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The Secret Lives of Christian Pill AddictsRobert Maka / Flickr

The Secret Lives of Christian Pill Addicts

Nov 4 2013
Addicts shouldn’t have to hide their recovery from the church.

I never knew a drug addict—at least not one who admitted it to me. I didn't think it was possible for a Christian to be an addict. My theology, rooted in the belief that an upward trajectory of spiritual growth indicated true salvation, didn't allow for the downward spiral of addiction.

We usually associate drug abuse with hard, wild living, but the same drugs that take over the lives of celebrities could be abused by the nice dad who sits next to us at church. Addiction knows no boundaries of status, lifestyle, or even faith. I know that now, after watching my husband's slow descent into prescription drug addiction, more than a decade into treatment for debilitating migraines.

People like my husband never needed to seek a back alley fix or experiment with so-called street drugs. The medications dispensed by our local pharmacists and tucked away in medicine cabinets could be just as powerful and just as addictive.

Just think: The U.S. is the most medicated country in the world. In 2010, more than 210 million prescriptions were written for narcotics such as OxyContin/Oxycodone and Vicodin/Hydrocodone. An estimated 7 million Americans struggle with prescription drug addiction.

Not everyone who takes prescription narcotics becomes addicted, but in long-term and chronic pain management—migraines, back pain, surgery recovery—the lines get blurry as patients need more medications to ease the pain.

Add underlying anxiety, and pills can become a way to manage life, going from dependence to addiction. When a pill addict tries to stop, withdrawal kicks in: rebound headaches, flu-like symptoms—and worse—all easily mistaken for the original pain. You don't realize you are an addict until you are. And then you need help.

My husband, Dave, was a Christian school teacher, a youth pastor, and then a seminary student. I was busy with four small children. I wanted him to be present in the few hours he was home rather than in a dark room with a pillow over his head to cope with migraine pain. Pills simply helped him function.

We asked questions with each new drug he was prescribed, and the answer was always: "Don't worry. You don't fit the profile of an addict." Eventually, a new drug for pain came along, marketed as non habit-forming. These pills worked for him, but something was definitely wrong. Dave started getting more refills than insurance covered and seeing other doctors because his "couldn't get me in."

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