Name: Christina Odom
From: Charleston, SC
I believe we as a nation are dealing with an addiction crisis due to the easy availability of addictive medications. These can be pain medications such as narcotics, antidepressants, or even stimulants used to treat ADHD. I believe one of the key places where the addiction crisis begins are in hospitals and doctor’s offices where individuals are able to walk in and are easily able to obtain these medications. While I do believe people should be able to receive the medications they need to treat their symptoms and make their bodies feel better, I believe there is a line that should be drawn to help prevent addiction. Working on a post-surgical unit, I see first-hand how many patients have an addiction crisis and may not even realize it. Specific to my unit of care, many of these patients begin taking narcotics after surgery and are sent home with these same prescriptions to self-medicate; soon after, it has become an addiction. I have had many patients even admit to me that they are scared to take any form of narcotics while in the hospital because they developed an addiction to the medication for a short while but where able to wean themselves off. Even with small children that are prescribed medications to help with their ADHD, as an adult they are forced to continue taking these same medications because they now cannot function without it.
The consequences of this addiction for the individual are the constant craving for the drug and their entire life being altered to satisfy their craving. People will push themselves to the limit and engage in risqué behaviors to obtain the medications they feel they need and cannot go without. I have heard horror stories of individuals stealing from their loved ones and even buying the medications illegally off of the street just to get their “fix”. Addiction is what many people may not realize an actual disease that once it begins, it is hard to cure oneself of it. For society, the consequence is the affect it has on other individuals who may need these medications. It may be harder to actually obtain these medications for someone such as a cancer patient and being perceived as someone who is just seeking medications for their own gain and not for an actual medical illness. As nurses we are taught pain is whatever the patient perceives it to be, and as a health care provider, we are tasked with helping people feel better, including giving them these addictive medications. Personally, I see more of this addiction problem from a pain perspective, but addiction is far more than just pain medications. I have witnessed people who come into the hospital seeking an admission so they are able to receive pain medications though they may not really need them.
In order to help remedy the crisis on both the individual and societal level, I believe there should be an increase in pain clinics and rehab centers to help wean people off addictive medications. This weaning of medications should also begin in the hospital to even prevent people from going home with these types of medications if they don’t truly need them. Though it is very hard to break an addiction once it is formed, right where they addiction began is where it should be halted. However, someone cannot be helped unless they want to be helped. I believe there should be more education on addiction and addictive medications so maybe individuals will consider the risks before even taking these medications. Also, if there are more resources readily available to help people break their addiction, there may be more individuals who are willing to step up and realize they have a problem and be willing to fix it. All it takes is a willingness to change to break the addiction once and for all.