Addiction Psychiatrist Dr. David Sack recommends an integrated approach to opiate addiction treatment to reduce the risk of relapse. (Vocus) July 1, 2009 — Speculation around the cause of Michael Jackson’s death has brought to the public eye what Promises Treatment Centers has long recognized as a growing problem: opiate prescription drug addiction. Very few people outside Michael Jackson’s inner circle know the extent of his addiction to prescription pain killers and other drugs, but when the news broke that he had received a Demerol injection before collapsing, suggestions that Jackson had a history of drug abuse filled the online gossip magazines and celebrity websites. Soon after, it was learned that Jackson had been warned by family members and friends about his drug use; some had tried unsuccessfully to get him into a drug rehab facility. It appears Jackson may have joined an infamous group of musicians and other celebrities who have lost their lives to drug overdoses. Jackson shared this addiction with millions of Americans: opiate pain killers have become one of the leading causes of prescription drug deaths. According to the FBI, with the exception of alcohol, opiates account for the largest portion of drug-related hospital admissions. In the 10-year period from 1996 through 2005, they averaged approximately 300,000 per year One of the most addictive classes of drugs, opiates can be difficult to quit because many give up when withdrawal symptoms become acute. “Even for those who seek treatment you have a high AMA rate – that’s leaving against medical advice – unless you focus on appropriately treating withdrawal symptoms and ameliorate the stress of detoxification,” says Dr. David Sack, CEO of Promises Treatment Centers in Malibu and West Los Angeles. “We have found Suboxone to be one of the most effective opiate detox medications. But it’s important to choose a treatment center that provides comprehensive treatment that includes individual and family therapy and psychiatric consultation. Without this integrative approach, many people addicted to opiates will relapse.” The problem of opiate addiction becomes more complicated when chronic pain is an issue. However, many people who are taking high dosages of opiates give up on other effective methods of pain control such as exercise, physical therapy, meditation, and biofeedback. “You have this situation where obtaining pain killers in dosages beyond what legitimate medical doctors will prescribe becomes the all-consuming purpose of the addict’s life. Everything else falls by the wayside,” explains Dr. Sack. Because obtaining opiates with legitimate prescriptions can prove difficult, many addicts will find ways to get them illegally. They might forge prescriptions, steal from the medicine cabinets of friends and family, use illegal online pharmacies to obtain drugs of questionable quality, and buy pills from drug dealers. Some reports show prescription opiate addicts switching to heroin because it is easier to obtain. Millions of people are appropriately prescribed opiates to control pain due to injury, surgery, or medical illness. The overwhelming majority never become addicted. However, a certain percentage of people who take a prescription narcotic will start to abuse it. Psychological and genetic factors may play a roll, and problems with anxiety, depression, and childhood trauma may leave a person more vulnerable to these drugs. While the full story behind Jackson’s death is still not known, if confirmed it may further illustrate the deadly effects of opiates even when medically prescribed. The lethality of these drugs is magnified when addicts combine them with other drugs or alcohol to intensify the effects. “The ultimate consequence of opiate addiction is death,” says Dr. Sack, “Many people do not survive an overdose. If you care about someone who is addicted to these powerful drugs, a professional intervention may help them choose some form of treatment. Without treatment, the prognosis is poor.” Promises Treatment Centers has drug rehab programs in West Los Angeles and Malibu, California. Promises can also refer you to a professional drug interventionist in your area. For more information visit www.promises.com or call 866-466-1276.