Addiction to prescriptions becoming epidemic in Indiana
With a young son and a fiancé, 21-year-old Lora Socks of Fishers now has a lot to live for.
It was not always that way.
When Socks was 16, she struggled with culture shock after transferring to a public school from a private Christian school. Her family was dealing with health and financial issues.
"Basically, I got overwhelmed with life and I didn't want to feel the way I was feeling, so I opted to live in oblivion and numbness," said Socks, who turned to alcohol and prescription drugs. "The first time I did a prescription drug, I got really sick and it wasn't pleasant. I was, like, 'I'm never going to do that again.' And then, the next day, I was getting more from the same friend and I instantly had a feeling I was an alcoholic and an addict, because I know that was not normal thinking. I just kept using and everything spiraled out of control."
She says she began to hang out with the wrong crowd that gave her prescription drugs that fed her growing habit.
"When I was using, I would use anything and everything. I would alternate between Fentanyl, Morphine, Vicodin, Xanax, Klonopin and Percocet. It got to the point where I would get Fentanyl patches. You can put them on your arm. When it starts to wear off, you put it under your tongue," said Socks. "So when I had to go to work, or when I went to school, I'd have the Fentanyl patches under my tongue, because my anxiety was so high. That way I always had something going into my body. I would pray at night that I wouldn't wake up in the morning. I didn't see the point in living. I never felt suicidal, but I was completely hopeless."
Socks says she went from abusing drugs to selling prescription medicine.
"I got caught up with selling drugs in order to have enough money to have a supply," said Socks.
Socks says she kept the pills she was using and selling in a bottle with her name on the label. @She said teachers would never ask to look at the pills inside the bottle, perhaps assuming they were prescribed to her.
Forty-eight-year-old Cindy Miller of Greenfield became hooked on prescription pills after suffering an arm injury.
"Before my feet hit the floor in the morning, my mind went straight to, 'I need my pills'," said Miller. "I ended up taking Vicodin, then Percocet, then Oxycontin. Oxycontin brought me to my knees."
When doctors took her off medication, she spent her life savings on drugs and even pawned off her mother's jewelry.
"My family was very ashamed of me. I ended up seeking drugs on the street and ended up using crack cocaine, because that's all that someone could find for me," said Miller, who ended up hitting rock bottom by staying in a crack house on the east side of Indianapolis.
"I literally slept in the bushes. I had an old sheet that I put down and that's where I slept," said Miller. "I never thought in a million years I would end up where I was. I was using crack cocaine and anytime I could get any pills, I would take those, too, because my addiction really started with pills. Pills were my favorite thing."
"It's an epidemic at the moment," said Fairbanks medical director Dr. Tim Kelly, who added that more people are dying from prescription drug overdose than motor vehicle deaths.
"Fifteen to 20 years ago, the estimates were one percent of people on prescription drugs would get addicted. But now, the estimates are 35-40 percent are getting addicted," said Dr. Kelly, who says Hoosiers are hooked on painkillers, tranquilizers and stimulants. "I see a lot of patients that are on multiple cases of controlled substances. They'll be taking a sedative drug like Xanax, and a painkiller, such as Vicodin or Percocet.
"People that get addicted, their function starts to decline. It starts affecting their personal relationships, their ability to work, their general health starts to decline. They often become depressed, anxious and then often the solution is to increase the medication because the person will come back and say, 'I am doing poorly.' So, the medication gets increased when often the medication is the problem," said Dr. Kelly. "Many of the patients I'm seeing are getting addictive medications from multiple sources. They get it off the street, they get it from providers, from emergency rooms, immediate centers. By the time, I see them, it is reasonably advanced."
Some addicts tell Eyewitness News they fake injuries to get drugs from doctors. Police say addicts will also steal from the medicine cabinets of parents, friends and neighbors.
Experts say Indiana is higher than the national average in prescription drug abuse. Some of the addicts are very young. Three percent of eighth graders, nearly six percent of tenth graders and more than six percent of high school seniors are abusing prescription pain killers.
Socks said 75 percent of her high school classmates were abusing prescription drugs. Experts say most of the addicts in Indiana are white women between the ages of 18 and 34.
Socks and Miller say their addiction ended when they sought professional help.
"Fairbanks Hospital saved my life," said Miller, who went through detox and participated in a residential rehab program.
After 13 days, she didn't want to leave. She entered the supportive living program for four months where she lived with other women going through the same thing.
"No one can do this by themselves. Everyone needs help with this. It's impossible to do this alone," said Miller.
She has been sober seven years and says her family life is better.
"I'm in a 12-step program and I have to be. It keeps me sober every day," she said.
Miller is now the executive assistant at the Hancock Hope House, a facility that helps homeless people.
"I'm able to share my story and my experience, strength and hope and try to get them back on track," said Miller. "If I can help one person, I've done what God's put me here to do."
"Don't be a slave to the medication or the alcohol. It's not worth it and there is help out there," said Socks. "The only thing you need is the willingness to quit."
Socks sought help from Fairbanks, where she underwent detox for seven days and found staff who invested in her sobriety.
"Miss Ashley truly loved me. At that point, I didn't feel that anybody had loved me as much as she did. She helped me realize that I had a purpose. For some reason, I never thought I would achieve my dreams and aspirations. She helped me understand that everything was in my reach," said Socks.
Socks has been clean and sober nearly three years. She attends 12-step meetings, has a mentor to give her guidance and now recites prayers taped to the bathroom mirror.
"God, I offer myself to you to do in me as you will. Relieve me of the bondage of self," said Socks. "Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of your power, your will and your way of life. May I do your will always, Amen."
Dr. Kelly says Fairbanks can help addicts.
"The first step is to detoxify your body from the substances and start over. We try to address the original problem. Many people have chronic pain. We use a more holistic approach. Lifestyle factors, coping skills, how to deal with pain in other ways," Dr. Kelly said. "The vast majority leave Fairbanks much improved. Our focus is quality of life and function. We have a high percentage of people of function better. They stay involved in our programs. Our theory is you need a lot of tools to beat these problems."
Dr. Kelly says there are several ways to determine whether someone you know may be addicted on pain medication.
"You may find yourself over-using pills and medication. You may find yourself preoccupied and your life starts to revolve around it. You think about it all the time. Whether or not you have enough pills to get through the day. You may be obtaining them through illicit sources, off the streets, friends or contacts. You may be having trouble functioning in regard to your job, your personal relationship. If your life is starting to unravel. If you're spending time and energy. If you continue to use these in the face of declining function," said Dr. Kelly.
Here are the warning signs that your child or someone you know may be abusing prescription drugs:
- Erratic behavior
- Sedated, slurring words
- Change in relationships
- Trouble in school
- Losing Interest
- Changing Friends