Oxycodone: the 21st Century’s Aspirin

I have a friend out here in Montauk who’s the healthiest 77 year-old you can imagine.  Oh, he’s way overweight.  And he’s recently had his prostate shaved, a quarter of one lung removed (to get rid of cancer), and three stents put in. But he bounces back and carries on as if none of this happened.  And “carrying on” for him means climbing up and down ladders all day, lifting boxes and crates, using power equipment, hauling heavy stuff to the dump for people, and everything else a handyman might be asked to do because, well, he’s a handyman.

Not only is he a handyman, but he’s also a hoarder of junk who makes interesting things out of some of it.  By this, I don’t mean his extensive collection of pieces of broken tape measures that he insists allow him to have something to measure with everywhere in his house. I do mean the beautiful way he’s recycled old broken tiles to tile wonderful patterns atop his otherwise plastic jacuzzi, his vast collection of cast iron cookware salvaged from the “throw-away” table at the Montauk dump sub-station, and the paintings he’s made out of excess paint pigment that the local hardware stores discard.  Unfortunately, he’s applying these recycling skills to his medical treatment.  More specifically, unknowingly, he’s making himself an addict.

After his lung surgery, understandably and expectedly, he had lots of minor to major pains in and around his chest.  His treaters at the otherwise seemingly fairly good VA hospital in nearby Northport, Long Island gave him a prescription for Oxycodone which he started taking on and off, sometimes getting ahead of the pain, other times not. Either because of lots of refills, or freely-given new prescriptions, he seems to have access to as much of this drug as he wants.  And so he’s recycling it, viz., using it to treat other problems, kind of like the best aspirin you ever had.

For example, a couple of weeks ago he told me about pain in his hip.  Rather than see an orthopedist, he took, yes, Oxycodone.  (Now that he’s seen an orthopedist, who’s diagnosed it as arthritis, he’s still taking the Oxy.)  A few days later, he got a toothache. Rather than see a dentist, he took Oxycodone (supplemented by an antibiotic laying around because he never completed the course for an ear problem).

This, I think, is the road to hell for him, one which I didn’t mind seeing Rush Limbaugh careen down, but I do for my friend. Putting aside what the drug is doing to him physically, and its impact delaying treatment for the causes of the pain he covers up with it, it sounds like the early stages of an addition.  Why does he have such ready access to this highly-addictive drug?  Why aren’t his treaters warning him not to do this which, I assume, is quite common?  And why isn’t anyone noticing the quantities he’s going through?

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