By Stan Stewart.
When I was 27, I had my gall bladder removed in a rural hospital. It was my young doctor’s first operation. After the operation I gathered the impression that he was not quite sure where the gall bladder was located. His incision was massive. However, he found the gravel-filled organ and removed it.
As I moved into recovery a nurse gave me a different pill for pain relief. It was wonderful. The ward was filled with bright and luminous colours. Through the window I saw the outside world shimmering. The bird’s songs were unbelievable. Never before had I experienced anything like it.
This blissful state lasted for a couple of hours. As it wore off I wanted more. I rang the bell and asked the nurse for another of those special pills. She declined. Over the next day I wheedled, coaxed, pleaded and exaggerated my pain. I told the nursing staff I had to have another one of those pills.
Thank God I was never given one. I now know that the pill was morphine and I believe if they had given me another it could have led to addiction. Even now, fifty plus years later, I am amazed at how clear and vibrant the memories of my drug experience are.
There is a rising tide of addiction sweeping the western world. Every day there are stories of youth violence, shops attacked, horrendous accidents and stupid acts of thuggery. We are familiar with the scourge of heroin and morphine. However, the addictive power of certain prescription medicines and the drugs have only been recognized recently. In the United States in the last decade 500,000 have died because of addiction to pain relief tablets.
There are many paths to addiction. Prescription drugs is only one of them. Years ago, our neighbors used to make some addictive white powder in their bathtub.
Why do people surrender their lives to chemical addictions? For the same reason I was unwittingly ready to take a step down this road. They want to ‘feel good’. It’s like in the film the ‘Wizard of Oz’ when Alice follows the yellow brick road and suddenly the world turns from black and white to technicolor (full, vibrant colour). That was my experience and I wanted more. Who wouldn’t? But no one can live in a drug fueled world. The world they take the user to is not paradise. Theirs is the path to death. Addictive chemicals lie! The promise of addictive substances is phoney.
I am grateful for everyone who works to help individuals cope without chemicals. They do this in many different ways. Some do it through exercise, others through yoga. Discovering a craft, experimenting with art, being transported by the power of music, all these things are life giving. Then there are all kinds of meditations, and many find peace and meaning through religion. True friendship and walking-alongside has the power to help the givers and those they care for, survive, and thrive. Bring it on. We need more of all of these.
This last week I have watched a most amazing three-part video. ‘The Pharmacist’. This is a true crime documentary series produced by Cinemart and released in February 2020 on Netflix. Easy to find. Any search will bring it up.
It is made up of three long episodes. I watched the series in three sessions. It stars (features) Dan Schneider. He is not an actor. He is a small-town pharmacist. Dan is also an obsessive sound and video recorder. His actual recordings are an important component of this series. His son was killed in a non-sensical drug related incident. At great risk to himself, against all the odds he set out to find who killed his son and why. Then as a working pharmacist he comes to realise that his battle is against the over-prescribing and addictive prescription drugs. He becomes determined to stop the prescribing of one particular prescription drug. Against seemingly impossible odds he never relents. When I finished viewing this series, I was full of admiration for Dan. Dan finished up helping millions. His story re-enforced for me just what a determined individual can achieve.
Over this past week I have read and watched the mayhem drug addicted individuals have caused for themselves and others both here in beautiful Aotearoa, New Zealand and overseas. I haven’t searched for these stories. They have just been there in my normal browsing of the news. It makes me sad. Dan’s story prompted me to write this piece.
Note: I understand pills and potions for pain relief support as prescribed by doctors and taken as prescribed are a great boon. It many cases such drugs are necessary to sustain quality of life. What I write about is the abuse of pain medication to take a person ‘high’ and keep them ‘high’.
Caption: Morphine medication.