Arts & Entertainment
Parting Glances: Better pills to swallow?
by Charles Alexander
Originally printed 7/30/2010 (Issue 1830 - Between The Lines News)
It's been over 25 years since I've had panic attacks, the result of cold turkeying Xanax after almost a year of legitimate prescription use.
I was clueless that Xanax is highly addictive. I thought that because a doctor prescribed it, Xanax was safe. The panacea I needed. I was misinformed.
During alcohol abuse recovery, I asked my psychiatrist to give me an antidepressant prescription - along with Antibuse, a further sobriety safeguard.
(I made the mistake of eating a cheese cake slice, containing vanilla extract. That small amount of flavoring made my lungs feel cotton stuffed. I couldn't breath. I can only imagine what a shot of whiskey with Antibuse might have done.)
My Xanax withdrawal panics were stomach centered. Solar-plexus demanding. Inescapable! I was sure anyone looking my way could sense my inner turmoil. I wanted to run. I couldn't sit still. I spent a weekend in Bon Secours Hospital seeking relief. Stop! Stop this Goddamned gnawing ...
I was fortunate following monitored hospital recovery. And weeks later I read an article about taking vitamin supplements (50 to 100 mgs of the B Complex; 1000 of C, along with a full spectrum of related D, E, and minerals). I cut back from six daily cups of coffee to one. I eliminated sugar intake. And prayed ...
After a few months of vitamin regularity my panic attacks stopped. I haven't had one since. (Recommendation: Twin Labs Two-a-Day: one morning, one bedtime. Plus an Omega-3 oil.)
Memory of the horrific demands on body, mind, spirit that abrupt withdrawal from legitimately prescribed drugs can make is vividly recalled. I read a reviewer's copy of "Pill Head: The Secret Life of a Painkiller Addict," by Joshua Lyon (Hyperion Press, $14.99). I shuddered.
Lyon, in his mid 30s, a journalist for trendy magazines - is also gay. He took Vicodin at 16; continued drugs nonstop 'til '08. Pot. LSD. A little H. His adult years exclusively focused on FDA-approved prescription painkillers, however gotten. Prozac. Valium. Zoloft. Efflexor. OxyContin. Percocet. Codeine, Hydrocodone. Darvocet. You name it. He sniffed, snorted, swallowed, shot.
Lyon readily admits to having been a wheeling-dealing member of America's Generation Rx. Buying pills. Trading. Hoarding. Knowing every milligram of individual potency. Life became unthinkable without pills. A rapacious love, hate, desperation affair.
(Research finds that 9 million Americans abuse prescription drugs, 20 percent are high school kids; 48 million - almost 20 percent of our population - admit to using painkillers non-medically; over a five-year period, ER visits due to painkiller overdoses jumped 115 percent.)
According to Lyon, prescription pills aren't difficult to get your shaking hands on. They can be bought on the street for $17 to $70 a pill; $10, a milligram for some, if you know where to go, how to risk life limb, HIV status, going about it. Lyon had close calls.
(I was sent an e-mail list last week of online painkillers for purchase. A supply source from out of state. I e-mailed the Face Book contact sending the info. He said his computer was hacked. "I don't do pills," I stated tersely. "Neither do I," he replied apologetically.)
"Pill Head" weaves together Lyon's story of opioid addiction, as well as furtive forays of user-abuser pals, straight and gay. What starts out for each as a cloud-free sense of serenity, tranquility, Eden on earth, slowly, seductively, turns into a nightmare of mind-blowing thunder storms, once needed dosages skyrocket, pills and sources peter out.
Reflects Lyon, "Opiate addicts tend to be suffering from the most severe forms of depression - they feel totally empty inside. Pills act as a security blanket, a protective bubble from all hurts."
All hurts, except one ... withdrawal. One helluva doozie. (Ask me. I know.)Charles@pridesource.com. Facebook, too.