I am a doctor, and I am in recovery from prescription medicine abuse.
Some might be surprised to hear that, but the truth is that my profession did not make me immune to the painkiller addiction that started the way many others do — I abused medicine hoping it would help me cope with stress. I had some leftover pain medication after a dental procedure, and I took it in an effort to relax. At first, I thought I had found the perfect solution for my anxiety issues. I felt better.
I started taking more and more prescription pain relievers to feed what became an addiction.
Before I knew it, I had a real problem. My biggest secret? When one of my favorite professors became terminally ill and chose me to be his doctor, I stole and abused his opiates. I had hit an all-time low.
I began isolating myself. I lost interest in the things I loved to do, like coaching my son and daughter in their sports. I lost interest in my life in general.
Eventually, my family intervened, and I checked into a treatment center. I was skeptical about treatment, even though I was entering a center that specifically treated doctors. We hadn't learned anything about medicine addiction, abuse or treatment in medical school. I just didn't think there was anyone who could help me.
Once I got clean, I made it my mission to make sure every graduate of my medical school would have a basic understanding about addiction, addictive disease and prescribing narcotics. I now dedicate my life to this goal. Perhaps if I had learned more about the nature and treatment of this disease, I would have been able to avoid my own medicine addiction.
It's important to talk to your doctor about the dangers of misusing and abusing the medicine he or she prescribes to you or your children. If your doctor hasn't yet brought this up with you, it may be time to bring it up yourself.
My dream is that one day, all doctors will know more about addiction and play a role in preventing medicine abuse. You can help by starting the conversation.
Stephen Loyd, MD, FACP
Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, Quillen College of
Medicine and East Tennessee State University