October 17, 2011

Addiction: It doesn't discriminate

There is no such thing as a typical drug abuser. But some are more likely to become hooked.

By John Richardson jrichardson@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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PAINKILLERS IN MAINE: Stories, video interviews and links to resources.

The strong link between opiate addiction and child abuse is a relatively new discovery.

"It's something that we as a profession had missed," Heintz said. "Only recently has it become a focus in assessment and treatment."

Heintz estimates that 70 percent to 80 percent of the adolescents who come to Day One with prescription drug problems say they had been abused in some way, often sexually.

Publicker estimates that more than 90 percent of the people he treats were molested as children.

Dr. Mark Brown, a Bangor pediatrician who cares for the babies of opiate-addicted mothers, said he sees the same pattern in the women.

"That's pain that just doesn't go away," he said. "You medicate it away, and that's how it (addiction) happens."

Dr. Robert Blaik, a psychiatrist at Maine General Psychiatry in Portland, treats dozens of addicts and said virtually all of them are trying to blot out an untreated mental health problem. The addicts often describe it simply as feeling down, blue, sad or empty.

"All it takes is one experience with a short-acting opioid to realize" it can drown out such symptoms for a little while, he said. "Then you get into a course of up-down and up-down and you're hooked."

Blaik said economic insecurity can play a role, too, by intensifying mood and anxiety disorders. That may help explain why Maine and other poorer, rural states have been hit hardest and why abuse, addiction and crime continue to grow.

"You can't ignore it," Blaik said, "the self-medication issue is huge." 

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:

jrichardson@pressherald.com

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