By Elizabeth Piper, Health Educator, Jewish Community Services, an agency of The Associated
I remember my first time using a prescription opioid. I was 17 and just had my wisdom teeth extracted earlier in the day. I was lying on the couch in our family room watching a re-run of Gilmore Girls, trying to distract myself from the pain I felt from the surgery.
My mom walked in with a white paper bag from the pharmacy. Inside was my prescription for Oxycodone. She opened the bottle and handed me one tablet. I took it with a glass of water and within 15 minutes, I felt something I had never experienced before.
Not only was the pain gone, but all the thoughts that usually filled my worried brain had dissipated. I felt like I was floating on cloud 9 and nothing bad could touch me; I was safe. I was in a state of utter and complete bliss. I turned to my Mom, smiled, and said while giggling happily to myself, “This is why people do drugs,” before closing my eyes and passing out.
After four days of using the tablets of oxycodone as prescribed, I asked my Mom to flush them down the toilet. While enjoying the high and temporary release from pain they offered me, I was scared of the power these tiny tablets possessed.
I grew up in a home afflicted with addiction and mental illness. My mother was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder after years of battling alcoholism. I saw the ugliness behind the appeal of a psychoactive substance; I watched my loving, charismatic, military-serving, Johns Hopkins graduate mother turn into a hateful, cruel, incoherent mess, and I had no interest in living that Jekyll and Hyde narrative myself.