As I was flipping through channels on a leisurely Wednesday afternoon, I stumbled upon a CNN segment about prescription drug addiction. A big focus of the story was the untimely death of Glee star Cory Monteith, caused by an overdose of heroin and alcohol.
As I continued watching, I learned that Cory had been battling addiction since he was 13, had recently completed his second stint in rehab, and was only 31 when he passed.
His story resonates with me because I know what it’s like to battle addiction. My father battled an addiction to heroin and I ended up battling the same addiction 15 years later. His was from the streets, mine was from the pharmacy. His recovery came after years of incarceration, mine came from years of dedication. We both continue to fight daily.
I was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, a city with deep historical roots, which also has the unfavorable reputation as “the heroin capital of America.” Approximately 10% of our population is said to be addicted to heroin.
Heroin is an opiate commonly used in prescription painkillers because of its ability to suppress the pain receptors in the brain. The mind-altering effects of opiates also makes them among the most frequently abused drugs in the U.S.
In a similar sense, some of the most popular prescription drugs available—vicodin, oxycontin and codeine—can cause a pleasurable increase in the amount of dopamine produced in the brain, which then creates a need to repeatedly experience that feeling. That need often leads to recreational abuse and eventually, addiction.
I was given a prescription for vicodin after I was hospitalized for debilitating migraines a few years ago. I was also taking lorazepam for anxiety and depression. Vicodin quickly became my drug of choice due to its ability to seemingly get rid of my migraines. The longer I was on it, the more tolerant I became. I ended up taking about 6 pills each day, until my non-fatal overdose.
Fortunately, I was able to eradicate my addiction immediately following my overdose. I hadn’t been taking Vicodin long enough to experience any serious withdrawals, although my migraines returned. I was, however, still physically dependent on Lorazepam.
Through a shift in my diet (I now consume 51% raw fruits and vegetables), a regular yoga and meditation practice, a daily green juice routine, and a strict exercise regimen, I’ve been able to control my migraines and anxiety. Unfortunately thousands of people who aren’t so lucky!
Mr. Monteith is just one example of what we face in the growing epidemic of drug addiction.
Years ago, drug addiction was thought to specifically about illegal drugs. People assumed the drug addict was a derelict, found on street corners or in dark alleyways, shooting drugs into his veins or smoking it through a pipe. Only within the past few years has drug addiction come to be seen as an issue affecting middle and upper class families as well, aided by a doctor or a pharmacist.
Now we all know that addiction isn't only affecting lower class families and adults, and children as young as 13 have entered rehab centers.
I encourage everyone to look deep within yourself and be honest. You may be the person suffering through an addiction, or you may know someone who is. Addiction is a mental illness. It’s not something that can be cured overnight, but overcoming it is very possible. Take it from someone who struggles daily to maintain sobriety—it’s a constant fight!
Too often we hear about people succumbing to their addictions. The first step to recovery is admitting that there is a problem. I pray for the strength of Cory’s family and friends. I hope Mr. Monteith's story as well as mine will help to inspire a world of doers. People who refuse to let their addictions control their lives.
Anything is possible when you believe it to be. Be well!