"It was a miracle I was still alive." So writes a former journalist in describing his battle with opioids—except those words aren't coming from his mouth. They're what a doctor told him in 2012 after reviewing his intake: a prescribed 180 Oxycodone pills a month, and another 60 extended-release morphine pills. The addiction had its roots in a September 2008 diagnosis of Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel disease for which he was prescribed a chemo drug—and Percocet for the pain. He took them as needed, and never too much. "I shouldn't worry," the doctor told him. "I needed the meds. I was in good hands," he writes for Mother Jones, which has withheld his name for privacy. In March 2010, in advance of a move to Wisconsin to head up news at a radio station, he was prescribed enough Percocet to carry him until his new insurance began. He consumed three months of pills in four weeks.
He got back on the Percocet, only to be diagnosed shortly thereafter with drug-induced Lupus, a result of the chemo. He was referred to a pain clinic and left with the Oxycodone script. "Sometimes I would ask my pain management doctor what my 'exit' plan was for getting off these pills. I shouldn’t worry, he said—I needed the meds." A 2012 move to Washington, DC, with its stricter stance on opioids, proved challenging, in terms of finding doctors willing to prescribe and pharmacies that had Oxycodone in stock, taking him to suburban and rural Virginia. Then his apartment was robbed, and "terror washed over me." The pills were gone. It was the end of his opioid use, but the start of his now 5-year reliance on Suboxone, which eases opioid cravings. "I'm not sure when I'll ever have the time for withdrawal and detox," he writes. The full piece is worth a read. (Read more opioids stories.)