East Texas drug treatment facilities are responding to a growing trend in the area, the rise in prescription drug abuse.
At ETMC there has been a sharp increase in patients treated for addiction to Xanax and Oxycontin. "I've seen middle aged, elderly women go to federal prison for prescription fraud, for no other reason, they were so desperate to get their Oxycontin," said Dr. John Pogue, Medical Director of Chemical Dependencies at ETMC's Behavioral Health Center. "Typically substance abuse programs in the past tended to treat mostly alcoholics. What we're seeing here in this community is an awful lot of people addicted to the kinds of drugs that are normally prescribed."
The center offers an intensive treatment program to break those addictions. "With drugs like Oxycontin, we actually stop the drug and we use a variety of other medicines to manage the more uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms," said Dr. Pogue.
Oxycontin is classified as the same type of narcotic as morphine and heroine. The first stages of withdrawal is intense. "Bad mood swings," said Dr. Pogue. "They may feel very anxious, they may feel depressed or down, usually restless, jittery, they begin to have diarrhea. Sometimes sweating, flushing, runny nose."
Unlike Oxycontin, patients addicted to Xanax risk the possibility of going through withdrawal seizures, which can be fatal. Despite all the risks, relapses are common. "What we've found is that it's usually so uncomfortable they basically go and seek the drug again."
Story by Maya Golden