Edward S.: I Was Addicted to Prescription Pills for 10 Years
The Los Angeles Times today published the first article in a comprehensive investigative series entitled “Dying for Relief.”
Reporters Lisa Girion and Scott Glover first came to talk about the prescription drug epidemic more than two years ago and have worked diligently since then, becoming experts on each of the many aspects of the exploding story: Victims, Doctors, Lawyers. Government, Pharmaceutical Industry. The article today is entitled “Legal drugs, deadly outcomes.” It begins with a strong indictment of Dr. Van H. Vu, six of whose patients overdosed and died from pain pills he prescribed. There are video interviews with three pain management doctors and family whose son died of a pill overdose. There are graphics illustrating which pills have caused the most deaths in Southern California, which States have the most prescription drug fatalities. There is also a beautifully filmed short documentary about Malibu Beach Recovery Center alum Edward S.’s difficult journey into recovery from a prescriptuon drug addiction.
Edward became part of the series after Lisa Girion asked if the Times could follow one of our clients through treatment. As I remember she said: ‘It is easy to write a prescription, easy to fill a prescriotion and easy to take the pills. What is it like to get off them? ” We brought Lisa’s request tp Edward who had been referred to us by therapist Marty Brenner. Edward was considering treatment for a 10 year addiction to benzodiazapines and suboxone. To my surprise he agreed. At that time neither of us knew exactly what that entailed. Malibu Beach Recovery Center had previously allowed 20/20 and the A&E Show Intervention to place clients with us. 20/20 producer Eric Strauss followed Eamon to Villa Francesca (where Malibu Beach Recovery Center was located for three and a half months after the Malibu fire of 2007) and then did follow-up interviews. The Intervention Show cameras followed Angelina, Rachel and Michelle to Malibu Beach Recovery Center, photographed the welcome, the intake, and then came back 90 days later.
The goal of The Times was different. Liz O. Baylen, a compassionate and talented photojournalist was assigned to Edward. She not only arrived at Malibu Beach Recovery Center at virtually the same moment as Edward. but she visited him regularly throughout the entire 111 days he was in treatment. More at the beginning, less toward the end. To find her documentary about Edward’s journey scroll down the article to the video on the lower right called “Bitter Pills.” Or watch it on the L.A. Times facebook page.
Edward’s family is from Kiev, Ukraine. While Ukraine was still a part of the Soviet Union his parents Alla and Kim applied to emigrate to Israel with their young son Slava. By the time they received exit visas (the USSR was anti-emigration), Alla was already nine months pregnant. Their first stop was Vienna where Edward was born several days later. From Vienna the family went not to Israel, but to Canada and then the United States.
Edward’s prescription pill habit began in Las Vegas 10 years before he sought treatment. He reports he was hooked on pain pills by two doctors who he says would and did prescribe anything. Oxycodone. Percoset. Even Methadone (which led to an overdose). Edward said he has used every possible pill, all bought legally with prescriptions. “Doctors never failed me when I needed a new prescription.”
By the time Edward called Malibu Beach Recovery Center he was a student at Cal State San Bernardino, studying for a degree in kinesiology, abusing his prescriptions. He was highly anxious, and physically emaciated (see photo upper left). He was 6’5 inches tall and only weighed 165 lbs.
It took Edward a very long time to detox off of the medications he was addicted to, but this is not unusual for clients who arrive addicted to pills. Krissie Bergo detoxed for 62 days. Not many clients have remained longer in residential treatment.
After graduating (photo upper right) Edward transferred to Cal State Northridge, resumed his studies and now foresees a career in Physical Therapy. He interns part time at a physical therapy center. He attends AA meetings regularly. He completed DUI school and got his license back (and a car).
He watched the LA Times video documentary with my husband Oleg Vidov last night. It was clearly hard for him to reconcile who he is now with the painful images on screen.
Kudos to the LA Times for giving Lisa Girion, Scott Glover and Liz Baylen the time and resources to be able to research and write a comprehensive series on such an important topic. Kudos to Edward for volunteering to let the LA Times document his journey to sobriety.
Photos: (1) Edward when he arrived at Malibu Beach Recovery Center (above). (2) Edward when he graduated from Malibu Beach Recovery Center (below).