This article, written by Sam Boykin at The Charlotte Observer, talks about about the problems of families torn apart by prescription drug abuse, something we are seeing more of in divorce cases. Thanks to Alison Kramer at The Rosen Law Firm and her "Kramer vs" Blog in North Carolina for the post:

Problems with legitimate meds increasingly tearing families apart

After 26 years of marriage, Susan felt like she didn’t even know her husband anymore.

Mike had always been hard-working and a good father to their two daughters. But gradually his behavior grew more and more bizarre.

"It was nothing for him to fix dinner and sit down in the recliner and fall asleep with food in his mouth and all over his lap," Susan said.

Money also started to disappear — a couple hundred dollars a week, then over $1,000.

Mike and Susan don’t want their names used in a newspaper. Susan, who lives in Lillington, about 30 miles south of Raleigh, agreed to be interviewed so other families might recognize similar warning signs. Her husband, she said, finally confided that he was addicted to prescribed drugs, including OxyContin, which he started taking years before for chronic back pain.

The couple separated several times as Mike struggled with his addiction. The end of the relationship finally came last year when he turned violent.

Abuse of prescription drugs is a complex issue, because unlike illegal street drugs, prescription drugs are more acceptable, and are typically prescribed for legitimate reasons.

"I hear this same story over and over again," says Tammy Johnson, an attorney with Rosen Law Firm in Charlotte, who has worked with several clients who went through divorces because of prescription drug use, including Susan. "This is becoming a serious problem that continues to tear families apart."

Johnson said she’s had at least five cases involving prescription drug abuse over the past two years. Prior to that she hadn’t had any.

One of her clients is a man from Wake County whose wife is battling prescription drug abuse. The woman, who was prescribed pain killers after she hurt her back in a car accident, has been in and out of rehab several times. Johnson said the woman’s addiction was so bad that she intentionally wrecked her car several times and feigned injuries in hopes the hospital would prescribe pain medication.

Doctor hopping

Because many prescription drug abusers are "regular" people with families and steady jobs as opposed to the stereotypical street-corner addict, the problem is often misunderstood and underreported. Since the prescription drug abuser often goes from pharmacy to pharmacy and doctor to doctor in order to get prescription drugs, statistics on the rate of abuse are hard to come by. However, several studies suggest the problem is on the rise.According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, more than 9 million people use prescription drugs for nonmedical uses. The 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found 6.2 million Americans abused prescription drugs. Also, a national survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that 2.4 million people started on-medical use of prescription pain relievers during 2003.

Charles Odell is executive director of The Dilworth Center for Chemical Dependency, which for 17 years has run an outpatient chemical dependency treatment program. Odell said that in recent months they’ve seen an increase in people addicted to narcotics like OxyContin as well as sedative drugs like Valium and Librium.

"These cases are very prevalent in our patient population," he said. "Prescription drugs play into a patient’s denial system. They tend to think that because a doctor prescribed them, it’s OK to take it."

One client recently completed intensive treatment at The Dilworth Center for an addiction to OxyContin.

The man, a 47-year-old Clover, S.C., resident who doesn’t want to be identified, had been prescribed the pain killer several years ago for a herniated disc. At first, he was prescribed 30 mg a day. But as his addiction grew, he started visiting different doctors to get additional prescriptions. By the time he started going to treatment he was taking up to 280 mg a day.

"My wife knew something was wrong," he said. "I just wasn’t myself, and hadn’t been for a while. She was upset about my addiction, and I just didn’t care. We got into a big argument and I just left. That was my lowest point, and I realized I had to do something."

He underwent a three-month outpatient program at The Dilworth Center, which consisted of both lectures and group therapy. Now he says he’s clean and sober.

"I’m going to NA meetings and I feel great now," he says. "And more importantly, I’ve got my family back."

Internet connection

Odell said one reason prescription drug abuse is on the increase is because of the number of people who obtain the drugs over the Internet.

"I would say at least half of the prescription drug addicts we have in treatment have a history of obtaining some of their drugs through the Internet," Odell said. "Invariably an addict will go through their prescriptions faster than they should, and they’ll doctor shop. Before you know it they’ve burned all these bridges and can’t get anything filled, so they turn to the Internet."

In many cases a person doesn’t even have to see a doctor in person to get drug prescriptions, said Gena Pittman, a clinical addiction specialist at Footprints Carolina, which helps individuals with mental illness, developmental disabilities or substance abuse problems.

"Many Web sites offer an online checklist of symptoms that the user fills out and e-mails to a doctor who writes prescriptions," she said.

"People learn how to manipulate the system, and sometimes doctors prescribe inappropriately. There are so many players in this problem."

Susan, whose ex-husband became addicted to Oxycontin, says that was the case in her situation. "(He) would just go to different doctors around town to get what he wanted," she said. "You can tell some doctors you’ve got a toothache and they’ll give you whatever you want."

Prescription Addiction

Prescription drug abuse is centered on three types of drugs: opioids, central nervous system (CNS) depressants and stimulants.

Opioids are most often prescribed to treat many varieties and causes of pain.

CNS depressants are prescribed for anxiety and sleep disorders.

Stimulants are typically prescribed for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obesity and narcolepsy sleep disorder.

SOURCE: Charlotte Observer