Conspiracy and distribution of a controlled substance in the second degree – those are the charges that a 77-year-old doctor in New Jersey pleaded guilty to this month. According to prosecutors, the doctor funneled tens of thousands of legal painkillers into the hands of a drug ring, and as a result, they are recommending that he be sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to surrender his medical license as a part of his plea agreement.
In order to get that many high-dose painkillers out of the pharmacies and into the hands of the drug dealers he was working with, the doctor had to write a significant number of prescriptions for people he had never met, much less examined and treated. Seven other people involved in the black market diversion of the pills were indicted and pleaded guilty to the same charges as the doctor.
Gurbir Grewal is the New Jersey Attorney General. Said Grewal in a statement: “Doctors like Beecher who prescribe opioids for illegal distribution are at least as culpable as the drug dealers they supply, because they use their licenses not to heal, but to inflict incalculable harm. With so many users starting on the path to opioid addiction with prescription pain pills, we are determined to stop the doctors and pill mills supplying this deadly black market.”
Legitimate Prescription or First Step to Addiction?
Most people who enter a doctor’s office seeking treatment for pain that walk out with a prescription for painkillers will be able to take those pills as prescribed without a problem. They complete the prescription or stop taking the pills as their pain fades and move on with their lives.
For some, however, it is not that easy. When acute pain management is treated with too long of a prescription or too high of a dose of medication, the chance of developing a physical dependence on the medication increases. Similarly, chronic pain managed solely with painkillers can quickly cause a tolerance to develop and, in some cases, a psychological dependence as well.
It is when both a physical tolerance to the medication (e.g., requiring a larger dose in order to experience pain relief) is coupled with a psychological dependence on the drug that addiction develops. The chances of this happening increases when the person with the prescription:
- Takes pills more frequently than prescribed
- Combines use of the pills with other substances, including alcohol or marijuana
- Crushes the pills or otherwise uses them in a way that is not recommended
- Seeks to acquire multiple prescriptions from more than one doctor in order to get more of the drug of choice
Are You at Risk?
If you are concerned that your use of painkillers might put you at risk for drug abuse or addiction, it is important to discuss the issue with your doctor. To assist you, they might give you a lesser dose for a shorter period of time and require more check-ins in order to ensure that you are not beginning to have a problem.
Signs You Might Be Developing a Painkiller Addiction
There are a number of signs that a painkiller addiction may be developing. For example, engaging in any of the behaviors described above (e.g., taking pills outside of the bounds of a doctor’s prescription for any reason or in any way) can indicate an abuse issue.
Cravings can also play a significant role. If pain is becoming less and less of an issue yet you find that you are watching the clock and waiting for your next dose, justifying taking pills earlier, or “forgetting” when you took the last dose, it can indicate an unhealthy focus on the medications. If you feel nervous or agitated when you are late taking the medication or otherwise feel that you are unable to function without taking the pills, that can also mean that a psychological dependence is developing.
Take Early Action
If you feel that you are developing a painkiller addiction or if you are sure that your use has reached a dangerous level, do not wait to seek help. The earlier treatment begins, the simpler the process may be to stop taking the pills altogether or to decrease the need to use them for pain management.
Treatment can begin today. Are you ready to consider your options in painkiller addiction treatment services?