Orange County Has a Drug Problem

I'm not exaggerating when I say my biggest fear, in the first couple years post-car accident, was becoming addicted to pain meds.  I went through surgery after surgery after surgery.  Addiction will be a concern as long as I continue to need pain drugs of any kind, but I (and my doctor) don't feel it's something I'm in danger of at this point in my journey.  

I've gone through eight surgeries in four and a half years and I've lived with high levels of pain the entire time.  I'd have to have my head in the sand not be concerned about the narcotics I've consumed during that time period.

Fortunately for me, I don't like how I feel while under the influence of narcotics.  I like being clear-headed and in control.  Feeling foggy and loopy isn't a sensation I enjoy or seek out.  

I also think some people are chemically more inclined towards various addictions.  I'm, in part, just lucky I don't have a predisposition towards addiction.

I look back at a few of the more difficult surgeries I've gone through and I realize now I should have taken MORE pain meds.  I was so afraid of taking them surgery after surgery – of becoming addicted, I tried to get by on minimal doses.  I put myself through a lot more pain than I needed to because I was trying so hard to tough it out and NOT take many drugs.

And yet, here I am doing it again.

A few days ago I told you how proud I was of only needing two pain pills on my 5th post-surgery day.  On day #6 I needed three and a half pain pills and I felt like a total failure.  I beat myself up mentally for not being able to "take" the pain ….  

Never mind, I had been more active the prior day (my trip to the doctor which involved driving for over an hour, walking, showering, dressing)  and, of course, it resulted in an increase in post-surgery pain.

I should know by now, that's how surgical recovery goes.

Two steps forward … one step back.

Eventually I'll get where I want to be, but it takes a lot of patience which is not my strength.

Because appropriate drug use is an issue which I've spent a lot of time thinking about these last few years, I find it shocking to realize how many people in Orange County are intentionally using prescription pain meds to get high.

I must be really naive.

Almost every time I'm at Dr. Painless's office, his office is turning away someone who is seeking drugs by "faking" a medical condition.

It floors me.

Sometimes I see older people in the waiting room, clearly addicted, who seem to have habits they can't break.   I wonder if anyone cares after a certain age?  One woman, in particular, sticks in my memory.  She must have been at least in her mid-seventies … an over-nipped, over-tucked, over-made up, over-jeweled, and over-dressed aging OC woman.  She sat in the waiting area talking loudly on her cell phone about her need for her "meds."

She was pathetic.

I honestly wanted to put her photo on a trading card and hand it out in the Newport Beach bars to the younger, plastic, OC women.

One woman called into the office and I overheard (one side of) the conversation because I was seated near the receptionist.  The woman was insisting she was out of pain meds and needed them refilled immediately.  She had just picked up 60 tablets (of Norco – a stronger version of Vicodin) the week before.  The doctor refused to give her more.

On my last visit, I asked Dr. Painless how often he has to turn someone away who he feels is only there to seek drugs.  He answered, "Probably about once every two weeks."

Dr. Painless actually runs a report on all his patients so he can see who they are getting medication from and how often.  A woman had been in to see him the same day I was there.  She had been to ten different doctors in a six week period.  He referred her to a dependency clinic.  She's either using or selling – or both.

Will she go to the dependency clinic?  Probably not.

How many doctors run checks on their patients?

I'm guessing not many.

Oxycontin appears to be the drug of choice in Orange County.

People want it to get high with, and it seems they're having no trouble getting it.

People with absolutely nothing wrong with them.

It's hard for me to fathom inviting prescription narcotics into your life when I've struggled with so much pain in my own life.  I can't imagine just taking the stuff for no reason.

(And due to the highly addictive nature of Oxycontin it's a drug I've chosen to never use, even when it has been suggested by doctors.)

Dr. Painless told me in Newport Beach and *ahem* Emerald Bay, in particular (which he compared to Sodom and Gomorrah), adults party and use drugs side by side with their teens.  They get high on Ritalin, Oxycontin and Vicodin and mix their drugs freely with alcohol.

It's all the rage, apparently.

It boggles my mind.

Do people realize how highly addictive Oxycontin is?

How many lives it destroys?

They are getting high on it and mixing it with alcohol, at parties with their teenagers.

I brought the subject of prescription drugs for recreational use up on Twitter the other day.  I was surprised at how many people responded saying prescription drug/alcohol parties are all the rage where they live too.

I can't get over it.

Whatever happened to smoking a little weed and throwing back a few beers?

Do you see these type of parties where you live?

Have you participated?

People … what are you thinking?

© Twenty Four At Heart

21 Responses to “Orange County Has a Drug Problem”

  1. Michelle

    Honestly? I don’t believe they are thinking.
    I look at kids entertainment and wonder – if they are getting that adrenalin rush now (think Tower of Terror type of rides), what will they do when they are young adults to get that ‘high’? I guess they will take drugs. Which really saddens me.
    I’m really glad that both my kids are grounded and have their friends at our place so we know them, also their parents and trust them to not allow anything to happen that will put our kids in any kind of danger. My 2 are 15 and 16 and we have kept communications open about anything and everything, so they know that they can tell/ask us anything. I also know that when my daughter goes to uni or when my son goes to work it will be a different situation. But hope that they feel confident enough to call us if they don’t feel safe, not matter where they are.

  2. sandra

    My next door neighbor has lost 2 nephews from the recreational use of prescription meds. He is currently fighting to get legialation passed to track the over prescribing and useage of powerful pain killers. I think it is a bigger problem than we can even imagine and I like you cannot imagine wanting to feel the way pain meds make you feel. But remember we all have addictions…….yours is photography. Which is a GOOD addiction.

  3. Joanne

    honey, it’s not just OC, it’s the entire country, especially for the “Oxy’s”. Florida had loosened some law that allowed “pain clinics” to come to Florida. The “dealers” showed up so fast and furious, and the “patients” were seen in long lines waiting outside. Tags from all over. People driving from out of state to get “meds”. It was a fiasco that the authorities could not handle. They had to reverse the legislation, and close them all up again. There were lots of busts, but things have calmed down, and there is a task force to look for “doctor shoppers”, people who go from doctors and clinics all day and collect prescriptions.

  4. di

    My father was addicted to alcohol. My brother is also an alcoholic. I think everyone has their vices in life, some harmless vices and some that truly drag a person into the gutter as well as all those around them, including many times their family members who become enablers. At some point in life I simply became immune to my Dad’s addiction. It was either that or let it worry me to death all the time. It’s sad and may sound cold hearted, but these days I am simply immune to anyone with an addiction and don’t feel sorry for them. They either find the courage somewhere deep inside to leave it alone or they find friends who share the same ‘interest’ so to speak and dissapppear into the lifestyle. Guess maybe that’s what those parties are all about.

  5. linda

    “Oxycontin appears to be the drug of choice in Orange County.
    People want it to get high with, and it seems they’re having no trouble getting it. People with absolutely nothing wrong with them.” It’s not just the OC, I can assure you.

  6. unmitigated me

    First, Norco is a stronger version of Vicodin, not Valium. I know because I have taken it for my back pain. Which is real (I know you are not suggesting otherwise, but given the topic of the post…). I have progressed beyond that twice already, and am now taking a low dose of oxycodone, the active ingredient in Oxycontin. That, in addition to the nerve ablations I have been having, make my life livable. The pain clinic I go to is connected to the same network that pharmacies are, and I am required to bring my meds with me for counting at every appointment, and am subjected to random drug-screening a couple of times per year.
    This drug is actually a rather low-level maintenance drug. Yes it is extremely addicting, but I’ve also learned over the last five years that the pain is not going to go away via any known procedure, and I have come to the realization that addiction is the least of my worries. As things now stand, I will be taking something like this for the rest of my life.
    I am sure this is not your intention, 24, but I feel a little bit like a failure when I read posts like these, like I should be ashamed of what I am taking.

  7. Liz Tee

    @Unmitigated me — of course you shouldn’t feel like a failure! You are dealing with chronic pain! It’s the people who *choose* to abuse these drugs recreationally who are failures.
    THe older I get, the less opposed I am to weed, even though I don’t use it. My husband used Marinol (synthetic THC) capsules from the pharmacy during the last month of his life (cancer). It was a godsend, and worked so much gentler than the Ativan and other drugs they gave him for nausea, etc. And it’s natural and non-addictive!
    I seriously think it may be time to treat it like alcohol instead of like an illegal drug. Or a legal drug that’s being abused.

  8. Twenty Four At Heart

    Unmitigated Me
    Of course that’s not my intention – the intention of the post is the discussion, not of people who NEED pain meds (I also will probably use some type of pain meds off and on for life!), but of all the parties that have cropped up in the oc where people are using oxy/norco/ritalin mixed w/alcohol purely for recreational purposes.
    My typing Valium instead of Vicodin was probably cuz I had Norco fuzzy brain when I was writing – I corrected it! (TRUST ME – I know what Norco is!) : ) Sorry if the typo created confusion.
    The post was prompted by the parties of purely recreational drug use. People with real pain are a different story. A story I know only too well. There’s nothing to be ashamed of when someone has pain and uses pain meds to get relief. To me, we do what we need to do to live our life as fully as possible – for both of us, that probably means we will need help with pain off and on for life. I don’t see anything to be ashamed of about that ….

  9. Erica

    Some parents think that providing a safe environment for teens to experiment with drugs will prevent excessive drug use in the future. I received quite a few reasonably worded lectures about that from otherwise sane parents when my kids were young. Anecdotally, it doesn’t work. It seems to lead to rehab and overdose in young adults.
    I’ve also found that popular houses, where kids who aren’t in any activities together hang out most often, usually have a dealer somewhere on the premises. Teens don’t flock together for no reason.
    I think recreational drug use is almost everywhere now.

  10. Haley

    I’m from Ohio, 23, and hang out with a “party crowd” at times.
    I have been losing more and more friends of all ages because of prescription pill addiction. Our area has even been featured on Oprah because the high number of pill & heroin addicts. I have never tried a pill that way, and don’t plan to. I have been prescribed (kidney stones) percocet and one knocks me on my ass. People around here are snorting percs, vicodins, oxys, and are falling into heroin when they cannot afford pills anymore. I have been told personally by a doctor that snorting the pills is 100x worse for you, because they were made to be swallowed and released over time, not crushed and snorted. The effects are entirely more “enjoyable” to the user and very immediate.
    Sadly, a lot of people know what they’re getting into. I have one former close friend whose mom died from an overdose. She was in her early 30s, left behind 2 kids, and he was SO against pill users — until he started doing them himself. Now a year later, he has no job, he got kicked out of college, and he lives at home with his grandma and little brother, who is also doing drugs.
    Doctors around here are definitely enabling these people. There are doctors known for prescribing 100 pills at a time, for a price. That scares me. The police in our town are not doing anything to stop these pill users and dealers… absolutely nothing! There are young kids whose parents are junkies, but they still have custody. These kids are being neglected. People are dying left and right, but nothing is being done. It really, really scares me!
    I feel like a lot of people say “it’s the younger kids”… but I’m one of those kids and I’m here to say it’s not JUST the people my age. A lot of people my age and even younger are doing the same things, but a lot of the addicts are in their 30s, 40s, and even older! My own grandpa had to go to rehab after his doctor had him on up to 8 Vicodin a day.
    Like I said, I do hang with a party crowd. I smoke pot every single day of my life. But I also work and support myself. I’m a college graduate. I don’t see marijuana as a danger, but pills definitely are. They’re just so much more accepted because you can get them from a doctor. Our country is in an epidemic with this problem, I just don’t think enough people see it yet.
    PS — I’ve been reading your blog for over a year, I just never comment! Hello =]

  11. laura

    I have never and will never participate or understand. I have been dealing with severe pain for the last four months. I have two children to take care and a husband that is home at night. I was given a prescription for vicodin at first, it didn’t work, so i was given Norco. it worked, however, I hated taking it. I only took it when very very neccissary. I had surgery last Fri and had to take 2 norcos every 4hrs for the severe pain. When I got home, I weaned off in one day. I now only take it at night, and if I realy really need it. I hate having to take those, and I totally udnerstand where you are coming from. I just don’t see how people can “want” to take those meds. They help with the pain but they also make me feel so blah and nasty.

  12. Lorna E

    After surgery a couple years ago I was prescribed oxycodone. I hated it. I was totally out of control, saying things I didn’t know I said, “participating” in a tv show we were watching long after the show was over. It was funny to my caretakers, but I never took it again. Vicodin was as strong as I was willing to go. It is hard to imagine people taking it *for* those very feelings, but I know it happens. Even here in the staid Midwest.

  13. Jan

    “I don’t like how I feel while under the influence of narcotics. I like being clear-headed and in control. Feeling foggy and loopy isn’t a sensation I enjoy or seek out.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. I *completely* understand feeling that you should be able to “tough it out” with the pain, because I am exactly the same way.
    I was prescribed a narcotic pain-killer after my surgery last week. I took it exactly as prescribed for 2 days then immediately began to decrease the dosage. Nine days later, I’m only taking it once a day and only if I feel I really need it. By this weekend, I plan to be done with it all together, whether I’m pain-free or not.
    I’m also in Ohio, and yes – heroin use among teens is big in the news these days. This post and the comments has made me aware that I’m rather complacent about The Young One, who will be 16 in January. He’s a good kid with good friends who either meet at the library or hang out at our house, but they’re all starting to drive now and I won’t always know where he is or what he’s doing.
    I think I’ll be having a talk with him this evening – and be keeping a sharper eye on him.

  14. Fragrant Liar

    I don’t get it either. I refuse to take meds most of the time, unless I’m DYING and would sell myself on the street for pain relief.
    I just took my first Flexeril last night for my neck pain, and I woke up this morning dizzy and nauseous. HEAD SLAP. Oh yeah, THAT’s why I don’t take that shit. Who likes getting high like that? I mean, it’s truly nauseating stuff.
    Sorry you’re still in so much pain, and I hope you get that gadget to working well soon.

  15. WebSavvyMom

    –>A coworker’s husband who was recently retired was on prescription pills including Oxycontin for legitimate medical reasons. He also had “pain pops” which were like lollipops that he got hooked on. Unfortunately, he got hooked on everything else as his health failed and was pulled over one night in his car and arrested because of The Stash he had in the vehicle. A search of his home and his degree in chemistry led them to charge him with drug manufacturing. It’s a slippery slope for sure.

  16. Rob

    “Whatever happened to smoking a little weed and throwing back a few beers?”
    Uh, that’s not entirely harmless, either. Just read through the Darwin Awards. Even if you survive you’ll be arrested/go to jail!
    Only the worst of the worst pill poppers/snorters will ever be incarcerated.
    Some people still believe that pain can build character. Perhaps. But only if you lack any other option. And opiates aren’t for everyone.
    I LUV the chemistry degree post. My 3.95 chem degree classmate became an…interior decorator. And he’s damn good at it!

  17. Kristi

    I think one of the biggest issues with the pervasive problem of pain meds being overprescribed to people who don’t have conditions that warrant them (other than, of course, their addiction) is the stigma that it places on people who legitimately need pharmaceutical therapy to get through the day. So sad.
    I am an RN, and see a lot of prescription drug addiction. The drug companies are making a fortune. They are just as bad as illegal drug dealers.

  18. Colorado_Mom

    My husband see’s pill seekers, thankfully less frequently than when he was a resident. Working an ER rotation, it’s a lot more often than every few weeks, probably at least one a day if not more. So sad.

  19. goodfather

    Hi 24 – sorry to read you’re battling pain again :(. I’ve missed you, and I’ll be reading the posts between now and when I was last here. And then I will smoke some weed and have a few beers (just kidding, I don’t drink, still).

  20. Kate

    My Aunt became addicted to Oxycontin, she had suffered severe scoliosis back pain for her entire life. She was murdered 10 years ago in Peoria, Illinois under suspicious circumstances that were related to her seeking the drug. She was just (or it seemed to us) a normal, fifty something lady with a great husband and great kids. Talk about her murder being a total shock to the family.
    It disgusts me that people are having these types of parties with their teenagers. CRAZY!!

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