I grew up with an intense fear of addiction, instilled in me through the movies my mother made us watch at MYF. This was Methodist Youth Fellowship, for any who might not know, and I don’t really remember whether we were United at the time, or not. The movies were horrible. One illegal substance, one time, was sure to lead me to heroin, which would have led me to be homeless on the streets of New York. I don’t know the origins of these films, but they made an impression. I also grew up with alcoholic relatives, and I knew I didn’t want to go there, either.
I’ve had multiple surgeries and injuries, and I’ve been prescribed a lot of medicine. And I mean a LOT of medicine. I have always been cautious, though, because in the back of my mind, the specter of addiction remained. To those who know me, you also know I have a need for control. This is no surprise. As a pilot, I cannot afford to be impaired.
Yesterday’s news that the FDA is allowing Oxycontin to be prescribed to children as young as 11 is frightening, although I’m not sure of the limitations. Hospice? Serious injuries? I understand that the FDA has set certain standards, but I hope they are enough. There are certainly conditions when a time-released opioid is indicated, even in children. We all need to hope that the prescribing doctors are judicious with their prescription pads. I have known too many doctors who are too quick to write a prescription.
I will never criticize anyone who needs prescription medications for pain management. Unless you have walked in that person’s shoes, you have no room to criticize. I’ve seen hospice patients whose pain was so severe they couldn’t speak. I’ve seen burn patients whose pain was so severe that it took their breath away. I’ve seen post-operative patients with severe pain, but with proper medication they were able to get out of bed and speed their recover. The decision to take a properly prescribed drug is between the individual and the doctor. Addiction will still occur in some patients, regardless of whether the drug is properly prescribed or not and even when it is taken only as ordered. Our brains are miraculous and complex, as is the physiology of addiction.
Let’s hope physicians are prudent and that this drug is prescribed properly, and that the DEA monitors the prescribing habits. If someone is going to abuse drugs, they’ll do it whether the drug is legally prescribed or not.
We’ll be watching. Let’s hope the FDA has made the right decision.