By Ada Brownell
Who knew wild daring skid-row types wouldn’t be the only ones dying from drug overdoses? Now even professionals, ordinary people and senior citizens are joining the crowd.
The United States is experiencing an epidemic of drug overdose deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control, since 2000 the rate of deaths from drug overdoses has increased 137%, including a 200% increase in the rate of overdose deaths involving opioid pain relievers and heroin. The NY Times reported 64,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2016. CDC says at least 20,000 died from fentanyl, which is synthetic opiods.
I’ve seen what heroin can do. In hopes of helping others, a young woman’s mother called the newspaper where I worked as a reporter and wanted me to write about what happens too often in our nation when an addict dies.
“She was having seizures when we brought her here,” her mother said.
A photographer and I watched the young woman die. She never regained consciousness. She shouldn’t have died so young.
Heroin is called the “recreational” drug. First-time users seek the “high.” They also abuse the drug for the fake well-being they experience. Experts say heroin use often can be traced to a chaotic home, an undiagnosed mental disorder, biological conditions such as lack of neurotransmitter endorphins in the brain, or if there is an addicted family member.
Others ripe for heroin addiction are ravaged by fear, emptiness, guilt, loneliness, relationship problems, or hurts because of abuse or a broken home. The person seeks peace but can’t find it.
The rise in opiod and other drug use began to escalate with the decline of Christianity in America.
Born-again Christians experience what Peter called "joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8), and Jesus called it "rivers of living water" (John 7:38). Before he ascended, Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you" (John 14:27). They also experience amazing peace. Jesus told his disciples before He went into heaven, "Peace I leave with you" (John 14:27).
The drug addict thinks getting high is the only way to have fun or have peace. Liquor is imbibed for some of the same reasons. During my years in the newsroom where I worked as a journalist one reporter was shocked I’d never had a alcoholic drink.
"How did you have any fun?" he asked.
"I've had lots of fun in my life," I told him, "and the wonderful thing is I knew I had it!"
Opiods sometimes are abused for much the same reasons, but thousands become addicted because they need pain relief.
I took synthetic morphine after I had knee replacements. My husband took a similar pain substance. Yet, we were in a hurry to get off the drugs. We stopped them after a few weeks.
Doctors told me not to worry about addiction unless I had something else going on in my life besides pain. He was talking about emotional pain.
I’ve had back problems and recently my doctor was shocked to discover what I use: Horse linament, Absorbine. I buy it at a Farm & Ranch supply and I use it frequently.
Increased use of narcotics began when doctors discovered pain control assists with the healing process so they began to be more liberal with prescribing narcotics.
The old notion that pain is somehow "good" for you has been put to rest for good, say health officials. They are increasingly recognizing that control of pain leads to more rapid recovery for hospitalized patients, and can even cut costs.
While pain can function as the body's alarm that something is wrong, it can also be counterproductive, says Dr. Lynn Webster, who directs the Lifetree Clinical Research and Pain Clinic in Salt Lake City.
"Most of us just want to lie there, because if we move after an operation or major trauma, it hurts.
But when patients just lie there, Dr. Webster says they're putting themselves at risk. "Patients who have good post-op pain control are able to breathe better," says Webster. Deep breaths can prevent the development of pneumonia, which can lead to sepsis and, in severe cases, require that patients be put on a ventilator. If patients can get up and walk fairly quickly after a procedure, then they also decrease their risk of blood clots in the legs which, in some cases, can be fatal.
We know Controlling Pain Helps Healing
Controlling acute pain in the hospital setting can also decrease a patient's risk of developing chronic pain later on. When people begin to feel pain, Webster says the body begins to set up an inflammatory process in the central nervous system that's "hard to quiet down." For some people, that inflammation begins to feed on itself and, once discharged from the hospital, patients may go on to experience pain for months, even years afterward.
The Joint Commission, which accredits hospitals, set new standards for how pain should be treated. It recommended that health providers routinely ask patients about the intensity of their pain — and then do something about it.
In fact, measuring pain has been coined the "fifth" vital sign, along with blood pressure, heart rate, temperature and respiration.
I learned about the amazing benefits that come from stopping pain 20 years ago from an anesthesiologist. His team at Parkview Episcopal Hospital in Pueblo, CO saw amazing results when anesthesiologists became involved in pain control, and not just putting people to sleep.
In most hospitals nationwide today, there is a 1 to 10 scale for patients to rate their pain. Hospitals are paying attention to pain management today, says Dr. Linda Hertzberg, an anesthesiologist at St. Agnes Medical Center in Fresno, Calif., and president of the California Society of Anesthesiologists.
Improvements In Treatment
It's nearly impossible to experience absolutely no pain after surgery or a procedure, says Hertzberg. And doctors do want patients to be conscious. Hertzberg says that when patients define their level of pain, it helps doctors target their treatment.
Methods for treating pain have advanced dramatically, starting with the discovery in the mid-1980s that medication could be delivered directly into the spinal cord and prevent the brain from receiving information about pain, or even the surgery or procedure being performed — the medication literally stops the pain signals in their path.
Herzberg mentioned peripheral nerve blocks. He said you can numb up someone's arm or shoulder, or numb up their leg for a period of up to 24 hours.
I've met a few people who have implanted pain control pumps.
But pain control still relies largely on pills and now too many people are hooked on opioids. I read where one man became addicted because his ObamaCare health plan cut services in his area and he could no longer afford needed surgery and had to get by on pain pills.
Why do so many die? Often overdose is accidental, but some people want more of their drug, and too much can kill.
What happens in the body with an overdose of heroin or another opioid?
Why do they die? Dr. Karen Drexler, associate professor at Emory University psychiatry department, in a CNN report said, “Overdose can cause blood pressure to dip, resulting in heart failure.”
But also the drug affects the way the heart pumps blood and many addicts forget to breathe because the respiratory system shuts down.
I've seen people become addicted to pain killers. It seems the ones most apt to addiction are those who have emotional pain, as well as physical pain.
On the surface, opioid pain relievers don’t seem near as harmful as heroin. Heroin is a powerful semi-synthetic opiate derived from morphine and is most often used as a recreational drug. Heroin delivers an intense “rush” and is more powerful than most opioid analgesics because it crosses the blood-brain barrier more rapidly.
A physician told me years ago that every drug we take into our bodies has a side effect—even aspirin. We have to decide if the reason we need the drug outweighs the side effects. Then take the drug according to the doctor’s instructions, paying strict attention to the amount and frequency.
Thank God for modern medicine and the knowledge he gave humankind so we discovered pain relief. But God does give us the knowledge that such drugs need to be controlled and to resist addiction.
If you need a miracle, read Ada Brownell's new book, What Prayer Can Do. There are true stories of deliverance from drugs and alcohol.
WHAT PRAYER CAN DO
A Collection of true stories by Ada Brownell Published by The Pentecostal Evangel
By Ada Brownell
Ennis L. Surratt clutched the cool metal handle of his .45 pistol. Through the weeds he could see three men coming. He knew they would come near where he crouched because they would be coming after the barrel of whiskey that had disappeared from his still the night before.
When the men were only a few feet from the barrel, Ennis stepped out in front of the man who seemed to lead the way.
“You’re not taking this barrel,” Ennis growled, keeping his right hand next to the gun. “You stole it last night, and we’re going to settle it right here.”
He drew his gun and aimed it at the thief.
“Shoot!” the thief yelled as he whirled with his double-barreled shotgun.
An explosive charge sounded from the shotgun and Ennis fell to the ground. Pain surged through his neck and chest, and hot blood trickled from the wounds, but Ennis raised up on one knee and fired the pistol.
With a cry of anguish, the thief dropped the shotgun and fell into the weeds.
Ennis fell back again, and both men cursed and writhed with pain until they were taken to town for treatment. Ennis was filled with buckshot but not hurt seriously. The other fellow, however, was in serious condition.
Events like this were why the bootlegger became known as “the meanest man in town” and that caught the attention of two lady evangelist holding a tent revival in that town. The women decided if the meanest man in two would be changed by the power of God, there would be revival.
How God reached down and Ennis upside the head. He changed so much he became a fiery gospel preacher that won not only many others to God, but his own children, who became ministers of the gospel as well. One of his sons pastored the author’s church several years.
Read the story of Ennis Surratt and many others in What Prayer Can Do, on sale now at http://ow.ly/9CEI30h4IdL