On last week’s episode of A&E’s Intervention, we were able to see how a prescription drug abuse problem can devastate the lives of addicts and their families. As we’ve already mentioned on A3, prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the U.S. at the moment having gone up more than 400% in only a few years.
Prescription Drug Abuse on A&E’s Intervention
Andrew, a 21-year-old, had been terribly addicted to OxyContin for the past 4 years. Because of his addiction, his father and two brothers were on the brink of homelessness as they watched Andrew snort his father’s last 40 dollars. This now made them unable to pay for the motel they had been staying in and all knew it was only a matter of time before they would be asked to leave.
Andrew’s journey with addiction began at 13 when he started experimenting with alcohol and marijuana. By 14, Andrew was using cocaine, crack, and ecstacy. He had also dropped out of school. By 17 he had a baby on the way and had begun his love affair with OxyContin. Though OxyContin is a prescription painkiller, it is attributed to a growing number of debilitating addictions and deaths every year. As the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration warns, “OxyContin abuse can lead to weakened skeletal muscle, heart and respiratory failure and death”.
Oxycontin – the other heroin addiction
OxyContin is the brand name of the drug Oxycodone and is also known as “hillbilly heroin”. Many who abuse OxyContin crush the pills and then either snort or inject them, giving them a very similar high to that of heroin. Research has shown that when adolescent mice are exposed to OxyContin, lifelong and permanent changes to the brain’s reward system result. OxyContin is highly addictive and withdrawal symptoms are severe. OxyContin related deaths are usually linked to ingestion of the drug in combination with some other depressant of the central nervous system such as alcohol or barbiturates. Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem in the U.S. and according to recent government data, conducted between 1998 and 2008, there has been a 400 percent increase in substance abuse treatment admissions for people abusing prescription drugs.
Like the many others who abuse OxyContin, the drug had taken a fatal grip on Andrew’s life. He now found himself selling drugs to support his habit, stealing from his family and in debt to many drug dealers. In the past 2 years, he had stolen more than $4,000 from his grandmother and in the past year had been in over a dozen drug-related fights. As the dealers were hunting for him, Andrew began to fear for his life.
Gambling addiction can ruin lives
His family’s situation was even worse. His father had lost his car and home and could no longer feed Andrew’s two younger brothers. They often did not eat for days. Andrew’s violent behavior when he did not have the OxyContin made matters worse. Within 2 years, they had been evicted from 7 apartments because of the destruction Andrew caused to them when in a rage. As the situation worsened, Andrew’s father, Dan, was fired from his job of 19 years because he was caught stealing. But just as we begin to blame Andrew for the devastating situation he has placed his family in, the producers of A&E’s intervention revealed that there may be more than one addiction contributing to this family’s pain.
Over the past 9 years, Andrew’s father, Dan, had lost over $80,000 dollars through gambling and had taken more than $100,000 from his mother to support his gambling addiction. Dan had been able to mask his habit by focusing attention on Andrew’s oxycontin addiction. However, once their extended family saw an opportunity for Dan to get help, they came forward, hoping he too would seek treatment.
According to the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery, recent evidence indicated that pathological gambling is an addiction similar to chemical addiction. It has been observed that some pathological gamblers have lower levels of norepinephrine than normal gamblers. Norepinephrine is secreted under stress, arousal or thrill so pathological gamblers make up for their deficiency by gambling despite the negative consequences to their lives and the lives of those around them. Brain activation in gambling addict’s brains while receiving a monetary reward has also been linked to the brain activation of a cocaine addict when receiving cocaine. All of this makes gambling addiction difficult to treat and often requires the help of a treatment center or group therapy, like that of drug addiction.
Fortunately, after Andrew agreed to go to a 90-day treatment program, Dan did as well. Andrew has been sober since February 4, 2010 and Dan has not gambled since being featured on A&E’s Intervention. In the future, we’re going to follow up some of our favorite personalities from the show and see how they’re doing now.