The opioid addiction crisis in America has been in the news for quite a few years now. It tends to elicit the same politically-motivated responses from each side. The Left seems to ignore it mostly (since it hits a large portion of rural America that doesn’t vote for them), but occasionally someone uses it to argue for more lenient drug laws and better rehab options. The Right uses it to argue for more money for rural areas and occasionally rails about Big Pharma.
It’s hard to really understand what motivates someone addicted to opioids if you’re a regular person like me that doesn’t use illicit drugs. But I got a taste of it this past week. I had surgery last Friday on my shoulder to repair the over 18 years of damage the Navy has done to me, shoving me in submarines, airplanes and other small spaces that I was probably never meant to fit into. It all caught up, so I spent over two hours with a surgeon poking around my shoulder and repairing the various tears and installing a lot of anchors. When it was all finished, my brother-in-law drove me home with a large pack of medications, one of which was oxycodone.
Now, I’ve never had any narcotics, so I was careful to take the oxycodone on the prescribed schedule. By Sunday, I felt awesome. Sure, my arm was still in a sling and I was slowly working it back into a full range of motion, but I still felt great. I was walking around the house just fine, enjoyed being outside in my garden showing my kids what vegetable to pick, and I did plenty of “Netflix and chill.”
The chill dropped off on Tuesday. My prescription ran out, and that morning I had physical therapy. I would describe the crash of my mood like the drop as sudden, awful and gut wrenching. The last case was definitely true, since I threw up after the physical therapist had tortured me for 30 minutes. I spent most of Tuesday on the couch with some sort of ice pack on my shoulder, wondering what pain the next 10 minutes will bring.
Wednesday was better, and I learned to work through my pain, and by Thursday I was back to a much happier place. That brief glimpse of how effective oxycodone was, and how my whole world changed just after going off it from a weekend of use, gave me a far better understanding of just how powerful addiction is and the difficulty in breaking it. I have a lot more sympathy for someone that is in constant pain and just wants to feel normal, and if you can take a tiny pill (my oxycodone was the size of my thumbnail) to make it all go away, why wouldn’t you?
I can’t say I know what the answer to the opioid crisis is, but I can say some of our assumptions are flawed. I don’t think most people want to be addicted. I knew that while it was easy to take that tiny pill to feel better, long term it was a bad idea. Thankfully I have a family that can support me sitting on a couch for a while. What about senior citizens that don’t have family? What about the many single people who don’t have adult kids or even neighbors to check in on them? Thrusting these people into a bucket labeled “deplorable addicts” denies them humanity and makes it too easy and convenient to ignore their plight.
We need some actual solutions to opioid addiction that preserve our use of these drugs to manage pain while recognizing the power they have to destroy our lives if we aren’t careful.
This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. If you liked this article, why not donate to Da Tech Guy or purchase one of the author’s books on Amazon?