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Prescription Pill Addiction: Who Is to Blame?

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Jennifer Ginsberg: Now that Michael Jackson's death has been ruled a homicide by the doctor who prescribed and administered the deadly cocktail of pills and injectables that killed him, the question of who is responsible when an addict overdoses has surfaced. In a case as dramatic as his, the prescribing doctor must be held accountable for blatantly providing Jackson with the drugs that ultimately destroyed him.

But what about the case of DJ AM, who was likely prescribed narcotic medication after his recent plane crash, and just died of a possible drug overdose from prescription pills and other drugs? And what about subtler cases of prescription pill abuse that many addicts are entrapped in? Do we blame the doctors and pharmacists who greedily and readily meet the desperate addicts' needs on demand? Or do we blame the addicts, who, in the grip of their addiction, lie, beg, and steal to get their hands on the drugs that ultimately destroy them?

Addicts are cunning and manipulative by nature. When they are in need of a fix, they will go to great lengths to obtain it. We have all heard the extreme examples of the crackhead who commits some horrific crime for just one rock. But what about the "functional" addict who manages to portray a semblance of normalcy to the outside world, but is just as conflicted and addicted on the inside as the desperate junkie on the street?

Many moms who struggle with addiction fall into this category. They learn to live a double life and go to extreme lengths to conceal their using. They often present a persona of the "good mother and wife," which only perpetuates their denial and addiction. They rationalize their drug use by obtaining a prescription for pills, thus telling themselves that they couldn't be a real addict.

I have worked with women who have constructed abstract lies in order to get a refill for a prescription. Some see multiple doctors simultaneously and exaggerate or completely fabricate physical symptoms to get more drugs. If desperate enough, they will even fake injuries and go to the emergency room for a fix. Unfortunately, many doctors would rather write another prescription than deal with a hysterical woman, thus the cycle of addiction continues.

Moms who are addicts have very clever defenses and rationalizations to shield themselves from their deep sense of shame about using around their children. They tell themselves they are better wives and mothers -- that they are more relaxed and able to deal with the stress of motherhood -- when they are under the influence. They somehow believe that the false image they present to the world mitigates their addiction, even as they spiral out of control.

When they aren't under the influence, their anxiety is often off the charts -- they find themselves needing more and more of their pills to simply get through the day. Their husbands are usually terrified, but feel helpless and confused because addicts are brilliant liars and manipulators.

The guilt and shame that alcoholic and drug-addicted moms feel is overwhelming. They really believe that they are worthless if they can't even stay sober for their children. But addiction is a ruthless illness that doesn't have any regard for one's family, accomplishments, or dreams. It crosses all socioeconomic, ethnic, and gender lines, and its only aim is to destroy the addict, often leaving them desperate, isolated, or dead.

Yes, the doctors who enable such women must be held responsible. But truth be told, no amount of finger pointing will rid the world of shady doctors who seek to exploit the weakness of others for their own gain. "Blaming others" is a common justification used by addicts, and this only proves to be a pointless exercise that keeps them trapped in their deadly cycle. It is imperative for an addict to take personal responsibility for her addiction in order to get clean.

What I hope to impress upon any woman who relates to this article is that your addiction is not your fault. You are not a bad wife, mother, or person because you are an addict. But you are 100% responsible for treating your problem. It is easy to scapegoat the enablers, pushers, and doctors, but when an addict wants to get high, nothing will stand in her way.

Please know that there is a way out of this destructive cycle. You are not alone.

next: From MILF to MILM (Mother I'd Like to Marry)
5 comments so far | Post a comment now
Ryan September 1, 2009, 4:09 PM

Nice post

Jen September 1, 2009, 8:06 PM

Hate to tell you but your addiction IS your fault unless someone is holding you down and force feeding you drugs and booze. I sympathize with people with addiction but ultimately you’re the one making the decision to take the drugs.

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