Dragged down by OxyContin

Denise Pike
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Don't think your family is immune to addiction, parent warns

Kim (not her real name) says she has learned more about the powerful painkiller OxyContin - and addiction - in the past few months than she ever thought possible. In January, her 25-year-old daughter admitted she was hooked on the drug.

"At that moment my world came apart," said Kim, who lives in the Conception Bay North area.

"It was as if my heart was ripped from my chest. I never thought this would happen to my child, to my family. My daughter was raised right. She was educated, had a high-paying job and (was) never abused. She just didn't fit the bill or my idea of what caused a person to become an addict. I couldn't figure out how this happened to her."

Kim (not her real name) says she has learned more about the powerful painkiller OxyContin - and addiction - in the past few months than she ever thought possible. In January, her 25-year-old daughter admitted she was hooked on the drug.

"At that moment my world came apart," said Kim, who lives in the Conception Bay North area.

"It was as if my heart was ripped from my chest. I never thought this would happen to my child, to my family. My daughter was raised right. She was educated, had a high-paying job and (was) never abused. She just didn't fit the bill or my idea of what caused a person to become an addict. I couldn't figure out how this happened to her."

Kim says she saw the signs long before her fears were confirmed.

"She's a professional and makes about $100,000 a year, but never ever had two cents to rub together. I couldn't help but wonder where all the money was going. She was going through $700 to $1,000 a week."

Her daughter's job required her to travel a fair bit, so it took Kim a while to spot the symptoms.

"The signs were there, though - a neglected appearance, poor self-image, violent outbursts, weight loss, slurred speech, skin abrasions and red, glassy eyes," says Kim. "My daughter didn't have them all, but she went from taking care of herself, being particular about her appearance, to being untidy. She was also a bit of a health buff and exercised faithfully, but gave all that up. She stopped eating, lost a fair bit of weight and looked pretty gaunt. All parents really need to look for the signs."

Kim's daughter didn't think she would become an addict.

"She said most of her friends were doing drugs and taking OxyContin and she just didn't think she would get addicted," says Kim. "She thought she could just dabble with it, just take it when she was out partying and then leave it, but that's not how OxyContin works. OxyContin is not a drug that you can experiment with. It's one of the most addictive drugs available today."

Looked for help

Kim tried to get her daughter into the methadone treatment clinic in St. John's, but the waiting list was too long.

"At this moment there's about a seven- or eight-month wait to see a doctor who can refer an addict to the program," says Kim. "Then you have to meet the criteria for the program and medication. That takes months as well."

Methadone, known as juice or meth, belongs to the opioid family of drugs. It is most commonly used to treat dependence on other opioid drugs such as heroin, codeine, morphine and OxyContin.

Out of desperation, Kim attempted to buy methadone off the streets in Conception Bay, but said drug dealers would not sell to her.

"That's how bad the situation got," she explains. "It's not something I am proud of, but my daughter needed methadone so badly to help her kick the damn OxyContin habit I would have done anything to help her and I think most other parents would have done the same. The dealers didn't trust me, I guess, because they refused to let me buy."

Kim's daughter is currently trying to kick the habit on her own.

"It's a real struggle. She keeps falling off the wagon," says Kim. "I keep telling her not to lie, to be upfront and tell me if she is using the OxyContin, and usually she does. I expect it is going to be like this for a long while yet. ... The reality is she will always be an addict now. She'll always have to fight the urge to take OxyContin."

Although she couldn't get her daughter into a proper treatment program, Kim discovered an herb thought to help addicts cope with the withdrawal symptoms.

She ordered numerous bottles of Passion Flower Herb from a store in Ontario.

"You have to take 45 drops of the herb a day," she explains. "It has a calming effect on the endorphins in your brain and nervous system and stops the withdrawal symptoms."

Kim says the withdrawal symptoms from OxyContin are excruciating.

"It's like having the flu, only 10 times worse," she says. "Vomiting, diarrhea, muscle cramps, night sweats and mood swings are all part of it."

Fortunately, Passion Flower Herb seems to be helping her daughter.

"She can manage to get up in the morning and go to work now. We just take it day by day, that's all we can do."

Hellish experience

Kim says her daughter's OxyContin addiction has had a devastating impact on her family.

"We've been through hell. Our lives have been changed forever," she says. "My world has been shattered. I worry every day about my daughter. I wonder if she is still taking the pills, did she go to work or if she has food to eat. Many times she has gone without food because she has spent all her money on OxyContin."

Kim says she contacted The Compass with her story because she wanted to make other parents aware of how easy it is to become addicted to OxyContin.

"My daughter is ashamed and embarrassed and doesn't want anyone to know about her addiction," says Kim. "She's very popular and seems to have everything going for her, a perfect life, but appearances can be deceiving. I never ever thought this would happen to me, to my child who never gave us any trouble whatsoever when she was growing up. Now I feel I have to do whatever I can to prevent some other family from going through the same thing.

Some $2 million was provided in the provincial budget last month for the planning and development of an adult residential addictions treatment centre in Harbour Grace.

Kim says the centre will be filled in no time.

"The addictions treatment centre will be built in the right location because the drug use in this area is at an all-time high," she says.

"I have never seen it as bad as it is now. I never thought the drug use in the Conception Bay North area was as bad as it is, but my eyes have been opened wide. So many young people from good families, with hardworking, caring parents are hooked on OxyContin. I've seen them, I know them and they have told me they're using it."

Kim says she hopes her story will be a wakeup call to other parents in the area.

"Don't turn a blind eye. Ask the necessary questions, and if you hear rumours that your child is using OxyContin or taking other pills, don't just shrug it off," she says.

"But above all, don't think it can't happen to your family. That's what I thought ... but it did."

Organizations: The Compass

Geographic location: Conception Bay, St. John's, Ontario Harbour Grace

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Recent comments

  • Kent
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    Let's hope this young woman makes a speedy recovery and gets her life back together. This sounds like a horrible experience.

  • Fred
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    I am perscribed Oxy for pain control from an accident. I know that with out it my pain is such that I could not work. My doctor and I tryed alternatives none were/are as effective as oxy. It is unfortunate that others seem to want to abuse this drug it gets a bad name from them. For those who abuse this drug I think if it was not avalible they would fine some ting else to use. Now as a result of the abuse there are steps to limit the use and abuse. Given a choice I would not take it but for me considering the alterative I am glad its here.

  • M
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    Good for you, for doing everything possible to help your daughter. While you may not have been able to get her into a program, knowing people love you despite your problem, and having a support system in place when you do fall of the wagon, really does do wonders.

  • been there and back again
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    I have been through the same thing. well not me being the attic my boyfriend. and I feel your pain all it takes is just one time and thats it we were a young couple just about to have a baby nearly 6 years ago. we have been to hell and back and just now 6 years later finely getting his life back on track. yes methadone is a good thing but only if taken right and your doctor keeps on top of you.That is something you should make sure of. there are a lot of people out there abusing the system and still using while on methadone because they can get away with it because some doctors don't demand proper urine test and drug testing.

  • John
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    Two websites on the www that I found helpful for understanding this awful drug were:
    http://www.dpeg.org/treatment/methadone_withdrawal.htm

    and

    http://www.drugs.com/forum/featured-conditions/thomas-recipe-opiate-withdrawal-35169.html

    There are many more, but these offer great perspectives from both a doctor and an addict on how to care for this addiction.

    It is very important for addicts and especially their caring relatives to educate themselves as much as possible about all information, ideas, and effects related to drug side effects and work closely with doctors to establish a method of care for the addict.

  • Dave
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    The island is full of stories such as these.My own is that I have a sister in law who is an addict,her story the same as most,nice home good upbringing,a little spoiled by getting what she wanted.First sign was at around ten or eleven yrs old,got high on Gravol,next incident Gasoline,then marijuania,then LSD,moving on to cocaine then crack then prescription drugs,ritalin(hillbillie herion)and the rest.She has done the recovery centre a couple of times,humberwood once and countless support groups.The biggest problem we find is the lies,her life is one big lie,if her lips are moving she is lying.We all love her and are very concerned for her,we have reached the end of our ropes with our support as she is now in her mid thirties.We are resolved to the fact that at this time in her life we assume that the only cure for her will be her actual demise and we do not want to see that however we are prepared for it.Nothing means more to them then their next score.The only representation of love in their eyes is their drug fueled addiction,nothing else matters,not their partners,not their children or their significant loved ones such as family.Good luck with that family from CBN,I do hope that you have more luck than we have had.

  • Kent
    July 01, 2010 - 20:24

    Let's hope this young woman makes a speedy recovery and gets her life back together. This sounds like a horrible experience.

  • Fred
    July 01, 2010 - 20:24

    I am perscribed Oxy for pain control from an accident. I know that with out it my pain is such that I could not work. My doctor and I tryed alternatives none were/are as effective as oxy. It is unfortunate that others seem to want to abuse this drug it gets a bad name from them. For those who abuse this drug I think if it was not avalible they would fine some ting else to use. Now as a result of the abuse there are steps to limit the use and abuse. Given a choice I would not take it but for me considering the alterative I am glad its here.

  • M
    July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    Good for you, for doing everything possible to help your daughter. While you may not have been able to get her into a program, knowing people love you despite your problem, and having a support system in place when you do fall of the wagon, really does do wonders.

  • been there and back again
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    I have been through the same thing. well not me being the attic my boyfriend. and I feel your pain all it takes is just one time and thats it we were a young couple just about to have a baby nearly 6 years ago. we have been to hell and back and just now 6 years later finely getting his life back on track. yes methadone is a good thing but only if taken right and your doctor keeps on top of you.That is something you should make sure of. there are a lot of people out there abusing the system and still using while on methadone because they can get away with it because some doctors don't demand proper urine test and drug testing.

  • John
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    Two websites on the www that I found helpful for understanding this awful drug were:
    http://www.dpeg.org/treatment/methadone_withdrawal.htm

    and

    http://www.drugs.com/forum/featured-conditions/thomas-recipe-opiate-withdrawal-35169.html

    There are many more, but these offer great perspectives from both a doctor and an addict on how to care for this addiction.

    It is very important for addicts and especially their caring relatives to educate themselves as much as possible about all information, ideas, and effects related to drug side effects and work closely with doctors to establish a method of care for the addict.

  • Dave
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    The island is full of stories such as these.My own is that I have a sister in law who is an addict,her story the same as most,nice home good upbringing,a little spoiled by getting what she wanted.First sign was at around ten or eleven yrs old,got high on Gravol,next incident Gasoline,then marijuania,then LSD,moving on to cocaine then crack then prescription drugs,ritalin(hillbillie herion)and the rest.She has done the recovery centre a couple of times,humberwood once and countless support groups.The biggest problem we find is the lies,her life is one big lie,if her lips are moving she is lying.We all love her and are very concerned for her,we have reached the end of our ropes with our support as she is now in her mid thirties.We are resolved to the fact that at this time in her life we assume that the only cure for her will be her actual demise and we do not want to see that however we are prepared for it.Nothing means more to them then their next score.The only representation of love in their eyes is their drug fueled addiction,nothing else matters,not their partners,not their children or their significant loved ones such as family.Good luck with that family from CBN,I do hope that you have more luck than we have had.