We are pleased to have Stephen Loyd, M.D., as our guest today to share his story of addiction. Dr. Loyd, a native of Johnson City, Tenn., is the medical director of Substance Abuse Services for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
Part I: Anyone Can Be An Addict
No one I know wakes up one day and makes a conscious decision to become a drug addict, including me. A little over 15 years ago, I began taking hydrocodone (Lortab, Vicodin) pain pills. The pills were left over from a dental procedure. I was in the last year of my internal medicine residency and was chief resident, and I was feeling a lot of pressure.
I had a wife and two young children and was getting ready to transition from the protected world of a medical trainee to the real world of a decision-making doctor. I’d had issues with anxiety and depression most of my life, but now it was much worse.
I was sitting at a traffic light, and for some reason that still escapes me, I opened the glove compartment of my truck and there lay five hydrocodone (Lortab, Vicodin) pain pills my dentist had given me after a procedure. I broke one in half (it was a 5-milligram pill) and popped it in my mouth. By the time I reached my house, I felt like I had found a cure for my anxiety and depression.
Over the next three years, my pain pill use escalated from that initial 2.5 milligrams to 500 milligrams per day!
Addiction is defined as continued use of a substance despite adverse consequences. At that time, I had only a vague idea about what addiction was, and I was sure there was no way that I could be an addict. Addicts lived under bridges and used needles to inject their drugs. I was an assistant professor and a practicing physician at a medical school. I was nowhere close to living under a bridge.
With that said, I could no longer live without the pain pills; I had to have them. My use was no longer voluntary. If I didn’t have them, I was deathly ill and felt sure I would die.
Join us next week on Feb. 15 for Part II of Dr. Loyd’s story.