Among the many reasons opioid addiction is so destructive is that it’s easy to begin taking the medications—due to their widespread availability and pleasure-inducing effects—but stopping is extremely hard. Often, people with addictions only do so when faced with financial ruin or permanent damage to their health—or both.
Such was the case with Kelly, a recovering opioid addict who agreed to share her story with Medical Economics. Now in her mid-50s, Kelly formerly enjoyed a successful career as a consultant for a Chicago-area pharmaceutical company. She and her husband both earned good salaries. “We worked really hard and we played hard,” she recalls of the early years of their marriage.
However, much of their “playing” included drinking which, for Kelly, gradually devolved into alcoholism. That was followed a few years later by her husband contracting cancer, for which he was prescribed opioids to manage his pain. Kelly saw his disease as an opportunity to help herself with her own struggles.
“As soon as they started prescribing him pain pills, I picked up a couple—not just one, because I’m a good addict—and it was the perfect answer to my situation,” recalls Kelly, who requested to be identified only by her first name to protect her identity, as she is still in recovery. “I didn’t need to worry about alcohol anymore because I had opiates.
“The first month or so I took those pills I was flying high, and despite what was happening with my husband was in a pretty good mood,” she says. “Then it ended and I spent the next four years chasing that feeling.”
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As the search to recreate the initial opioid-induced euphoria continued, Kelly’s craving spiraled out of control. After her husband discovered she was taking medications meant for him, she turned to the physicians with whom she worked at the pharmaceutical company.