Tyson Tomko transitioned from a bodyguard for rock band Limp Bizkit to portraying a bodyguard in professional wrestling. After a short stint in Ohio Valley Wrestling Tomko made the main roster in the WWE as a bodyguard for Christian. After leaving the WWE Tomko went to Japan where he would win the IWGP Tag Team Championship with Giant Bernard as well as the G1 Climax Tag League title. Tomko would then go to TNA where he would again be the bodyguard for Christian.
Tyson found success in TNA teaming with AJ Styles to win the Tag Team Championship and getting a bit of a push before he would return to the WWE. An injury would preclude Tomko from ever making TV and he would soon be cut by the company. Tomko would see his life spiral out of control absconding to a life of drug abuse and an addiction problem that would lead to his arrest.
On October 10, 2011 Tomko allegedly robbed a CVS pharmacy in St. Augustine, FL of several bottles of Oxycodone. The pharmacist would tell police Tomko had visited the store in days prior asking for his prescription to be refilled. On this visit however Tomko held his hand under his shirt as if to indicate he had a weapon and demanded the Oxycodone while saying “don’t make me hurt you.”
Police reports suggest Tomko then went to a nearby Chili’s restaurant, asked for a spoon and then retired to the restroom. Employees became suspicious and called police who found Tomko in the men’s room with several needle marks and blood running down his arm. Officers observed Tomko flushing “something” down the toilet thought to be the remaining Oxycodone of which Tomko had used over 200 of the more than 300 pills stolen. Tomko told police he had a severe drug problem as he was arrested.
Tomko is not alone when it comes to abuse and addiction problems. Matt and Jeff Hardy along with Scott Hall have had very public battles with drug and alcohol addiction. The list of former wrestlers who have died as a result of abuse is seemingly endless and includes Eddie Guerrero, Brian Pillman, Curt Hennig and Mike “Crash Holly” Lockwood.
There is an argument to be made for the too much too soon curse that seems to plague many of today’s stars. Being pushed at a young age, making millions and not having life experience let alone being able to adjust to life on the road can lead many into an unhealthy abyss of drugs and alcohol. For some that meteoric rise to fame comes with a super nova like explosion and crash back to earth. Gone is the only life they know, the fame and glory, the money, the adulation and sense of being. Many become depressed and detached which often leads to drug and alcohol abuse to dull the pain of no longer being in the public eye. For those who may be teetering on the edge of addiction the sudden shift from superstar to Joe Citizen can be the onus that pushes them over the edge.
Tyson Tomko was able to post bail of $7,500 and went into rehab, taking advantage of a program offered by the WWE that will pay the bill for any current or former worker seeking help to get clean.
As Tomko enters a difficult and challenging chapter of his life I spoke to Clare Kavin, addiction specialist and administrative director of the Waismann Method, one of the most effective treatment options in the country which specializes in rapid detox for opiate dependency.
· Tomko told police he had an extreme drug problem. How bad must his addiction had been for him to steal and inject Oxycodone, especially such a large amount of the drug?
Unfortunately, addiction and dependency are very dangerous. In addition to being very harmful to the body and vital organs, it can cause serious emotional and psychological problems, causing users to behave in ways they would not under normal circumstances. Dependency to Oxycodone can reach such intense levels, that an absence of the drug can cause patients to become so desperate for the euphoric “high” that they no longer see consequences to their actions. Tomko’s addiction must have been very severe in order for him to steal and inject over 150 Oxycodone pills. All he could consider and think about was where to acquire the drug to avoid going into symptoms of withdrawal.
· What can Tomko expect while at rehab?
Tomko has a very long road ahead of him. First, he will probably go through a detoxification process, which is very difficult, both physically and mentally on the patient. Depending on how it is performed, detoxification can be brutal since patients usually experience extreme withdrawal symptoms, including nausea, cramps, shakes, muscle aches, anxiety, sweating and chills. Once the detoxification process is complete, which can take up to several weeks, Tomko will feel physically and mentally drained. He will then need to cope with his brain readjusting and balancing its chemistry since there is no longer a steady supply of opiates being delivered to the opioid receptors in the brain. This can also be very physically and mentally challenging. Finally, he’ll have to overcome cravings for the painkillers and start working through the issues that brought him to drug addiction, which can be a life-long battle.
· What are his chances for relapse?
If the chemistry of his brain is not properly addressed, he will have very intense cravings which will raise the chances of relapse. Another issue that will need to be taken care of is assessing the root cause of his addiction, which is not always immediately known and can be very challenging to understand. Proper aftercare and psychological evaluation after the detoxification process is necessary to avoid relapse, however the success rate for traditional rehabs for opiate dependency are as low as 15 percent after one year because not all elements of recovery are addressed.
· What factors contribute to such a powerful addiction?
Opiates change the chemistry of the brain and organ functions. Since dependency is a complex physical and emotional disease, it must be medically treated so patients can find stabilization and relief from dependency symptoms. Unfortunately, most treatment centers do not medically treat dependency, but rather use the power of will and determination to fight the disease. This is an archaic method that has not shown very much success. Thankfully, medicine has come a long way and opiate dependency can be medically reversed allowing patients to concentrate on psychological and social conditions without unnecessary suffering.
· If Tomko is able to recover from his dependency to Oxycodone, can a dependency to a different drug pose a problem?
Definitely. Opiates are numbing substances that create a mental “blanket” between the user and their perception of reality. These drugs minimize stress, frustration, anger and a number of different emotions that can be difficult to handle on a day-to-day basis. Some opiate dependency patients also develop a cross addiction to alcohol or benzodiazepines (i.e. Valium, Xanax) because those chemicals also have a numbing sensation that is similar to opiates. Even if Tomko is able to recover from his dependency to Oxycodone, he is at risk of slipping into another dangerous habit with different medications and drugs.
· Could this be considered as his rock bottom experience, or is that yet to come?
I hope this is, but rock bottom is different and has varying extremes depending on the individual. For some users, rock bottom has been jail, losing friends and families, or even death. Unfortunately, in the past few years we have seen all different kinds and levels of bottoms.
· Do addicts often enter rehab to try and get a lighter sentence when adjudicated?
Yes they do. Often times, users who only enter rehab to receive a lighter sentence do not have a very high success rate, since they are not entirely committed to their recovery. Recovering from an addiction or dependency is extremely difficult and can be very challenging, so those who enter rehab for reasons other than their personal recuperation have very minimal success.
· Is dependency to painkillers an actual “pandemic” or is the government over exaggerating the situation?
There is no exaggerating from the government or any other organization. The abuse of prescription painkillers in this nation has reached epidemic proportions. The lack of control over prescribing the drugs and the ease of obtaining opiates in this country is out of hand, which creates more and more addicts every day. Additionally, there are a significantly high number of patients that are chained to an opiate dependency that developed from an injury or surgery, and they are scared or unable to seek treatment due to shame, financial means or fear of suffering during withdrawal.
· What are the warning signs of people addicted to Oxycodone and other similar drugs?
A very clear and easily identifiable warning sign would be the constant progression of intake – needing more and more medication in order to achieve the same results. If you notice someone close to you constantly increasing the dosage or the frequency of when they take their pain medication, this is a red flag that they may be battling a dependency. Another warning sign is when Oxycodone or other opiates are the first thought in the morning, the priority throughout the day, and the last thought at the end of the day. Once the drug becomes a priority throughout the day for users, it is the only factor in their lives and they have lost the ability to control it.
· Where can people go to get help?
In the last decade, we have learned of the chemical brain changes and consequences that are caused by long-term opiat