases) for legitimate (chronic) pain. Alcohol is the complimentary ingrediant that enhances the sedative effects of the opioid that lulls one into a hypnotic calm and in many cases breathing stops. Forever.
Inside this dreamy state there lies a perfect storm brewing. When the rainbow becomes the sole support of your every waking moment you are careeneing down a highway to hell. There are only three outcomes from opioid addiction: jails, institutions and death.
The painkillers fuel us through grueling work days. Opioids help us focus and keep us working like automated machines. The painkillers hit the mu-receptors and hijack the reward centers of our brains. They numb our pain (mental, emotional and physical) and mask fatigue. We can work 12-hour days and train for marathons and help our kids with their homework. And we can sleep.
Opioids perform double duty.
At night they help us calm down and sleep deeply for long periods of time. We aren’t awake all night stewing. We gently fall into a restful sleep and wake up looking forward to the first dose that starts our day.
Opioids mask themselves as Nirvana.
Over time Nirvana stops working as efficiently to ease the pain and mask the fatigue as our bodies develop a tolerance.
We pop more pills and wait for that first response from the mu-receptor to connect to the rainbow reactor. We take more and more to ease pain, feel Nirvana and recapture the feeling we found in the beginning But we can’t ever seem to recapture. It can be a slow process, other times the bodie’s tolerance rapidly increases like a runaway train, out of control.
If you think you might be out of control, you are. If you ruminate about the feel good and what you have to do to get there, you are in trouble. If you try and stop taking the pills and anxiety, nervousness and lack of concentration seem to dominate and you can’t find another source of relief, you’re in trouble.
Painkillers are thought a panacea to take the edge off life’s mental and physical hardships. They chemically kill mind, body, and spirit.
What is your life really worth?
Think about it.