Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing medical problem in the U.S. One big reason is that people now have more access to drugs than ever before via online pharmacies. Many sources of pharmaceutical products are suspicious, if not outright illicit. They may be operating somewhere in the gray area, where the lines of the law are blurred. Often, with little more than a valid credit card number, individuals can obtain an unlimited amount of potent and highly addictive opioid painkillers.
Mark, a 35-year-old landscaper from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, shares his very personal story of addiction in hope of helping others win their wars.
He fought that war for years. It could have ended in tragedy. His insights into the trap of prescription drug abuse are powerful. We encourage you to share his candid comments and warnings with a loved one or friend that may need that extra nudge to take a stand against abuse, dependence and addiction. Like a Venus flytrap, painkillers can be enticing…but oh so deadly.
Q: How did you start using Vicodin?
A: I was injured on the job, and the doctor prescribed Vicodin to help ease the pain. I went down to the pharmacy and picked up my hydrocodone – the generic version of the drug. I was a little hesitant to take these pills at first. However, since I was in a lot of pain, I figured I better do what the doctor advised.
Q: How did you respond to the medication?
A: Well, it didn’t help cure my back problem, but it really relieved the pain. I found that I could go back to work, pick up my kids and do just about anything I used to do before I injured myself. I felt like a million bucks, all things considered.
Q: And were there any other reactions to the Vicodin?
A: Oh, yes. Almost from the first time I took the drug, I got a nice little buzz off of it. Nothing too radical, mind you. But, after taking the Vicodin, I was always in a good mood. I was cheerful and feeling like I could take on the world, you know?
Q: And then what happened?
A: I ran out of the drug after about two weeks and noticed that my back had cleared up considerably. I was moving around just fine without the Vicodin. The problem was, I felt like I was really missing the effects of the drug on my mood. It wasn’t like any strong withdrawal symptoms or anything, but there was some kind of “hole” in my life without it.
Q: What did you do to fill that hole?
A: Embarrassed as I am to admit it now, I called up my doctor and told her that my back was still hurting. I basically lied to her – this person who had been our trusted family physician for years – in order to get her to refill my Vicodin prescription. She trusted me, of course. So, for the next few months, I had all the Vicodin I needed.
Q: Did she stop giving you prescriptions eventually?
A: After about four months, I called her to get my usual refill request refilled. I could tell that something was different in her tone of voice. She told me she would need me to come down for an evaluation before she would give me any more Vicodin. I freaked out. I was so ashamed about what I had done that I scheduled the appointment and then never showed up. To this day, I haven’t been in to see her or even speak to her.
Q: When did the Internet become a part of the narrative?
A: I was running low on my Vicodin, so I got a new doctor to hook me up with it. But, like before, I was starting to get the feeling that she was going to cut me off. So I was browsing around on the Internet one night, and I decided to Google “buy Vicodin online.” Lo and behold, about 30 sites came up that offered me a chance to get these drugs sent to me through the mail. Needless to say, I started calling these sources right away.
Q: Did you need to provide any medical history?
A: Yes, they wanted to see something that proved I had a back problem, so I used copies of my medical file from a few years earlier. (As I recall, I had made them for faxing in an insurance claim at that time.) Then, a “medical assistant” conducted a quick phone interview with me. The next thing I knew, DHL was knocking on my door with a package chock full of pills.
Q: Have there been any problems along the way?
A: Yeah. It’s not a fun process. These pharmacies are always going in and out of business, or they’re changing their phone number to avoid what I would imagine are the police. Once, one company just split town with my credit card number and made a bunch of purchases with it. I wanted to call the company and complain, but I wasn’t exactly in a position to do that, if you know what I mean.
Q: How did this additional access to Vicodin impact your life?
A: The more Vicodin I had access to, the more I took. I started to develop a tolerance to the drug, which meant I needed more of it to get high. So I had to spend more money and lie to my wife about more credit card bills. Eventually it just spilled over, and she found out everything. I’m in treatment now, but there’s been a violation of trust between the two of us that I’m not sure we’ll ever get back.
Q: If you had it all to do over again, what would you do differently?
A: Believe me, that question has run through my mind many times – so many times. I probably would have had the strength to not take the drugs at the very beginning. Maybe I could have just tried to stick to Advil or something like that instead. When the withdrawal symptoms got too rough, I could have sought out professional help or talked to somebody – anything but what I did, which was to fall deeper into the cycle of prescription drug abuse and addiction.
If you or someone you love is struggling with a Vicodin or other prescription drug addiction, we urge you to contact Michael’s House immediately. Michael’s House is a world-class residential treatment facility located in Palm Springs, California. It is staffed with outstanding professionals who understand the special needs and dynamics of opiate-based addicts.
1 “The Possible Dangers of Buying Medicines over the Internet.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, January 26, 2011. Web. Accessed 26 July 2017.