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A Drug Detox Program Can Overcome Prescription Painkiller Addiction and Dependency If Done Quickly and Thoroughly
Spencer McIllwain, promising football player and all ‘round good citizen of Oklahoma died nearly four months ago from an overdose of methadone. His father, Rick, recently told Tulsa World of his two year battle with his son’s addiction to prescription painkillers. “There are countless people in the same situation,” he said, “not knowing where to turn." It seems that Rick did everything right, everything he could do. But Spencer is dead. Even drug detox and drug rehab failed him. Why?
Spencer was first prescribed OxyContin when he sustained an ankle injury in 2003. None of the reports available say how long he was on the drug but two years later, Spencer’s dad received a call from a dentist who reported that Spencer had asked for a prescription for painkillers because of a toothache. Spencer’s dad knew he didn’t have a toothache, and decided to look into it.
Spencer’s parents went to see him, and Spencer acknowledged that he had a drug problem. He said he could handle it on his own but when his parents checked on him a few weeks later he was a mess. They quickly got him into a 30-day drug rehab program followed by a six-week outpatient program. The articles don’t say whether Spencer also did drug detox.
It appears Spencer was doing okay for several months after that, but another surgery – this time for an intestinal block – again pushed him into painkillers. He went back to rehab, where he overdosed on methadone and died.
How can you avoid such a situation happening to someone you love?
1. If it is necessary for a person to take painkillers for surgery or an injury, find out from the doctor if it’s possible to take non-narcotic painkillers – no morphine, no methadone, no OxyContin or any drug containing oxycodone.
2. Whatever drug is chosen, ensure you research that drug fully so you know what to expect. Check the Internet, not just with your local doctor. As we found out in the OxyContin hearings, doctors can be misled by drug companies. Thoroughly familiarize yourself with the side effects, and with the drug’s potential for dependency, abuse, and addiction.
3. As soon you can, within a few days if possible, get the person to stop the painkillers. This will reduce the risk of dependence and addiction. If they have to stay on them longer than a few days or a week, contact a medical drug detox program that helps with withdrawal from prescription painkillers. They can help you determine whether the person should stop trying to take the drug on their own or if they need medical drug detox.
4. If the person does develop an addiction, get them into a medical drug detox program as a first step. This will allow them to withdraw from the drug safely. It will also set them up to be able to go through drug rehab.
5. After drug detox, ensure they get into drug rehab immediately. Choose a residential treatment program that lasts at least two months, if not longer. This gives the person enough time to address the personal issues that caused the addiction in the first place and shores them up against the possibility of relapse. The person should not leave the drug rehab program until those issues are addressed and are no longer bothering them.
6. After they leave drug rehab, ensure they are not going back into the same environment and situation that got them involved in drugs in the first place. This would generally be addressed as part of a good drug rehab program, but keep you eye on it. Stay in very close touch with them. Watch for any signs of drug use, and also watch out for alcohol. Alcohol can sometimes fuel drug abuse.
7. At the first sign of any trouble whatever, assume the worst. Not a nice thing to say, I know, but with dangerous drugs you can’t be too careful.
It is possible to help someone overcome prescription drug addiction and dependency with a good medical drug detox program and long-term residential drug rehab. Prescription painkillers are so common these days that no one can afford to not know about their dangers and what to do about them. Learn what you need to, teach others, be alert, and act fast. You could save the life of someone you care about.
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