Monday, March 16, 2009

Pill Anonymous

I hated all the hoopla when Anna Nicole Smith died. The media circus was hardly tolerable. Sometimes I feel ashamed to even own a TV when coverage is so crude. But current events have caught my interest. Apparently Ms. Smith’s doctors are being held accountable for her death. Prosecutors allege that they "repeatedly and excessively furnished thousands of prescription pills to Anna Nicole Smith, often for no legitimate medical purpose." Now this is HUGE news, BIG HEADLINES. Anna Nicole Smith was after all a celebrity.

For the people at the Wednesday night Pills Anonymous meeting in Anaheim the news of Anna Nicole Smith’s overdose was not headline stuff. We didn’t even blink. We’ve buried friends. And doctors supplied our pills. Repeated and excessively.

Pill addiction is insidious. People don’t talk about it, but most know someone who is taking just a “few” too many benzos or opiates to manage their anxiety or pain. It’s one of those underground addictions that are hard for loved ones to gauge, especially confusing because prescriptions are written by doctors.

We know. We’ve been there. The Pills Anonymous introduction (read at the beginning of every meeting) says in part:
Although we have subjected ourselves to substances every bit as powerful as street drugs, our “Dealers” — sometimes knowingly, often unwittingly — were physicians and pharmacists, so we have usually had to commit few, if any, crimes to obtain our “fix.” Insurance companies often paid for at least part of our abuse. Our illegitimate activities were usually limited to acts which illustrate our astounding capability for deceit, such as getting prescriptions from multiple doctors simultaneously, stealing medications from our friends’ and family’s medicine cabinets, and occasionally forging prescriptions. We memorized the contents of the Physicians’ Desk Reference (PDR) so that we could precisely describe symptoms that elicited the prescription we craved. And above all, we hid our pills and our conniving not only from those who know us but, by denial and delusion, from ourselves.

The people who come to Pills Anonymous are just like the people who reach out to any other 12 step fellowship. We come together once a week to support each other, and work a program of recovery from using pills addictively. According to the
SAMHSA Health Information Network one-third of all U.S. drug abuse is prescription drug abuse. And yet there are usually only about 10 people at our meeting. At the end we have a moment of silent prayer for the addict still suffering out there. I know there are a lot of them. I’m so sorry it is too late for Anna.