Addictions: Alcohol and Substance Abuse

Random Thoughts About Addiction, Delusions and Hallucinations

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Random Thoughts About Addiction, Delusions and HallucinationsAs many readers know, from previous post I recently underwent arthroscopic surgery for a shoulder injury.  It goes without saying that recovery from surgery is a painful process.  In order to reduce the amount of pain while recovering from surgery, I was prescribed anti-pain medication in the form of Oxycodone.  My brief encounter with Oxycodone gave me cause to think about addiction.  The fact is that Oxycodone is a synthetic version of heroin and is equally addicting. The reason this or other drugs are prescribed is to hasten the healing process.  Extreme pain, if permitted to continue unabated interferes with the ability of the body to fully recover.

I was one of many patients who had a very bad reaction to Oxycodone.  In addition to extreme nausea, I also experienced delusional thinking, moved elevation, and a few hallucinations.  That is why I was soon taken off of this pain killer and given one much weaker in nature.

What I thought about it after this episode is how and why couldn't people become addicted?  At least in my experience, there was nothing pleasant or enjoyable about Oxycodone.  In my opinion, nausea, is one of the most awful feelings that a person can have.  Yet there are those who deliberately continue to use this drug, despite the nausea, in order to get high.  That is just what puzzles me.  Where is the high in oxycodone?  Yes, I experienced some mood elevation, but my behavior was so unusual that even I was surprised.  Hallucinations came in the form of my being certain that I asked for something or said something and got no reply.  In point of fact, I had hallucinated the question, having said absolutely nothing.

My question about addiction goes beyond my experience with this drug, and extends to the question of why some people become addicted and others do not.  There are those who insist that drug and alcohol abuse are a matter of choice.  In other words, people make the choice to use drugs and become addicted.  Yet, I know for sure that there was nothing about oxycodone that would ever make me want to use it again.  Yet, others become strongly addicted and experience the things I'm complaining about as being very pleasant.  It is similar with alcohol.  Many people like myself will drink a glass of wine, but never feels the need to have alcohol every day or every night.  We do not become alcoholic.  Nevertheless, there are those individuals who, once they start drinking, cannot stop.  Somehow, this difference reflects not only a lack of choice, but the fact that addiction is a disease.  Like most diseases, addiction affects some people, but not others.

One more observation that I've made about my episode with Oxycodone is that experiencing delusions and hallucinations was very troubling.  In a horrific kind of way, it was fascinating to observe myself during this period of time without being able to do anything about it.  In fact, it did, not occur to any of us that I was reacting to the medication.  I now fully understand what is meant by the fact that hallucinations are a person's very real experiences.  Auditory hallucinations are not mere thoughts, but are heard with one's ears.  There is such a strong feeling of helplessness when this type of thing is happening that it made me really think about what psychotic patients go through.  Their world, filled with delusions and hallucinations, must really be frightening.

Finally, this episode, helped me realize in very stark terms, the importance of people dumping their unused drugs in the garbage if there are any left over. When my medication was switched the oxycodone was immediately disposed of.  Medicine cabinets filled with unused drugs of any kind are extremely dangerous.  It is incumbent on everyone to clean out their medicine cabinets and get rid of unused drugs that are either prescription or non prescription in nature.  We know that children and teenagers find their way into their parents, medicine cabinets, remove available drugs, and may possibly become addicted or sell them at school.  The National Institute of Mental Health recently reported a fast increase in the number of these drugs, finding their way into schools.  Families must become more vigilant about this issue.

Your comments and questions are encouraged.

Allan N.Schwartz, PhD

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