How did things go so wrong? How did being prescribed medications lead to so many tragic cases of abuse, for some, to the point of ruining lives, disrupting families, causing community chaos, and even causing death at astronomical rates? According to an article in Psychology Today, Scott A. Bonn Ph.D. states, “Prescription medications are far more lethal than street drugs.” He further states, “Prescription drugs kill more people than all illegal drugs combined, and more than 36,000 people die from drug overdoses annually with most being by prescriptions.”
What a scary thought and fact!
With people’s lives on the line, it’s a shame that profit has become more important than people. In fact, doctors have been prescribing pain medicine to patients more now than ever before. The ease of getting prescription painkillers is at an all time high with people misusing and abusing them in the process. The truth is, the government needs to step in and make finding a solution to this problem a top priority. But I forgot, in my opinion, just maybe the government is getting in on the profit side of things. Just maybe they have decided to turn a blind eye to this epidemic in order to have their hands greased, along with the drug companies and insurance companies. And so, the drug plight continues to grow with more people getting addicted, misusing their prescription medicines, and even dying as a result.
As the problem persists in America, Anika Stewart is doing her part to try to help heal people one person at a time by coaching them to turn their lives around. Read below as she extends her knowledge to you about prescription drug addiction and how to get help.
Anika Stewart is the founder and CEO of Embracing Your Inner Woman, Author, Certified Christian Life Coach, Inspirational Speaker, Counselor in faith-based and Co-occurring disorders, Creator of Self-Identity Apparel and a Community Activist. She is also the founder of the I’m Every Woman Conference. In addition, she has an Associate Degree in Drug and Alcohol Counseling and a Bachelors Degree in Behavioral Science. Some of the recognitions she has received are: Mentor of the Year Award for 2018 from ACHI Magazine, Empower Women of The Year Educational Advancement Award for 2018, and Leading Lady of Excellence Award for 2014.
Anika is known for her bold, direct and confident approach of compelling women to transform their lives. Women are inspired through her story of overcoming addiction, domestic violence, separation in marriage and single parenting. She empowers a community of women to embrace their journey of transformation and to live a purpose-driven lifestyle. Also, she helps them to create strategies, solutions, and success so they can activate their voice, hope, and opportunity in their lives.
3WV: Tell us about yourself. Who is Anika Stewart?
Anika: I am a mother of four amazing children: 20, 16, 15 and 9 years of age. I enjoy traveling the world with family and friends, but most of all, I enjoy my devotion to ministry. I am a servant leader and Elder of City of Refuge Inc. I enjoy traveling to the Caribbean Islands, skiing, swimming, and drinking hot chocolate with whip cream. And oh yeah, my favorite color is red.
3WV: What made you decide to become a drug counselor?
Anika: I was living a horrible lifestyle of drug addiction. I was using and selling drugs. Although, this was not the life I planned for myself, I became a woman who lost sight of her dreams and aspirations; but most of all, I became hopeless. It wasn’t until November 2007, where I encountered a life-altering experience that shifted the trajectory of my life. On that night, two masked gunmen entered my home and demanded I get out of bed with my 3 and 4 year old sons in the next room. I proceeded to do as I was told. As I laid there with the barrel of the gun to my head, they asked me was I ready to die. Internally, my response was NO, I choose to LIVE! Thankfully, they didn’t kill me. From that moment, I realized I had a choice for how I was going to live my life, so I began to create the narrative of my life. I chose to inspire, empower and give back to my community, particularly the population who suffered from drug addiction and mental health.
3WV: What is the state of addiction as it relates to prescription medications?
Anika: The state of addiction as it relates to prescription medication is horrific in my opinion. Most individuals I counsel and come in contact with become addicted to pain pills under a physician’s care, and through pain management. Unfortunately, the stories are identical from people who are suffering from opioid addiction. Once they’re dependent upon the medication, they’re discharged or released from medical care, which leads to individuals transitioning to heroin.
3WV: What types of medications cause a person to be addicted?
Anika: The types of medications that will cause dependence are Oxycodone, Fentanyl, Percocet, Xanax, Vicodin, Ritalin, Codeine, Morphine, Methadone, Subutex, and Suboxone. However, Methadone, Subutex and Suboxone are all medications prescribed to assist individuals with substance use. These medications help prevent withdrawals and allow people to live a lifestyle without substance use, but they can become dependent upon the medications as well. Therefore, most people will continue Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) because they don’t want to experience discomfort.
3WV: What is an opioid? Why is it dangerous? How can you safeguard yourself from becoming addicted to it?
Anika: An opioid is a synthetic class of drugs that are used to alleviate pain, however, these classes of drugs are highly dangerous. If not used as instructed, a person can become dependent. I recommend clients who are in recovery to take opioids as “needed,” but if you can take another medication to alleviate the pain instead, then do so.
3WV: Can a person be addicted to alcohol? What is the impact of using alcohol with your medications?
Anika: Absolutely! Anyone can become dependent on alcohol with daily consumption because that leads to a higher tolerance. When someone uses alcohol with their medication, they’re liable to increase the intoxication and high sensation. The person can also become nauseated, vomit, have blurred vision, and lose his or her coordination and balance.
3WV: Can you overdose by mixing drugs?
Anika: When mixing certain medications, such as opioids and amphetamines together, that can definitely cause a person to become unconscious or even die. It can also cause the heart rate to slow down, as well.
3WV: What are some signs a person is addicted to their medications? What should they do?
Anika: This is such a great question. Some signs that indicate misuse or addiction are:
- the medication is gone before time
- obsessive thoughts over medication
- loss of control
- disregard or harm to self
- sudden weight loss or gain
- slurred speech
If addicted, a person should seek help with MAT services immediately to assist with withdrawal symptoms, and retain counseling in their community.
3WV: If a person has ever been addicted to street drugs, should the doctor be informed before pain medicine is prescribed?
Anika: Absolutely, because they’re more inclined to abuse or become addicted.
3WV: What’s the difference between a street drug addiction and a prescription drug addiction?
Anika: In my opinion, there is no difference when it comes to street drugs versus prescription, if you’ve lost control. The bottom line is once you’ve lost control and depend on a substance to function normally, it doesn’t matter the substance.
3WV: What recommendations can you offer people about getting help if they find themselves or someone they know addicted to their medication?
Anika: I would encourage them to acknowledge their truth and accept they need help. You can’t conquer the disease on your own; therefore, be willing to surrender your will and ask for help. It’s okay to reach out for help!! There are research agencies in your community that offer counseling, and MAT services available to assist you with a successful journey to recovery.
3WV: Give some ways a person can turn their life around after being addicted?
Anika: I’ll share with you today 3 out of 7 ways to reclaim your life after addiction.
- Affirm who you are – State & proclaim the strengths you possess.
- Acknowledge your weak areas – Give yourself permission to validate the imperfections of your being.
- Implement accountability daily – Own your hurts, habits and hang-ups, and stand in your truth.
3WV: If someone wanted to reach you, how would they contact you?
Anika: There are a number of ways I can be reached.