Author: Justin Mckibben
As someone who struggles with anxiety, I can understand the desire to find something that can help protect yourself from haunting feelings of dread that cripple your peace of mind. Anxiety is a complicated condition that can creep in from the most unexpected places, and people experience it in many different ways. While some may think it’s based in fear or weakness, the reality is far more complex. Those people may say all you need to overcome anxiety is a more grounded and positive outlook. But the truth for most people with an anxiety disorder is that battling anxiety goes a lot deeper than promoting optimism. Especially when your condition convinces you that all levity is just you lying to yourself. Sometimes, you need a little outside help, and anti-anxiety drugs can be very useful when a physician and an individual decide on the right route to take.
However, anti-anxiety medications can also be dangerous. These anti-anxiety drugs may not be in the spotlight the way opioids are, they are commonly abused, extremely addictive and can be just as lethal.
With recent reports showing a rise in deaths associated with anti-anxiety medications, some experts are saying there is a hidden epidemic being overshadowed by the opioid crisis.
Anti-Anxiety Drugs Underestimated
It is true that opioids are doing massive damage all across the country, but that doesn’t mean the death rates due to anti-anxiety drugs should be ignored. While focusing on prescription opioids, heroin and synthetic opioids is important, we should also keep in mind the other dangerous medications out there.
The usual suspects are benzodiazepines, which include drugs like:
While these anti-anxiety drugs may be useful in helping some people, they still carry their risks, which can be devastating and even lethal.
According to the director of the Scripps Mercy Hospital emergency department Dr. Roneet Lev, benzodiazepines are responsible for more drug deaths in San Diego County than people may expect. She says,
“That comes from people who come into our trauma center from car accidents because they’re on benzodiazepines, people who come in because they’re falling down because that affects their balance and coordination on benzodiazepines,”
“We’ve seen terrible withdrawals, when they’re used to having it, with seizures, that end up in the ICU.”
And it isn’t just people who are buying these drugs off the street. Concerning drug-related deaths by legal prescriptions, benzodiazepines are not as far behind opioids as people may think. Dr. Lev adds that while oxycodone is the number one prescribed drug associated with death, hydrocodone is second, and benzodiazepine is in third place.
But San Diego County is definitely not the only area experiencing a surge in benzodiazepine-related deaths. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), deaths involving these anti-anxiety drugs have more than quadrupled between 2002 and 2015.
Something that does make these medications even more treacherous is when they are mixed with opioids.
Mixing Meds Causing More Deaths
As if opioids or anti-anxiety drugs weren’t hazardous enough on their own, the fact that many people mix these two medications makes them even more deadly. The San Diego County Medical Examiner has concluded that 83% of benzodiazepine-related deaths also involved opioids. Nathan Painter is an associate professor in pharmacy at UC San Diego. He explains how the chemicals interact with the body, and how mixing them only amplifies these effects.
“The benzodiazepines themselves can cause respiratory depression, or your breathing slow down, and so can opioids. So when you combine them, especially in the case of not using them on a regular basis, or being new to the benzo or the opioid, if you give too much, or combine it with other things like alcohol or other medications, then it can cause that breathing to slow down, or even stop.”
What could make this even worse? Well, many of the people mixing these medications may have just been following instructions as prescribed by their doctor. Painter notes that sometimes the prescribing physicians aren’t necessarily aware of all the drugs that someone is taking, and may not be as conservative or as slow in starting the medicines as they could be. So some people may be unknowingly consuming dangerous amounts of these drugs.
Sadly, there are areas of our current culture that put people at elevated risk of death by anti-anxiety drugs.
One of the more vulnerable populations is our veterans. In fact, the Veterans Association Healthcare System has to deal with the issue of mixing medications in particular, as many veterans end up using both benzodiazepines and opioids. Dr. James Michelsen is a physician at the VA. According to Michelsen,
“Anxiety related to their combat time, problems with sleep, post-traumatic stress disorder. And traditionally these conditions benzodiazepines have been used to treat. Additionally, many of our veterans came back with physical wounds, as well.”
This becomes a serious issue when there is a lack of communication between networks of doctors, which can happen if a veteran visits a non-VA doctor and receives a prescription.
It’s not just veterans and hospitals that have problems with benzodiazepines. In fact, benzodiazepines are some of the most prescribed medications in the United States. But it has gone beyond that and even made it into pop culture.
Drugs have always been part of the music industry. History shows us how hallucinogens like LSD influenced rock like the Beetles, and how cocaine coexisted with disco, or how heroin lingered along with jazz and blues over the years. It’s still hard to find a country song that doesn’t glorify good ol’ boys with whiskey and beer. Now, pill-popping in hip-hop and pop music is so mainstream it can be unsettling.
Along with that spotlight came greater influence. Some musicians try to paint that pretty picture with abusing anti-anxiety medications, but these drugs have taken the lives of some of the great artists of a generation. In the last several years alone we lost:
There are even others like Chris Cornell, who’s wife believed that the anti-anxiety medication he was taking is partly to blame for his suicide. Even with all the death caused by these drugs, some still glamourize prescription drug abuse in our culture. Not to mention the issue of mental health and substance use disorders already growing across the country.
Fighting Anxiety and Addiction
Personally, the risks involved with anti-anxiety drugs is troubling because a lot of my anxiety is rooted in health. It manifests at times in the side-effects of even the most mundane of medicines. Some days I can’t take an Aspirin without a secret part of me wondering if my kidneys will shut-down (which is ironic considering the years I spent polluting my body with hard drugs and excessive drinking). So while everything is going fine on the outside, my inner dialog is trying to measure and analyze every muscle movement or twitch as an indication of a terminal illness.
In reality, anti-anxiety drugs can be the difference between an everyday struggle to endure the rush of nameless terror and a window into serenity and stability. For people who can take advantage of the opportunity, it can be life-changing.
However, these drugs are nothing to take lightly, and plenty of people develop severe addictions to these drugs. Anti-anxiety medications can be fatal. Some might think they are an easy way to get a rush, they can be just as lethal as opioids. Just because they are not painkillers doesn’t mean we should underestimate their capacity to do harm.
Fighting anxiety is extremely important for people with anxiety disorder. But we have to remember the risks that come with these drugs and find a way to stay safe. This is especially true for those of us in recovery from addiction. Dual diagnosis treatment is a way to create comprehensive and holistic recovery that addresses both anxiety and addiction simultaneously in order to help people overcome their anxiety in the healthiest way possible.
If you or someone you love is struggling with anxiety, or any mental health disorder, please seek help. If you struggle with substance use disorder, drugs or alcohol is not the answer. There is real help out there. Please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
I’m no stranger to writing about the way I take offense to how the pharmaceutical industry has conducted themselves in various aspects concerning the opiate epidemic in America. Firstly, by taking offense to the fact that these companies were actively raising the prices on the overdose antidote medication Naloxone steadily as the opiate epidemic worsened… but now this next piece feels like something straight out of a dystopian Aldous Huxley future where we are pacified with ads that say,
“Pill 1 causing you problems? We promise pill 2 will make it all better. #BraveNewWorld”
For a lot of people there has been a troubling message to be found behind the guise of an ad for a new constipation medication for treating OIC or Opioid Induced Constipation. 111 million viewers specifically who were watching the Super Bowl this year saw it, which sparked a wave of back-lash and outrage.
Of course it has been quite some time since the Super Bowl, so why bring it up?
Well I keep watching TV, surprisingly, and there are other commercials just like this one with Big Pharma pushing pills that a lot of politicians and medical leaders are also seeing as a way the bullies in Big Pharma are trying to further capitalize on the opiate epidemic that has been crippling communities all over the country. It all has me thinking, shouldn’t we be talking about whats wrong with this picture?
Normalizing the Poison
It has been said the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist- and it would seem this is the same mindset these Big Pharma companies are adopting to make more money off of the sick and suffering. Instead of aspiring to create healthier alternatives, companies are opting to pretend the real problem with long-term dependence on opiates doesn’t exist and are creating more drugs that people will come to depend on.
How do you convince people opiates aren’t the problem? You normalize the poison and give them another pill like it’s the answer to everything. Dr. Andrew Kolodny, executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, is one authority on the subject who spoke avidly about the distasteful way these Big Pharma ads are portraying the issue with opiate use, stating:
“It’s very disturbing to see an ad like that. It’s normalizing the chronic use of opioids, which aren’t demonstrated to be safe over the long term.”
But that’s exactly what this commercial would lead you to believe- that long term dependence on opiate pain medication is a typical and healthy course for treating pain. Kolodny went on to say,
“There’s no question that their ads make this very dangerous and questionable medical practice seem normal.”
And what better way to convince a mass amount of people that it is OK to keep leaning on opiates than to air an ad promoting an OIC medication during one of the most watched broadcasts in America?
This kind of as is normalizing the poison to belittle the problem! The commercial might as well say,
“Hey there, we know you won’t stop using opiates- that’s just crazy talk! How about instead, we pump you full of more medications (at prices which will undoubtedly escalate while causing more side effects) that won’t make you any healthier, won’t address the fact that an estimated 28,648 people were killed by opiates in 2014, and actually deepen your dependence by exploiting it!”
Slap that delightful message between a black and white montage, or a cartoonish animation (ya know, just in case the kids are watching and need their fix) and watch profits double! Throw in a disclaimer at the end,
“May enable a debilitating dependence long enough to get you hooked on heroin.”– But maybe that’s taking it too far… maybe.
Because when we are talking about opiates, that list includes:
And yes, the abuse of opiates has gotten so bad that opioid pain meds were prescribed 259 million times in 2012- enough for every man, woman and child to get their own bottle of pills. Sadly, it is now 4 years later and the statistics of abuse and overdose have skyrocketed every year since! Then there are various other medications there are new synthetic opioids which are being added to the market.
Of Madness and Medication
Now to be fair, the ad from the Super Bowl was presented by AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo, and neither Big Pharma company produces opioids so they aren’t getting paid at both ends exactly. Together, these Big Pharma giants sell the drug Movantik as a treatment for OIC.
Now on a personal note, the fact that OIC is even such a common issue it had to be given it’s own name is actually depressing the more I think about it. How many illnesses will Big Pharma try to write off as “normal” to bypass the devastation and sickness caused by their products?
Twitter Starts Talking
Shortly after the ad aired on the Super Bowl, Twitter started talking and people were not happy with the standards this kind of commercial was attempting to set. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough weighed took to Twitter writing:
“Next year, how about fewer ads that fuel opioid addiction and more on access to treatment.”
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin also had a few choice words for the Big Pharma propaganda, tweeting:
“Promoting drugs during #SuperBowl to help Americans take more opiates in midst of our crisis? Big PHRMA has no shame”
Shumlin’s outrage is obviously understandable considering Vermont has had alarmingly high levels of opioid addiction in recent years. Shumlin was already an advocate speaking out against the epidemic, and he also put out a statement on the Thursday following the Super Bowl demanding that the commercial be yanked from the air and even pointing out the question of how these Big Pharma companies could justify spending $10 million on the 1-minute spot to pedal more drugs to a population already smothering itself in substance abuse.
Big Pharma Company Claims
What should be even more troubling is that since the commercial first aired the campaign’s website has been visited nearly 40,000 times, and the ad has been streamed on YouTube more than 2 million times! So whether you agree with one side of the debate or the other, it is obvious the ad is pulling people in.
But the companies AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo made claims in their official statement that the ad was aired to raise awareness, stating:
“The objective of the advertisement was to reach people with chronic pain taking a prescribed opioid treatment for long-term pain management and to encourage those who may be suffering from OIC to discuss their symptoms with their physician,”
Really? That’s why you paid $10 million to air an ad? Nothing to do with the astounding response of continued views the commercial has gotten and the dollar amount of business it has probably bought you… no of course not!
Maybe AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo aren’t responsible for the opiate abuse epidemic, but ALL of the Big Pharma companies should be held accountable for the way they are marketing to the public in the midst of a public health crisis.
One thing is for sure, whether they intended to or not their commercial has drawn awareness to the conversation in more ways than one. I have personally spoken with several people both working in the addiction recovery field and in actual recovery themselves who are just blown away by how blatantly Big Pharma can sell ridiculous amounts of dangerous prescription narcotics and make billions, then turn around and pitch sales for the side-effects of these drugs.
There is real help out there; real solutions beyond being medicated to overcome medications. Beyond relying on substances to help treat other substances there is long-term addiction recovery in a holistic healing approach like the effective addiction treatment program at Palm Partners. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Drug abuse and addiction is pretty well known as a deadly issue that stands on its own, and it may seem more obvious that mixing different dangerous narcotics can be a serious mistake, but one thing that may not seem so obvious is how mixing some powerful substances that are not as commonly considered to be as dangerous can be the difference between life and death. Here we will discuss two substances that sometimes fly under the radar, and how taking them in combination can be fatal.
Alcohol is a Drug
First we will get it out of the way and say what needs to be said and recognized. Alcohol is a drug. Many do not acknowledge it as such because it is legal and very publicly accepted. Although people are made aware of the dangers of excessive drinking, or drunk driving, they may not understand the severity of how destructive alcohol can be. Addiction to alcohol, or alcoholism, is a disease that plagues so many people around the world, and still the substance is viewed in society as a social lubricant and a way to take the edge of with a quick buzz, but let us not forget how this substance kills so many people all on its own.
Painkillers have quickly gained some notoriety for being addictive and deadly, and with recent reforms and regulations regarding prescription and distribution of these narcotic medications, we have seen entire drug empires topple like the infamous ‘pill mills’ and we have been exposed to the effects that drugs like OxyContin, OxyCodone and other opiates have on addicts. So there is no mystery as to the disastrous potential of prescription painkillers which also includes the medications:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly three out of four prescription drug overdoses are caused by some kind of opioid painkillers. Drug overdose rates in the United States have more than tripled since 1990, showing a horrifying 300% increase in sales of these prescription painkillers.
Non-medical use of prescription painkillers has developed into what some have labeled an epidemic, and no matter how you look at it, it is happening far too frequently in today’s society at large. Prescription drugs are safe when taken as directed, but all drugs can trigger side effects. Drugs like OxyCodone come with a minute margin for error. OxyCodone is a central nervous system depressant and when taken with alcohol can slow a person’s breathing to the point that it stops, which can quickly turn into an untimely death.
Painkillers and alcohol together are perhaps the worst to mix of drugs, because both slow breathing by different mechanisms and inhibit the coughing reflex, creating a collaborative effect that can kill by stopping breathing completely. Drinking alcohol drastically increases the depressive and inhibitory effects that opiates and other narcotic painkillers have on the central nervous system, and their effects can be synergistic, which means that their combined effects can be greater than the sum of their individual effects would suggest. The chemical interactions between ethanol in alcohol and both long and short-acting opioids are dangerously unpredictable. The more common health risks include:
- Respiratory failure
- Severe headache/migraine
- Organ malfunction
- Cardiac arrest
- Memory loss
In addition to the immediate physical dangers, the mixture of alcohol and opiates can also critically affect judgment and motor skills and cause cognitive impairment. Many fail to realize the perils that are associated with simultaneous ingestion of painkillers and alcohol. The extensive explosion of prescription painkiller abuse in combination with the nation-wide struggle for those suffering with alcoholism has made the combination of opiates and drinking one of the fastest-growing addiction problems in the country, with massive amounts of overdose related deaths.
Once people get hooked on prescription painkillers, it is fairly easy for them to stay addicted. Additionally, drinking can dramatically increase the general urge for opioids, making the possibility of addiction even more prevalent. Opiate medications in particular, are increasingly popular and extremely addictive when abused. Because of this, the likelihood of an addict to mix alcohol with a painkiller becomes more and more significant, and the dangers are only magnified.
The blend of prescription painkillers and alcohol is beyond hazardous, but it tends to happen more often than one would think, and typically people do not understand the risks they are taking to relax and unwind. When addiction is present, and the long-term effects of either drug are taken into consideration, the outcome can be shattering. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Long term effects of Vicodin abuse include serious and often irreversible liver damage. Acetaminophen found in Vicodin or other hydrocodone medications in higher-than-recommended doses can cause this liver damage. Because Vicodin contains acetaminophen, long term abuse of Vicodin increases the risk of liver damage, disease, and failure especially when taken in high daily doses.
Another one of the long term effects of Vicodin abuse can be in direct relation to the method a person uses to take the drug. Some people who abuse Vicodin in order to get high will snort or inject it into the blood stream. Snorting Vicodin can result in deterioration of the nasal passageways and potential loss of the sense of smell, while injecting Vicodin into the vein can create infections and permanent scarring at injection sites.
Another list of the long term effects of Vicodin abuse includes symptoms such as:
- Experience hearing loss
- Increased risk for arthritis
- Damage to the pleasure center
- Mood swings
- Feeling irritable or anxious
- In severe cases they may begin to experience delusions or hallucinations
Long term effects of Vicodin abuse create other complications if the individual ever decides to stop taking the drug. Vicodin is a powerful drug that is extremely easy to become physically dependent on. If someone becomes physically addicted to Vicodin, they typically will end up experiencing all the long term effects of Vicodin abuse that are associated with general drug addiction. This entails problems with relationships, work, money, school, or the law. All of these issues are external elements of life that are greatly impacted in a negative way based on physical and mental dependency.
When a person becomes addicted to Vicodin, they will experience all types of physical withdrawal symptoms when they are not taking the drug. These harsh physical withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Joint and muscle pain
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating.
Long term effects of Vicodin abuse also attributes to a higher tolerance for the drug and the chemical effects on the body and brain. This spike in higher tolerance means it will be required to ingest a higher dose each time in order to feel the same effects, and the higher the dose the more the long term effects of Vicodin abuse will increase the risk of long term physical and mental damages. The individual’s personal body chemistry, weight, and any pre-existing conditions can also make a significant difference in how they are afflicted and how easily they develop dependence.
The scary part about the long term effects of Vicodin abuse is that the longer you continue to use the drug, the greater the dosage needs to be to receive the same high or painkilling results, and as that trend continues and the addiction exaggerates itself in the body and the mind, the odds of a person overdosing and causing long-term liver damage or even death also increases. This growing tolerance, combined with the symptoms of withdrawal and the mental anguish created by long term effects of Vicodin abuse is why it is so very imperative to get proper treatment from a qualified clinical and therapeutic staff at a treatment facility specializing in the field of addiction as quickly as possible.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
From the Bling Ring to the sober life Alexis Neiers has lived one wild and intense story. The infamous true Hollywood story of teens robbing the luxury homes of celebrities that eventually inspired a film entitled Bling Ring created a lot on controversy for its time. As the most public member of the Bling Ring, Alexis Neiers was starring in a reality show that would be titled Pretty Wild and was at the time in the grips of an intense drug addiction. At age 21 Neiers began creating YouTube video logs, personal blogs and several interviews for the web-series VICE in the aftermath of the whole situation to touch on the disease of addiction, and her experience.
The whole situation erupted in 2009. Neiers pleaded no contest to the charges of felony burglary and was sentenced to 180 days in jail, of which she only ended up serving a total of 30 days. She was ordered to serve three years’ probation, and had to pay a fine of $600,000 to Orlando Bloom, who was just one victim in the illegal shopping spree. Circumstances did however change her life when she ended up in rehab down the line.
History of Addiction
“My dad was an alcoholic and addict and suffered a lot of physical abuse. My parents divorced when I was very young. I had a lot of trauma as a child, but I kept it in. So I was weird. Someone finally made the recommendation to my mom—a single mom who was doing her best—to take me to a psychiatrist. And that psychiatrist put me on medications.”
Alexis’ drug problem had taken roots in her early years, and after its evolution from behavioral medications to hard substance abuse, it eventually played a major role in her involvement with the other girls charged with the robberies of the Bling Ring. In one of the interviews with VICE Alexis admitted that when she and her sister originally decided to try and air the reality show Pretty Wild it was not her intention or desire to really get famous, but to support her growing drug habit.
“I was smoking 20 or more 80 mg Oxy’s a day, I was doing tons of cocaine, I was pan-handling for drugs. I had an over $10,000-a-week drug habit. What you were seeing on TV was not what was really going on.”
Alexis first picked up the habit of cocaine and meth in 8th grade, she also describes a long list of substances she actively used during the filming of her reality show, and during the time of the robberies. With those listed she said there were probably others she cannot remember.
- OxyContin (Oxy’s)
Alexis had got caught with heroin and arrested shortly after being released from jail and missing several probation appointments.
“I was in complete denial. I tried to drown myself in the toilet. I was in so much pain because of the detox from opiates and benzos.” Luckily for her one day in court she had a spontaneous moment of clarity when she spoke out to the judge.
“I remember saying to the judge, ‘I’m a heroin addict. I’m 19 years old. I can’t stop using heroin.’ I remember envisioning myself walking through that courtroom and having this presence of God on my shoulder, protecting me.”
Alexis’ Road to Recovery
The road to recovery was freely laid out before Alexis after her admission. There was a man who was in the courtroom audience that day who offered to take Alexis into his rehab for a year on a free scholarship. Much later when she asked him why he had let her with no charge, he gave her an inspiring answer, “It’s living amends for all the women that I hurt when I was using.”
In the interviews with VICE the former reality-star turned drug counselor maintains her innocence in the crimes openly. Since the whole ordeal Alexis has given birth to a baby girl with her husband, Evan (whom she met while attending meetings in a 12 Step fellowship) and she is a volunteer at her husband’s sober living facility.
Alexis hopes to use her experiences to speak at high schools, sponsor young recovering addicts, and she is in the process of writing her memoir’s in an attempt to inspire other young women struggling with addiction.
One insightful video from the VICE interviews actually shows Alexis picking up her ex-boyfriend who was at the time actively smoking crack and using heroin to take him into a detox. Both go into great detail as to their experiences in addiction and recovery. Alexis says she is now over 3 years sober, and works actively in the recovery community and could not be happier. She no longer desires the money, the jewels, or the life of drugs and fame, and that all she needs is her family.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135