When a 21 Year Old Admits Addiction
“Hey man I’m going away for a little while. I don’t think I will be back until fall.”
Going away? 21-year-old college students don’t just go away for a couple months. Dropping out? Trouble with the law? Even worse, jail?
As I read that text on Wednesday afternoon, I couldn’t think. A sunny, warm suddenly turned cold. When I moved to Stillwater in July, I was randomly paired with this friend for the last month of his lease. After he moved out, we kept in touch. He’s a KOSU listener, a smart kid, a guy I could grab a drink with and relax.
“I have been addicted to pain killers off and on the past 5 years and things have just been getting worse for me.”
Up until that text, painkillers had been a hidden problem for me. Sure, kids in high school would talk them up, saying they couldn’t wait to take a Percocet at the end of the day. But I chalked it up to experimentation, and another bullet point on your application to the cool kid club. It would come and go, more harmful than a fad, but one that you could shed with a little willpower.
Reading about pain killer abuse is one thing. The statistics, as detailed through Oklahoma Watch’s extensive project running this week, are overwhelming. About 2 Oklahomans dead every single day from prescription drugs in 2010. But numbers don’t talk.
“This all started in high school when Oxycontin was everywhere and really cheap. But as the years went on, I couldn’t really shake it completely.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t atypical here in Oklahoma. Painkillers, prescription drugs, and methamphetamine are all prevalent. But when the words in the newspaper become real life, “problem” takes on more meaning. I saw this friend come and go every day, for a month. He took classes at Oklahoma State over the summer, and was, is, and will do all the right things. When he moved closer to campus, I would stop by and just hang out occasionally. He didn’t fit into my mental box of addicted to painkillers.
He was maturing, too. He had settled down with a girl, seemed happy, and even had mentioned how she was helping him get serious about school. The nice and neat American story was getting written. There were no odd habits, no sneaking out, and nothing that caught my eye.
“I would mainly use in [redacted] on the weekends, and do suboxone during the week, which is kinda like methadone. The only people that knew were [a past girlfriend], and the people I would buy from.”
That’s how easy it is. Go to class, pop a Percocet. Tough day? Take down some Vicodin. He barely had to think about it. Mistakes come in all flavors. Here, a couple can turn into a bunch, and barrel roll into addiction.
“Prices have skyrocketed since then, which has given me serious financial problems.”
I refuse to imagine where we would be if they hadn’t.
Now, my friend is headed to rehab in south Texas. He’ll be gone for a couple months as he works to get clean. A couple months getting help now sure sounds better than a couple years in a cold, metal cell in the future.