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Prescription Pill Abuse: Confronting a Family Member, and Another Doctor Charged

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Prescription Pill Abuse: Confronting a Family Member, and Another Doctor Charged

senior woman taking pills.jpgIf you read Dear Abby, which is syndicated in many, many papers, perhaps you find her advice spot on or maybe you think it’s way off the mark. Maybe you find the scenarios silly. Maybe you never read the column because the page it usually appears on—usually with people’s horoscopes and maybe a jumble – is sophomoric.

No matter what you think, if you’re interested in prescription pill abuse and how it affects family members, you may enjoy the one that appeared Sunday October 7: Her addicted Aunt ‘Betty’ is in denial. 

It was a letter from a young woman (we don’t know how young) who is worried about her mother’s sister, 68 and retired. Her mother is no longer living. Every time the young woman calls her aunt, the woman is confused, mumbles, or is hallucinating. Somehow she knows her aunt spends several days a week passed out and that all this is due to prescription drug abuse.  She also says her uncle is in denial and won’t try to get his wife help. Dear Abby tells her that people from his generation sweep problems like this under the rug.

The young woman tried to tell her aunt’s doctor, but the aunt doctor shops so she got nowhere. The aunt does have health problems and excuses her drug use saying they’re all prescribed.

Do you know what you’d advise in this situation? I thought the answer was so good that the Dear Abby writer must have consulted an addiction and recovery professional. She said that first of all, not to stop calling, that denial is a symptom of drug addiction and medication affects older people differently than younger so the aunt may really be having problems with the amount of medication she’s taking. (The actual medication is never mentioned.)

Best of all, in my opinion, is that Dear Abby suggests that the next time the young woman calls and finds her aunt “out of it”, to call 911. That will get her aunt into a hospital, her doctor will be alerted, and hopefully her aunt will be found out once and for all. It’s a first step.

Does something like this always work out? Unfortunately, no, but it’s something that a family member can do instead of feeling so helpless.

As I wrote a few months ago, here, some states require pharmacists and doctors to interact with databases so that abusers cannot doctor shop. Some doctors are still dispensing pills for their own gain and harming addicts in the process, however.  In September, a doctor in Iowa who helped run a pain clinic was arrested in the death of a rock group’s bassist and cofounder. Paul Gray, of Slipknot, a band I’ve never heard of. Gray died of an overdose in May 2010 after injecting? (not sure) morphine and a substitute called fentanyl. The doctor, Daniel Baldi, had been prescribing for him since 2005, even though he knew Gray was addicted to drugs.



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