A Story From An OxyContin Survivor Anatomy of Addiction

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09:10 | Matthew Adderiy
Oxy addiction
A Story From An OxyContin Survivor Anatomy of Addiction

A man’s face appeared above me, and he smiled. The man told me to be patient, and said he’d remove the tube as soon as I stabilized. I finally realized I was in a hospital bed. I opened my eyes, and was confused. I heard a machine beeping, and metal banging against metal. It sounded like a busy cafeteria, but that didn’t make any sense. I realized I had a tube down my throat. As my sleepy mind awoke, I realized I was in an emergency room. My vision was blurry, and my body felt incredibly heavy. It took me several more minutes to get my bearings.

Before I consciously realized what I was doing, I put two tablets in my mouth and swallowed quickly. I went to the living room and laid down on the couch, preparing myself to enjoy the rush that would inevitably come. And I was not disappointed. I didn’t know it then, but that was the moment I stepped over the line from a legitimate pain patient, on my way to full blown addict. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I reached a new level of intoxication, and it was amazing.

She has generously given us permission to reprint her story. Here is a description of one person’s journey from pain to addiction and back.

I saw my primary care physician, and he ultimay diagnosed me with a condition called Fibromyalgia. When I arrived home, I called and made an appointment. In the spring of 2000, I awoke one morning with all over muscle aches and fatigue. It persisted for over two weeks, and I became frustrated having to deal with the pain, which was, at times, debilitating. The only treatment available for this condition is powerful narcotics, so he referred to a pain management specialist. It’s a disease of the central nervous system that manifests itself in all over body pain and chronic fatigue.

I tried to think back and recall the last thing I remembered. My lips were blue, and I was barely breathing. I had been sitting on my living room couch watching evision. The first question I asked him was why I was there. He told me my husband had called 911 when he came home to find me passed out on the couch. I remained silent, and all I could think to myself was, “Oh God, I really did it this time – I blew it big time.”. Evidently, my heart stopped on the way, but they were able to revive me. So how had I gotten to the ER, and why was I there? Several minutes later the doctor returned and removed the tube. He said when the ambulance arrived, the paramedics scooped me up and rushed me there.

I guess I was pretty convincing because he pulled out his prescription pad and wrote me for another month. As the days passed, I began to feel a little better. The vomiting and diarrhea let up, and I could sleep for several hours at a time. I lied to him and told him everything was fine. I was keeping my meals down, and I was confident I had finally turned the corner. On the day of my appointment, I made it back to my doctor’s office. I reported that the medication was working, and my pain was under control.

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Those episodes would always end up in a heated argument. Most of the time, he bit his tongue. I’d regularly lose periods of time; usually at least several hours. Even so, oblivion was an attractive alternative to sitting in my living room, all alone. The house was in chaos, and when my husband would come home, I could see the frustration on his face. However, every so often he would confront me. Weeks turned into months, and the only time I wasn’t high was when I was sleeping. I was caught in a vicious cycle with no way out.

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I couldn’t believe it when I read the screen. He said when he did this he’d get a mind-blowing high. The broadcast featured a graduate student who had become addicted to Oxycontin after a skiing accident. I watched as he described what it was like to take Oxy’s, and the ways he ingested them. I was watching evision one evening, and I found an episode of “48 Hours.” I hit the info button on the remote to see what it was about. He shared that when did that, the time-released component of the drug broke down and all of the medication was released at once. It said, “The epidemic of abuse of prescription medication, including the most dangerous drug, Oxycontin.” My eyes were glued to the set. It showed him using two spoons to crush up two little yellow pills (that looked just like mine) into a fine powder.

I headed back toward the bathroom, but I didn’t make it. I spent the next six hours on the couch, crawling out of my skin. I cleaned myself up, and just when I headed back to the couch, it began again. At that point, I was really frightened, and I longed for just one more little yellow pill to end this physical assault. No sooner did I sit down when I had a sudden urge to have a bowel movement. I soiled myself, and the diarrhea was explosive. When I had a brief reprieve, I returned to the couch. It was like there were bugs on my skin, and my legs spasmed and jerked continuously. I laid there, starring at the digital clock the cable box, retching and shivering and hurting, watching the minutes crawl by.

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I had lost almost forty pounds, and there were dark circles under my eyes. At times I would go weeks without taking a shower. As the months went by, my overall health and appearance dramatically declined. The ten or so minutes he spent with me each month were uneventful. I always tried to clean up before my doctor’s appointment, so he wouldn’t notice how drastically I had deteriorated. Somehow, it worked. My hair was a disheveled mess, and my body odor was pungent.

Just the mere sight of the prescription was enough to wake up the demon. I filled it on the way home. I looked at the prescription, and I noticed that my heart began to beat faster and I started to sweat. Just this once, I told myself. I’ve missed you.” It was the very beginning of the prescription so the bottle was full. It had almost seemed too easy. Yeah, sure. I did better on some days than others, but I was still using more than prescribed. He’d spent less than ten minutes with me. I spent the next couple of weeks trying desperay to keep my consumption under control. I was confident that if I took two pills, I’d be able to make it up during the month. As I took the bottle out of the sack, I thought to myself “Welcome back, my friends. Then it’s back to the right dose.

And then, I waited — but not for long. The next thing I remembered was waking up on the couch. My God — where had the last four hours gone?. I put the powder in my mouth and washed it down with water. I retrieved two pills and crushed them up the same way. I headed to the kitchen and pulled two teaspoons out of the drawer. That’s all I needed to hear. For a few minutes, I was disoriented. He was so right. It hit me much faster and harder, and I was thrilled. I glanced at the clock, and it read 4:30 p.m.

He smiled, and told me in no uncertain terms, it was torture. He also warned me not to take more than the prescribed dose; otherwise I’d run out and go through withdrawal. Several days later, I met with the doctor, and we spoke about my condition. I asked him what withdrawal would feel like. It would release narcotic into my bloodstream steadily throughout the day and night, and he said it was really important that I follow the dosing instructions carefully. He wrote me a prescription, which I filled at a local pharmacy on the way home. He recommended a medication called “OxyContin." He told me it was a time-released tablet, to be taken every 12 hours.

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About twenty minutes later, a strange sensation came over me. I was sure I had uncovered the holy grail of well being. I cleaned the house, did the laundry, and loaded the dishwasher. I took my first dose, and then I waited, cautiously optimistic that my pain would start to disappear. I was in the zone — feeling contemplative and reflective. For the next several weeks, I was virtually pain free, and did all the things I’d been putting off. My pain had diminished, but there was something else happening. I noticed that I had a sense of euphoria, and I felt energized and mellow at the same time. I realized I had stumbled onto something amazing.

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When I felt it coming, I instinctively jumped to my feet with an alarming sense of urgency. I had one short second to inhale before it began. Soon my stomach was empty, but I continued to dry heave, over and over. Once across the threshold of the bathroom, I lunged toward the toilet. I grabbed the tank with both hands to support my upper body, and dropped my head. I wretched and I heaved, and a putrid mixture of liquid and solids came up. I started to vomit repeatedly. It burned my throat and filled my nostrils.

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I woke one morning, and made a beeline to the kitchen. I stopped answering the phone all together. I kept ling myself that I would stop tomorrow, but it was obvious, even to me, that I had lost the ability to make a conscious choice. The house looked as if a tornado had hit it, with stacks of dirty dishes in the sink and laundry piled up. I finally did stop, because I ran out of pills. Over the course of several weeks, I stopped showering, brushing my teeth, and I slept in my clothes. I had no appetite, and felt sick afterward when I did eat.

At some point, I began to chase the “high.” The urges came on quietly at first. I became so attracted to this feeling that one day I wondered how much better I would feel if I took two tablets at a time. The rational part of my brain immediay protested, but another part became anxious at the prospect. I began shaving a few hours off between doses, and even though I knew this behavior would result in my running out early, I was, nevertheless, compelled to continue. The pleasurable sensations would ebb and flow, and I remained in a constant state of perpetual bliss. It seemed like the more of the drug I had in my system, the more fantastic I felt. I felt great — and I craved more of those same feelings.

I would have moments of clarity when my rational brain would scream at me to stop. However, those messages were always overridden by the compulsion to keep taking more. I’d sit alone in my living room, slumped over on the couch. I used the drug this way for several more weeks. I became isolated in my home like a prisoner. Sometimes I would take so much that I would become semi-conscious. I was way too wasted to drive anywhere, and when I wasn’t sleeping.

Just then my husband came in and gently kissed me on the forehead. He began to cry, and I could l the episode had scared him terribly. The next morning I did some research on the internet and found a residential treatment program. After my husband issued me an ultimatum, I agreed to go to treatment. He just kept ling me that I had died, and he wouldn’t sit back and watch me kill myself anymore. I was overcome with guilt and shame, and I knew things had to change. I was scared to death, but I agreed to go to save my marriage.

Many think the addicted person is just trying to get high and does not have the "moral fortitude" to do the right thing and get off drugs. If you have not experienced OxyContin addiction, then you likely don’t understand what an addict’s life is really like. Many people who have not experienced the actual grip of addiction to OxyContin or other narcotics may have trouble really understanding how bad this narcotic is.

I noticed there was something sticky on my shirt that smelled like strawberries. I surmised that I must have made a sandwich, but I had no recollection of the event. There were also little piles of jelly on the floor. Puzzled, I went into the kitchen and there were open jars of peanut butter and jelly on the counter next to an open loaf of bread. This episode was a milestone for me, and although at the time I didn’t realize it, I had just experienced my first drug-induced blackout. I wondered if my husband was home, but he wasn’t.

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Cheryl made it through treatment and got her life back. Others were taking the deadly narcotic as prescribed but they overdosed and died. However, thousands more have not been able to be revived when they overdosed on OxyContin. Some of the deaths of teens were after taking one pill.

Fear rose up inside of me, and I was scared of what would happen next. Every muscle in my body went into spasms, blasting through me like a freight train. I opened the bottle and, to my horror, it was empty! I pulled the calendar down from the shelf and counted the days until my next doctor’s appointment: I had run out nine days early. And it certainly did. By the time several hours had passed, the pain had transformed into sheer agony. I closed my eyes and hunkered down, waiting for pain to rear its ugly head. As the pain intensified, I felt my whole body tense up. After an hour or so, it returned with a vengeance. Frustrated, I went to the living room and laid on the couch.

Oxy addiction