Monday, August 1, 2011

Mother's Little Helper - Part I

What a drag it is getting old
"Kids are different today"
I hear ev'ry mother say
Mother needs something today to calm her down
And though she's not really ill
There's a little yellow pill
She goes running for the shelter of a mother's little helper
And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day

At the very end of my father's life, his doctors increased the dosage of intravenous morphine so that he slept.  And slept.  And slept.  And after two days of painless sleep, he quietly lost his 16 month battle with cancer and slept forever.  Prior to that, during the two days I did have with him, he was awake but clearly under the influence.  His thinking was clouded and there were times I was convinced he was "seeing" his mother and father, gone many years before.  The nonreligious explanation would be that he was hallucinating from the strong medication which gave him that blessed relief.

During the 16 months of his illness, Pop tried to live his life as normally as possible.  That meant he did not drug himself up with painkillers, and it boggles my mind to think of the pain he endured.  I remember a time, many years before that, when he was suffering from terrible dental pain.  He finally gave in and took aspirin.

Perhaps his non-use of painkillers was influenced by the short life and sad heroin-induced death of my mother, his stepdaughter Joyce.  Or it was simply that he was of a generation when men presented a strong facade and never admitted just how much they might hurt.  Raised in that tradition, I just don't get drugs, not for recreation and not for killing pain - unless the pain is killing me.

"Things are different today"
I hear ev'ry mother say
Cooking fresh food for a husband's just a drag
So she buys an instant cake and she burns her frozen steak
And goes running for the shelter of a mother's little helper
And two help her on her way, get her through her busy day

For the past few years, the vast majority of child abuse cases that I handle are the direct result of drugs and alcohol.  While domestic violence has risen tremendously since I started doing this type of work almost 20 years ago, it is almost always triggered by substance misuse.  Unless you have been living in a cave, or ignore the news as a matter of principle, you must know that the greatest drug-related threat is coming from perfectly legal prescription medication.

Doctor please, some more of these
Outside the door, she took four more
What a drag it is getting old

Obviously, I cannot share the details of any of my cases, which involve serious prescription drug abuse by mothers AND fathers, except to say that when the drug screens come back positive for opiates and benzodiazaphenes, the universal cry from the parent is, "I HAVE A PRESCRIPTION!"  Yeah, so you do, but how did you get it?  What sad tale of woe did you tell the greedy little pill mill doctor to get him to scribble a scrip for Hillbilly Heroin?  Did you tell him your back hurts?  Aw, poor baby, my back hurts too - has been hurting since I was 11 and got my first period.  Have you even tried a non-narcotic OTC like Advil?  Or just learning to live with a little discomfort?

For a long time, I am of the opinion that if an adult wants to drug themselves into oblivion, they can do so provided they neither try to operate any heavy machinery, nor have any children in their care.  I kid around about being a rational anarchist, but really if someone chooses to live in a drug-induced coma, who am I to interfere?  Just do not allow your chemical dependency to impact the welfare of other people, and most especially your children.  And please don't apply for Social Security Disability, because that's an insult to all the truly disabled individuals out there.

What set me off this morning was an article in the Orlando Sentinel, coming hot on the heels of another article, both of them about what happens when parents indulge in prescription medication.  Neither of these are my cases, nor taking place in my county, and the details are quite public.

"A Volusia couple was charged with child abuse and neglect after their 2-year-old son ingested prescription pills and was rushed to the hospital, authorities said.

Kurt Vineis, 34, and 31-year-old Katrina Palmer were charged with aggravated child abuse, child neglect and obstructing an officer without violence Saturday afternoon after medical officials found opiates in their toddler's system.

... the parents initially denied they had prescription medication inside the house but later admitted that they only had Xanax. But deputies could not find any prescriptions in the house so they pressed the couple.

Vineis confessed they had a stash of pills in the trunk of their car that included Diazepam, Alprazolam, Carisoprodol and Oxycodone.  Deputies are investigating why the couple had so many pills."

And another one:

"A 32-year-old mother from Casselberry was arrested in Maitland early Saturday, after police said she crashed her car with her daughters inside while driving under the influence of prescription pills.

... Officers noted that the Kia's windshield was broken, and that Singletary's speech was slurred and she was struggling to keep her eyes open, according to the report. She complained of dizziness and back pain, the report states... 

Singletary was put in an ambulance, where police questioned her further. An officer asked for a blood sample, which she refused ... She was put under arrest and taken to a hospital. There, the report says, Singletary told police that she refused the sample because "I know you would find Oxy[codone] in my system.""

"Life's just much too hard today,"
I hear ev'ry mother say
The pursuit of happiness just seems a bore
And if you take more of those, you will get an overdose
No more running for the shelter of a mother's little helper
They just helped you on your way, through your busy dying day

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