Some tout the prescription painkiller OxyContin as a lifesaver that enables them to cope with chronic pain and live a “normal life.”
Others who have taken the drug call it a “hell pill” that is highly addictive, even if taken as directed.
Jeanette Murray, a registered nurse from the New River Valley area in Southwestern Virginia, takes OxyContin for an injury she suffered to her right arm in 1999. Chronic pain has plagued her since then. After taking OxyContin, she was able to return to a normal life as a mother of two.
“If people take it as prescribed under the supervision of a doctor, they are fine,” she said.
Murray takes the drug every 12 hours and said it has never given her a euphoric feeling. Because of recent media attention, Murray said she, and other legitimate pain patients, are being unfairly scrutinized.
“If people hear that you take OxyContin, they immediately think you are addicted,” she said.
Pharmacies, Murray said, have refused to fill her prescriptions, and she’s been denied treatment in the emergency room because she takes the drug. “Now physicians are afraid of scrutiny, and pharmacists are afraid of danger to them,” she said. “So many are choosing not to deal with it.”
Murray blames addicts who seek out the drug for giving it a bad rap. “Most people who end up addicted use the drug in an altered state,” she said, “and most deaths come when people mix the drug with alcohol and other drugs.”
It’s hard, Murray says, for the general public to grasp the fact that people have legitimate reasons for taking the painkiller. “Chronic pain is a medical condition just like any other illness, like heart disease or cancer, and it deserves to be treated,” she said.
Good Should Win Out
Murray admits some “bad apples,” both patient and physician do exist. She said because OxyContin’s street value is so high, $1 per milligram, it is tempting to sell it for personal profit.
“There are always some physicians and pharmacists that are not on the up and up,” she said. But Murray doesn’t think those instances should overshadow the people that are being helped.
“It is more of a crime to have treatment withheld from legitimate patients or make it stressful for them to be treated,” she said.
A balance, Murray said, needs to be achieved when looking at the drug’s effects.
“There has never been something throughout time, that hasn’t been abused,” she said.
“But if I can go from not being able to get out of bed in the morning to going to the beach or dancing with my husband – amen,” she said.
A Legal Junkie
Richard Williams, of Anaheim, Calif., is saying “amen” only because OxyContin is no longer the centerpiece of his daily routine.
The 43-year-old said less than six months ago he was hopelessly addicted to the opium-based narcotic.
Williams said he started taking Vicodin years ago for chronic pain in his lower back and knee. He said he built up a tolerance to the drug, and his doctor prescribed him a new, reportedly better drug for his problem.
“I had taken opiates for years, but I had always been in control of it,” he said.
According to Williams, he began getting his OxyContin by way of a Perdue Pharma promotion. And he said that for more than a month he received regular OxyContin and a more immediate form of the drug called Oxy IR – for free.
By the end of the month, he had taken $1,600-$1,800 worth of the drug.
“I didn’t ask for OxyContin it was offered to me,” Williams said. “The doctor knew how much I was taking, and he kept upping my dosage.”
Williams said he did not realize the degree of his addiction because he functioned normally.
“But one day, I looked in the mirror and I looked like death,” he said. “I was strung out on drugs like any other junkie, except I was getting my drugs legally.”
He said he told his doctor he was addicted and he started biting the pill for the immediate rush, but he claims he was offered no help.
“Doctors are just ready to write a prescription, but not treat the illness,” he said.
Williams finally sought treatment at the Waismann Institute in Beverly Hills, where treatment has curbed his craving for the drug.
“That proves it was a physical addiction and not just a mental one,” he said.
Now, Williams said, he just deals with pain, “Because I have no temptation for the medicine, the pain goes away,” he said.
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