GPDOTS : Can you briefly give me an idea how your life was before you became addicted to prescription drugs ?
G. Levy : Looking back at my life before becoming addicted to prescription drugs is painful. I was married and had children, I was a successful manager of my own pharmacy. I had a nice home and a new car. I was a productive member of society.
GPDOTS : When was the first time you ever saw someone misue rx medication?
G. Levy : It was in my early 20’s when I first saw someone abuse rx medication.
GPDOTS : When was the first time you ever tried misused a prescription medication and what was it?
G. Levy : The first time I ever abused prescription medication I was in my mid 20’s and the medication was Tylenol # 3.
GPDOTS : How did the drug make you feel??
G. Levy : The directions on my bottle were 1 tablet 4 times daily. I discovered if one was good ..more was better. When I took 2 or 3 I felt OK. The unsettled feeling I had always felt was gone. Everything was OK … I felt focused and sharper. I felt warm and content. It was a wonderful feeling.
GPDOTS : How long before you tried it again?
G. Levy : It was a few weeks later that I tried it again. It was sometime later that I was held up in my pharmacy and an armed gunman demanded drugs and money. I remember after the incident was over taking a couple of Percocet to get that feeling of everything being OK.
GPDOTS : How did being a pharmacist impact your addiction?
G. Levy : Being a pharmacist affected my addiction. On one had there was an availability of medication, but on the other you were constantly on the lookout for addicts. In order to work in an environment like that I had to find elaborate ways to remain undetected. The manipulation, the deception, the hiding, the lying all took its toll.
GPDOTS : Did you know any others in the medical / pharmaceutical profession doing unethical things?
G. Levy : I can unequivocally say I have observed others in the medical / pharmaceutical profession with unethical behaviour. I have been a witness to a wide range of behaviour including the consumption of a narcotic, the writing of narcotics for office use, pharmaceutical sales staff doing very unusual things with their physician samples. Since recovery I have attended meetings that were entire rooms full of doctors, dentists, veterinarians, pharmacists, and nurses, all recovering from prescription drugs.
GPDOTS : When did you realize you had a problem with rx drugs?
G. Levy : There were times along my life that I wish I could give up using medication. But I would continue and once I started the sense of well being was just too inviting. Be able to feel OK was powerful. I don’t think it was until June of 2010 that I realized I had a real problem with rx drugs. It was as much a surprise to me as it was to the people around me. When the subject was first broached in June 2010, I couldn’t believe I was an addict, I thought I was just using too much. That’s the deception of addiction.
GPDOTS : When you were in full-blown addiction what kinds of drugs were you taking and how much?
G. Levy : When I was in full-blown addiction I was using hydromorphine. Looking back and trying to sort it all out I have no idea how much I was using a day. I usually say I was using a lot and many times, because I simply do not know. I was taking methylphenidate/Ritalin/Concerta sometimes for drowsiness. My drug of choice was morphine , but I would use hydromorphine in its place, or oxycontin. I also took benzodiazepines, to unwind and at night for sleep. At the end I was taking between 4 and 6 mg of alprazolam daily.
GPDOTS : How did this affect your quality of life?
G. Levy : At the end of things .. my life consisted of using around the clock. Sometimes I would black out in bed for 18 hours. I ran hot and cold all the time. I started losing weight. I dozed off while visiting friends and family. It was hard for me to engage in conversation. I started calling in sick from work. My entire days revolved around the getting and using of drugs.
GPDOTS : What was the moment when you knew you needed treatment?
G. Levy : Lying in a hospital bed, unable to remember what day it was … Paranoid, Hallucinating, delirious, unable to tell what was real and what was not real.
When I started to get some clarity in my thinking .. I realized I was in active withdrawal … I was tired of all the lying, the hiding, the deceit, I wanted to get better.
GPDOTS : Where did you go for treatment and what worked best for you?
G. Levy : With the help of my family physician, and other people I was sent to Crosbie House in New Minas. While at Crosbie House, I had an intake done for Homewood in Guelph. Crosbie House really helped get me pointed in the right direction. Homewood allowed me to deal with a lot of other psychiatric issues. I was eventually put in a trauma unit to deal with more issues.
What I know now is that I needed a time in hospital, I needed a 28 day program, and I certainly needed more extended care. If not for all of these .. there is no telling where I might be today.
GPDOTS : What would you say to someone who doesn’t believe prescription drug use is a community issue that impacts everyone?
G. Levy : Last summer I was able to speak to a group of men at Berwick. I talked about the addict right beside you. I always imagined an addict as someone down in a dark alley with a needle and a lighter and spoon. What I have learned and hope to show others ..is there are addicts all around you .. prescription drug abuse is a real problem with mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, uncles aunts … the list goes on.
Substance abuse is one of the last remaining socially acceptable targets for public discrimination. We need to overcome our negative issues so that we can help those with addiction(s).