On Joshua Lyon’s "Pill Head"
Instead of throwing out the pills like his editor made him promise to, he popped one and instantly fell in love. Addicted, he found himself in rehab, trying to kick the habit. Afterward, he wrote the book, Pill Head - The Secret Life of A Painkiller Addict.
The book covers Lyon's story and the stories of addiction of those around him. He writes in a knowledgeable - never preachy - and often humorous way.
Lyon felt it was important to get his story out.
"When I was first really getting into pills was when I started realizing I had a problem with it," he said. "I started finding books on it. It was something I was looking for in a book. And I couldn't find anyone that wrote about it from a first person perspective."
"I wanted to feel I wasn't crazy. I want to write a book to fill that void," he added.
His story of how he was introduced to the pills was unique, but the abuse of prescription drugs is definitely not unusual. His research exposed a lot of scary statistics.
- 48 million Americans have admitted to using prescription drugs non-medically, which is almost 20% of the population.
- 9 million Americans are currently abusing prescription drugs
- Emergency room visits due to prescription overdoses jumped 111 percent over a five year period
Those are the national statistics. And locally, things aren't much better. "Florida is notorious for being an epicenter of pill mills," Lyon said. It is, in fact, known as the "Pill State" and many blame the Pain Management Centers for making pills even more accessible.
And among gay men, the numbers are just as bleak. Lyon, a gay male living in NYC, calls it a real problem in the gay community. "When I did my first big drug deal, the dealer was like 'This is nothing, I have gay dudes in West Village who are dropping several grand on pills," Lyon explained.
He mentioned a study by Sampsa (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) that stated that 6% of clinics offer specialized care for the GLBT community and the places are usually privately owned and not receiving government assistance.
"Across the board, there's lots of drug use in the gay community and I think its self medicating for the gay community for depression," he said. "In my own experiences, I have known many, many gays and lesbians going through this," he added.
When you ask around, you see that many people know someone going through painkiller addiction.
"The really tough thing about pain killers is that it can be really, really hard to tell if someone is on them. It's because someone can be such a functional addict, but they do have particular side effects," Lyon said. He lists these signs of potential addiction:
- Memory loss: "You'll start to say a sentence and the last few words will disappear from your mind, and you just trail off. I'm still having issues with that," he stated;
- Constricted pupils
- Itching: "Opiates make you itch," he said. "If someone is scratching self-consciously, that is a sign."
- Isolation: "For me, it was great at first because I had so much social anxiety and felt I could go out more, but the longer I took the pills, the more I wanted to sit home and watch basic cable."
In an article Lyon recently wrote for the Huffington post, he found that prescription abuse is up 400%, which is such a high number, it shocked him. And it keeps growing," he said. "No matter how many celebrities we see dying from this. There's still this overall ideal that people think these drugs are safe."
He said it can be frustrating getting the word out and convincing people that prescription pills are really that bad. "A lot of time I feel like I am shouting into an empty tunnel," he said. "People don't realize how dangerous they are."
Lyon told a story about how when he was recently promoting his book on a T.V. program, he got a surprising reaction. "The behind stage people were asking about his book and their reaction was, 'How cool! Where do I get them [prescription pills]?'" he said. "If I was talking about heroin, which has similar ingredients, people wouldn't ask."
Lyon said that is was easy to be a high functioning addict. "A lot of people can maintain for a really long time before they realize that they have a problem and others realize they have a problem," he said. "It's not like being drunk and hung-over or doing blow and having coke leaking out of your nose." "No one bats an eyelash if you pop a pill in front of them. We are conditioned not to ask. No one thinks to ask what you are taking," he added.
For those looking to help a friend they think is addicted, Lyon recommends that you bring it up and then bring it up some more. "That's the advice I give for those who have this in their life," he said. "It took so long for me to realize I had a problem. Even if it gets annoying, keep harping on it. It's better to be annoying in someone's life than to have them die."
Pill Head- The Secret Life of a Painkiller Addict, is available at local bookstores. For more information, visit PillHeadTheBook.com