Pain Killers' Addiction Dangers

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Interviewer: One of the downsides from a lot of those injuries is pain
medication and you had the issues with that.

Dick Beardsley: Yes.

Interviewer: How addictive can some of those be?

Dick: It can be brutal. And listen I never, in my wildest dreams ever
thought I would become addicted to drugs. I mean, I didn't smoke. I didn't
drink. I've never done any illicit drug in my life. My parents, who I love
dearly, are both gone now, but they never recovered, but they were
alcoholics, as a kid growing up, and I saw what it did to them and I
thought, boy, that is not going to be me, and then you know, I got hooked
on this narcotic pain medication, and I don't blame anybody other than
myself for, I mean, for letting it happen, and I don't use this as an
excuse, but I was in a short period of time, over just a few years, I was
in a number of accidents and multiple surgeries and I just started getting
hooked on this stuff and then when it was time to get off of it I didn't
like the way I was feeling trying to get off of it.

So then I started going to another doctor that didn't know me and, you
know, I'd get prescriptions from them and, you know, they'd always say, "
OK, this is good for a short period of time." And listen. For a short
period of time, after surgery or you break a leg, they're great. People
need them. Most people aren't going to have any problem with them. But it's
when you have chronic pain, like I did for quite some time with my back.
You get chronic pain, where you're on them for extended periods of time,
and it's very difficult to get off of them because I don't care how slowly
they wean you off of them, if you've been on them for a period of time, an
excess of three, four or six months, many people years, your body, it
doesn't know how to live now without that stuff.

All of a sudden you're pulling it out of your system and it's like begging
for it. And the withdrawals. I got to the point where I was going from
doctor to doctor to doctor and then I started forging my own prescriptions.
I'd never been in any trouble in my life. I'd never stolen as much as a
piece of bubble gum and now I'm doing something that I knew was totally
against the law. It was totally against what I believed in, but at the time
all that mattered for me was to get the drugs, take them, and make sure I
didn't get caught. It had me so under control that's all I thought about
24/7 and thankfully I got caught before I died or killed somebody else
driving under the influence and now, coming up in about a month, God
willing, I'll have 16 years of sobriety.

But it was a struggle and it's something I have to think about everyday.
And I've been tested. Two knee replacements in the last four years. But
this time, for me, there's always a plan in place now. And my wife, Jill,
handles any of my medications. If I needed any after I got out of the
hospital. My doctor knew. I was right upfront with him. And at first I
didn't, I remember when I had my first knee done. I didn't want to tell the
doctor about my past because I thought, oh gosh, they're going to do this
knee thing. They probably won't even put me to sleep and I'm not going to
get any pain medicine, and my wife, Jill, says, "We're not going to let
that happen." And it didn't happen. And you know what? They monitored me in
the hospital and then when I got out we had a pact made that only my wife,
Jill, would dispense the pills. I couldn't get them. I didn't know where
they were. Only she could call the doctor for a refill and only she could
go to the pharmacist and pick them up.

Now could I have done that on my own? Maybe. But why take the chance?
Because I honestly, 16 years almost of sobriety, and I can't honestly say
that I could guarantee you I could do that without taking an extra one here
or an extra one there. That's how powerful those drugs are. So you've got
to be so careful. And for the people out there that have had problems in
the past, like broke a leg, surgery, they're sitting home with pills after
a few days they're feeling fine. They don't use them, but they still got
them sitting up there. I'm telling you, they are the fastest form of
addiction going on right now.

And kids are breaking into homes, first thing they're doing is going into
the bathroom, looking in the cabinet for the pills. Get rid of them. Take
them somewhere to just get rid of them because it's an epidemic and it's
getting worse and worse as we speak. And doctors are between a rock and a
hard spot. They're compassionate people. Nobody wants to see people
suffering. They just got to be really careful, both the doctor and the
person taking the medication that it's not overdone.

Interviewer: Certainly not everybody gets addicted . . .

Dick: No.

Interviewer: . . . but what's your advice, and you speak a lot about this.
What's your advice to people that might get that first prescription for a
surgery or chronic pain or something like that? What sort of advice do you
give so that they are able to, you know, limit it?

Dick: Yeah, is take it as prescribed. If you think you might be worried
about it at all, let somebody else dispense it for you. You know? Let
somebody else, your loved one, a neighbor or somebody. If you're an older
person living on your own, or whatever, if you're afraid of the drugs, but
you need it, that you might, you know, take too many or you're afraid you
could get hooked on it, have somebody else monitor it.

But if you can't do that, if you take them as prescribed, use them like
they're suppose to be used, over the extended period of time, you shouldn't
have any problems at all. The doctors are trained to know, and most people,
some people are going off this are going to need more than others, and
that's just who they are. Others are going to need less, but for the most
part, the doctors pretty much know and there's a timetable and if you go
beyond the timetable, the doctor's going to start questioning you or he may
reduce you to a lesser strong type of narcotic and eventually you get off
of it and you're right.

Thankfully, most people don't have a problem with it, but some people do
and if you've had a past with problems with alcohol or drugs, either being
street drugs, tell your doctor. Don't be foolish like I thought I was not
going to get anything after total knee surgery. They're going to work with
you, but if you're honest with the doctor, then they can make sure that
you're not going to go back to that level because I don't think anybody
that's been addicted to drugs and then got clean ever wants to go back to
there again. I don't know why they would because it's nasty.
Dick Beardsley is a former world-class marathon runner. But after suffering a number of injuries and accidents, he became addicted to narcotic pain killers. Here he talks about his addiction and beating that addiction. He also discusses some things you might try to avoid that addiction.

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