This video clip, courtesy of 48 Hours, introduces viewers to Troy, a young man who has become addicted to OxyContin, developing a $300-a-day habit.
Narrator Dan Rather says prescription painkiller abuse and addiction has become the fastest growing drug problem in the country. This problem has reached epidemic proportions, as there has been a marked increase in the number of prescriptions written in the last several years.
Troy, who said he never wanted to grow up to be a junkie, is preparing to enter the Waismann Method program for opiate detox. Here, he will undergo rapid detox for OxyContin addiction, a medical procedure that eliminates the physical dependency in less than two hours. Troy, who said he uses OxyContin as a means for survival, admits he is nervous to go through detox. Will he find relief from this painful disease?
CBS 48 Hours: OxyContin Addiction (Part 1)
Dan Rather: I’m Dan Rather. To millions of Americans, they are miracle drugs, but they’re also being blamed for an epidemic of addiction. 48 hours right now.
Dan Rather: You may have seen the headlines, Hollywood celebrities battling addiction to prescription painkillers, but now it could be your wife, your husband or your kids.
Kathy Bernier: He was a sweetheart.
Dan Rather: There are tens of thousands like Troy – addicted.
Troy: I’m ashamed of it. Embarrassed about it.
Harold Dow: The pharmaceutical company that manufactures this drug. This is not what they had in mind. Harold Dow has the story.
Kathy Bernier: He’s my son and he’s in pain.
Dan Rather: Now Troy wants his life back. Will this radical treatment end his addiction? And this wife and mother says she got addicted by doing just what was prescribed.
Diane Reynolds: I never took one pill extra. I never abused it.
Dan Rather: Is the drug company to blame? Peter Van Sant investigates.
Patients who are taking OxyContin appropriately don’t get addicted.
Dan Rather: In fact, while these painkillers are a godsend to millions.
Melissa: There aren’t words to explain it… it’s a miracle
Dan Rather: In the wrong hands, even the first time can be deadly.
Operator: We have a young lady that will not wake up…
Dan Rather: 48 hours teams up with MTV’s Serena Altschul to investigate America’s fastest-growing drug epidemic.
By the time I had realized anything was actually going on, it was way too late.
Dan Rather: Addicted.
Dan Rather: It is the fastest-growing drug problem in the country, but what is most startling is that the drugs involved are legal. Good evening. It’s estimated at least 40 million Americans suffer from moderate or chronic pain. Many rely on powerful prescription painkillers for relief, but many others are apparently seeking a very different kind of fix from these prescription remedies. There’s been a dramatic rise in the illegal use of these drugs, growing accounts of abuse, addiction and even death. Tonight, in a joint investigation with the MTV Network, we’ll give you a look into the devastating effects of abusing one especially popular pain remedy. A lot of legitimate pain patients fear that they will become the real losers as the government aims to crack down on the abuse.
Dan Rather: We begin with Harold Dow, in one town and with one family caught up in a rising tide of addiction.
Kathy Bernier: It’s a nightmare, no one would ever think that they would have to go through this and who would ever think that?
Troy: I never said I want to grow up to be a junkie ever. It’s crazy, I mean, whoever thought of crushing a pill, putting in a spoon, cooking it up and shooting it into your arm with a hypodermic needle.
Harold Dow: It’s a beautiful day in the state of Maine, but for Kathy Bernier and her 22-year-old son, Troy Sweat. It’s another day in hell.
Harold Dow: You can’t feel good about this, Troy
Troy: No, I don’t. I’m ashamed of it. Embarrassed about it.
Harold Dow: Like tens of thousands of people around the country, Troy breaks the law every day, abusing a powerful painkiller called OxyContin.
Harold Dow: Is there anything we can say to you to prevent you from doing this?
Troy: Probably not. If I were to go without Oxys, I’d feel violently sick.
Harold Dow: But, you know, the pharmaceutical company that manufactures this drug, this is not what they had in mind.
Troy: No, I’m sure it isn’t.
Harold Dow: The company, Purdue Pharma, developed OxyContin to provide long-lasting pain relief. The drug does contain a large quantity of narcotic, but it is coupled with a special time release agent to control the dosage, an innovation some call a miracle. A miracle for many of the six million people currently taking the drug for pain, but a scourge for communities around the country where police say recreational use has created an epidemic of addiction. And although OxyContin is effective when taken properly, it can be lethal when abused. A recent federal investigation has linked more than 280 deaths to the drug in the last two years.
Harold Dow: The problem started when people like Troy discovered they could defeat OxyContin’s time release agent by cooking it off and injecting pure narcotic.
Harold Dow: It’s tough to watch you do this.
Troy: I’m kind of desensitized to it.
Troy: Of course, Troy’s arms didn’t always look like this.
Kathy Bernier: He was a sweetheart. I mean, this… This boy is so caring and I think it still shows even now.
Harold Dow: He grew up in a stable home in Bangor, Maine, with his mother, Kathy, who runs a fitness center, and his twin sister, Amanda.
Amanda (Troy’s Sister): My brother and I, as we were growing up, we are very close and shared everything.
Harold Dow: But Troy began experimenting with drugs as a teenager.
Kathy Bernier: All it took was a kid one year older than him saying, “let’s try this” and he (troy) said “OK.”
Harold Dow: Then in 1997, he discovered the new prescription painkiller OxyContin.
Troy: Kind of seemed like the in thing to do. And at one point I just realized that I had to have them every day to feel OK.
Harold Dow: Farnum says the problem has exploded in places like Maine because in rural working class areas, more people suffer work related injuries. That means more pain prescriptions and more potential for abuse. What’s your drug of choice? What’s your opiate of choice? Oxycontin
Harold Dow: And because OxyContin is federally approved, it doesn’t carry the social stigma of illegal opiates like heroin.
Kids who might start out in a very recreational kind of way with a substance very quickly get in over their heads.
Troy: All I can think about is when I’m going to do them, like how I’m going to get them. How I’m going to get money to get them.
Harold Dow: So what’s the difference between you and a heroin addict?
Troy: Not much.
Harold Dow: For someone with a three hundred dollar a day habit like Troy.
Troy: (That’s my money, right?)
Harold Dow: Dealing the pills has become a necessity.
Troy: Not an honest living.
Harold Dow: What do you call your life in the last five years?
Harold Dow: But this summer, Troy could survive no longer. What was the bottom?
Troy: The bottom was being completely broke with a huge habit.
Harold Dow: After masking his problem for years, Troy finally told his mom everything.
Kathy Bernier: I was shaking. He was shaking. I mean, he told me and I said you just don’t know how much I love you, Troy. And he said yeah, I do mom, it’s probably just the same amount that I love you.
Harold Dow: Was that tough? Was it painful for you to do that?
Troy: It was really tough. I mean, I denied it for so long. I don’t want to tell my mother that I’m addicted to a substance that I can’t control my life because of.
Harold Dow: Kathy has agreed to send Troy to California for a radical treatment called Rapid Detox. It promises to cure Troy without a painful withdrawal.
Troy: 80 milligram Oxycontin tablet. A hundred dollars.
Kathy Bernier: You have to understand, he’s my son and he’s in pain. And I said How much would it take? And I can’t believe I’m saying that to you, how much will it take?
Harold Dow: How do you feel about your mom giving you money for oxys?
Troy: It’s pathetic. I feel like a… I feel like a scumbag because of it.
Harold Dow: On the last weekend before Troy leaves for detox…
Kathy Bernier: What we could do is clean up a little. Gosh, what a mess.
Harold Dow: Kathy and Amanda clean his apartment.
Amanda (Troy’s Sister): This is nasty, how could people live like this?
Harold Dow: While upstairs, Troy does what he must do to start his day.
Troy: It crushes my mother. I don’t know how she can go through it right now. Knowing what’s going on.
Amanda (Troy’s Sister): We can’t really understand, but we love him so much that we have to help him.
Harold Dow: Amanda will accompany her brother to California.
Amanda (Troy’s Sister): It’s my first time to the West Coast.
Harold Dow: So you’ve got about nine hours left before you begin your journey. What are your thoughts? What are you feeling?
Troy: I’m getting a little nervous about the whole situation.
Harold Dow: You’re not thinking about backing out, are you?
Troy: No, I’m not going to back out. I’m definitely going to go through with it.
Harold Dow: Finally, the morning arrives. Kathy drives Troy and Amanda to the airport in Portland and says, Goodbye.
Kathy Bernier: You guys have a good time. Yeah, I’m feeling a little sick. A little queasy.
Harold Dow: Is Troy finally on the way to beating his OxyContin addiction?
Kathy Bernier: I miss them already. I’m really a little worried.
Harold Dow: That’s next.
In part 2, the desperation of prescription painkiller addiction is evident watching this 48 Hours news clip.
Troy, a young man addicted to OxyContin, takes his chances with arrest by shooting up the drug while en route to drug detox treatment. Troy is on his way to California where he will undergo the medical procedure offered by the Waismann Method.
Troy gets very sick if he runs out of OxyContin. The Waismann Method for Opiate Dependence helps end Troy’s dysfunctional relationship with OxyContin in less than two hours. It speeds up the withdrawal phase of addiction while Troy is under light anesthesia. Dr. Clifford Bernstein explains how this management of withdrawal helps eliminate the suffering of patients in the program.
CBS 48 Hours: OxyContin Addiction (Part 2)
Troy Sweat: I’m a little bit excited actually, to go. I might get away from all this.
Harold Dow : OxyContin abuser Troy Sweat is on his way to California for a radical detox treatment to cure his addiction.
Harold Dow : How are you going to get from here to there in 12 hours and not use?
Troy Sweat: I probably will use.
Harold Dow : We gave him a camera to record his experience.
Troy Sweat: That’s my sister, she’s going to be on for the whole journey.
Harold Dow : The long trip has multiple layovers and Troy is risking arrest to stave off withdrawal. During one stop while Amanda waits outside the men’s room, Troy shoots some of his last pills.
Amanda (Troy’s Sister): He needs that drug, makes my skin crawl, doesn’t make me feel good. Whatever I say isn’t going to stop him.
Harold Dow : Finally, after 13 hours in transit, Troy arrived safely in Santa Ana.
Troy Sweat: I am nervous, but I definitely have to go through with this.
Troy Sweat: All you want is just initials and signature?
Amanda (Troy’s Sister): Just seeing that he really wants to change makes me feel good inside.
Troy Sweat: Nice to meet you
Dr. Bernstein: Congratulations for coming, it’s the first step.
Harold Dow : Dr. Clifford Bernstein is the institute’s medical director.
Dr. Bernstein: When is the last time you had any pills?
Troy Sweat: Uhm… like about two and half, three hours ago.
Dr. Bernstein: Are you having any withdrawal now?
Troy Sweat: Yeah, A little bit.
Harold Dow : The going is easy at first.
Dr. Bernstein: This is the track marks.
Harold Dow : Troy is hooked to a morphine drip to keep him stable.
Dr. Bernstein: feel a little a pinch.
Dr. Bernstein: Troy Sweat is a very typical patient that we treat. If he doesn’t get his opiates, he’ll get very sick. After that, he’ll crave these drugs. It’s a physical phenomenon.
Harold Dow : Illicit demand for the drug has created an OxyContin crime wave, prescription holders have been assaulted, addicts have fake pain to get prescriptions, and around the country, there have been more than 700 pharmacy robberies like this one in Boston…
Woman Reporter: Where a rash of robberies prompted two big chains to pull OxyContin off the shelves.
Male Reporter : According to police, he gives a note to the pharmacist telling them to hand over all their OxyContin.
Sheriff Joe Tibbits : You’ve got to either steal or deal.
Harold Dow : Out in eastern Maine’s Washington County Sheriff Joe Tibbits is confronting a social crisis.
Sheriff Joe Tibbits : We’re under siege with it. Just the same as the country is under siege with terrorism, we are under siege right here, right now with synthetic opiates. I’m worried about the opiates right now. We need help and we need it now, probably 60 to 80 percent of people we have in jail are addicts.
Harold Dow : The sheriffs community has been torn apart by OxyContin related crimes.
Sheriff Joe Tibbits : (I’m headed in towards the jail now)
Harold Dow : Ranging from bounced checks to breaking and entering.
Adam B.: I was going into houses everywhere.
Harold Dow : Nineteen year old Adam Baljeet stole to feed his habit.
Adam B.: After a while it was nothing to me, nothing at all.
Harold Dow : He is now serving time for armed robbery.
Adam B.: Ballpark figure I’m going to say eighty houses, maybe even a hundred. It’s really sad.
Harold Dow : That’s why Melissa has asked us not to reveal her last name and why her husband Frank locks up the whole house every time he leaves her at home.
Frank: Doors we used to leave unlocked, we keep locked now. I always go to the pharmacy with her now.
Harold Dow : When Frank goes with Melissa to get her prescription pills.
Pharmacist : Any questions tonight?
Melissa: No, ma’am. Thank you for filling that for me.
Harold Dow : It feels like an armored car delivery.
Melissa: He follows me in a separate vehicle and he’s looking for anybody A)who would harm me in the parking lot or B) that somebody is following me to my home. You don’t want somebody to know where to go and get it whenever they want to.
Adam B.: She has a perfectly good reason to be scared. We look for that kind of thing hanging around the pharmacy.
Melissa: I’d rather be paranoid and alive than cocky and dead.
Harold Dow : Troy sweat, never robbed anyone and he is trying to change.
Troy Sweat: I miss my mom. I don’t miss my friends, I don’t miss pills. I cant wait to be sober.
Harold Dow : Out in California, Troy spent the night without OxyContin for the first time in years.
Troy Sweat: I didn’t wake up and do a pill this morning so I kind of feel weird.
Amanda (Troy’s Sister): Do you want to have a bite of your breakfast?
Harold Dow : As he prepares for his treatment, reality sets in.
Troy Sweat: I’m afraid of going without. I’m afraid that it’s going to be a little bit harder than everybody thinks it is.
Amanda (Troy’s Sister): He sees now I think that it’s not going to be just a piece of cake.
Harold Dow : What we’re saying about your sister, she’s with you.
Troy Sweat: Makes me feel really good to know I have somebody that I can at least come with me and be with me.
Amanda (Troy’s Sister): When you’re talking to him about me, you can see that he’s almost ready to cry.
Dr. Bernstein: This is the best chance Troy will ever have.
Harold Dow : That’s later on 48 hours.
Dr. Bernstein: We’re actually going to run morphine drip the whole time you’re here.
Harold Dow : To the Waismann Institute for Opiate Dependence in California…
Troy Sweat: (I Hope this works)
Harold Dow : Troy Sweat is hoping to end his relationship with OxyContin.
Troy Sweat: It’s Kind of like being with somebody for four or five years and then saying goodbye.
Harold Dow : It’s been an unhealthy relationship. Troy’s body now craves opiates.
Troy Sweat: That craving is very real. I feel like there’s something missing, you know what I mean?
Dr. Bernstein: I mean, an OxyContin pill, that OxyContin pill I have to have it.
To cure Troy…
Harold Dow : (Ten seconds).
Harold Dow : Dr. Clifford Bernstein is about to begin a controversial detoxification process called the Waismann Method.
Dr. Bernstein: The Waismann Method treats opiate dependence. And yes, it is a disease. It’s a disease of the central nervous system.
Harold Dow : Troy’s body will be given a drug called Naltrexone. It will both remove the OxyContin from his brain and block his cravings for opiates, triggering a rapid withdrawal.
Dr. Bernstein: It’s going to be uncomfortable, and that’s why we put him to sleep. And when he starts to go through his withdrawal, he won’t feel pain.
Harold Dow : Right now, Troy is being injected with drugs that are literally cleansing his brain of opiates.
Dr. Bernstein: This is the best chance Troy will ever have.
Dr. Bernstein: But critics charge without extensive therapy, this is just a quick fix.
Harold Dow : The critics say you’re not dealing with the psychological problems of dependency or addiction.
Dr. Bernstein: Our one month success rate is something like 90, 90 to 95 percent,
Harold Dow : Though some experts say there is no proven long term effectiveness.
Dr. Bernstein: I’m doing my job. People walk out of here, their withdrawal is finished and they’re not craving.
Sheriff Joe Tibbits : One out of Washington.
Harold Dow : In Maine’s opiate infested Washington County the alternative is much worse.
Sheriff Joe Tibbits : We basically have got no detoxification thing at all. This is our detoxification.
Harold Dow : Sheriff Joe Tibbett says addicts have only one option for getting clean.
Sheriff Joe Tibbits : They just go cold turkey in the cellar. That’s our rehab. And that is scary as hell, too, really scary.
Troy couldn’t go more than a few hours without OxyContin before his body would begin feeling the painful effects of withdrawal.
After enlisting help from Waismann Method, the young man is seen recovering in this clip from 48 Hours. The medical procedure takes less than two hours and completely reverses opiate addiction.
After a few days of monitoring, Troy is released from the hospital and returns home with a daily prescription for a medication that will block cravings for the drug. He is shown two months later, still sober and moving on with life. This video shows the growing dangers of prescription painkiller addiction through the eyes of Troy and others.
CBS 48 Hours: OxyContin Addiction (Part 3)
Harold Dow: In short, compared to other addicts, Troy has it easy.
Harold Dow: What’s happening right now?
Dr. Bernstein : Troy’s treatment is finished. He looks great. His opiate dependence is completely reversed at this point. He walked in the door. He couldn’t go a few hours without having OxyContin. Now he’s going to walk out. He won’t need it at all.
Amanda: Hey, how’s it going?
Harold Dow: The next morning, Troy is recuperating when his sister returns.
Harold Dow: Do you feel good about yourself now?
Troy: I feel really tired and woozy. Like I just woke up after a hard night of drinking, but, yeah, I feel alright.
Harold Dow: Back in Maine, Troy’s mother has been waiting anxiously for news at the fitness center she runs.
Kathy : I just want to hear from Troy. I haven’t talked to him.
Harold Dow: The call finally comes.
Kathy : Fitness Center.
Troy: Hi, Mom.
Kathy : Hi, honey. How are you doing?
Kathy : Honey, I have been so waiting to hear from you. So tell me what you’re feeling like.
Troy: I feel really woozy. Really tired.
Kathy : Oh, honey, I’m just so glad it’s over, aren’t you?
Troy: Can’t wait to just recover.
Kathy : OK, I love you, baby,
Troy: I love you, mom. Thank you.
Harold Dow: And 48 hours later…The first time in years, Kathy recognizes the boy she raised.
Kathy : How are you doing?
Kathy: Good, good. Your eyes are clear and sparkly
Harold Dow: but Troy’s ordeal is far from over.
Troy: That’s going to be hard for me. I’m going to not be able to see anybody that I know. Nobody.
Harold Dow: That’s next.
Harold Dow: It’s Troy Sweat’s first sober day back in Bangor, Maine.
Kathy: Luckily, he made the good decision of moving back home.
Harold Dow: His morning begins with the daily dose of Naltrexone, which blocks his cravings and his body’s ability to even get high from OxyContin.
Troy: Take a half tablet every morning for a year.
Harold Dow: He has no job, no car, no friends, but he does have hope.
Troy: I’ve been clean six days. I haven’t been able to say that in four years.
Kathy: There’s a sparkle back in his eyes and his color is better. He looks like a different kid.
Harold Dow: Further down state, Diane Reynolds has struggled to kick the addiction she says began with an OxyContin prescription for back pain.
Diane Reynolds: It was very embarrassing for me. For a long time, I’m still embarrassed. I’ve had a hard time.
Diane’s Husband: Some nights I wake up to this pounding and it’s she’s kicking the bed. She tells me she feels like climbing the walls and certainly not out of the woods with it yet.
Harold Dow: Meanwhile, chronic pain sufferer Melissa, continues to swear by OxyContin. It’s enabled her to continue her job coaching cheerleaders.
Diane Reynolds: I’m so far ahead of where I was that I think I need to count my blessings and be happy with that.
Harold Dow: Back in Washington County, Sheriff Joe Tibbits…
Sheriff Tibbits : (You can do it. You know you can do it.)
Harold Dow: He is optimistic about a new approach to the addiction problem. It’s called drug court.
Judge: I understand that narcotic addiction is an overpowering illness.
Harold Dow: Instead of getting jail time, addicts are placed under the supervision of a local judge.
Judge: You keep up the good work and you stay clean, OK? look forward to seeing you next week.
Harold Dow: They are required to attend daily support meetings.
Judge: You’ve had clean test. You’ve been to all your meetings? yeah
Harold Dow: And take regular drug tests to make sure they aren’t using.
Judge: Between now and next week I want you to report to the jail every morning at seven a.m. for a test.
Sheriff Tibbits : We’re going to come to siege and we’re going to win. At least I pray to God we are.
Harold Dow: We return to Maine two months later, and Troy was still clean.
Harold Dow: Do you think you’ve gotten rid of your habit?
Troy: Yeah, I do. Feels good, feels real good.
Harold Dow: He’s now getting a regular paycheck.
Troy: I Have a temporary job at a local construction outfit. I’m a general laborer.
Harold Dow: And he’s getting healthy.
Kathy : Every day is a new experience in getting to know him. He’s getting to know himself.
Harold Dow: The track marks on his arms have vanished
Troy: Dissipated while healing pretty good.
Harold Dow: But his experience with OxyContin is something he’ll never forget.
Troy: Yeah, just seeing a lot of things that I’ve done, a lot of things that I’m not proud of. Anybody who sees this piece and thinks, wow, that’s a drug that I could probably get my hands on. Yeah, I’d try that, don’t, please.
Kathy : He’s still got to go through a lot. He’s changed a lot, but there’s a long way to go.
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