I’m going to weigh in on the trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor even though I have not been watching  it.

My opinion is pretty simple: Doctors who prescribe benzodiazapenes or opiates without at least ASKING a patient about their drug an alcohol use are reckless. Doctors who prescribe benzodiazapenes or opiates to a patient whom they KNOW to be an addict or alcoholic are not only breaking their “First, do no harm,” vow but are also criminally negligent (unless they have set up a medication treatment protocol that involves very strict monitoring).

This is a phenomenon that really torques me. I write and talk about it whenever I can. If I had a buck for all the alcoholics and addicts who got a ‘script for a benzo’ or a doctor who either didn’t bother to ask about their drug/alcohol use or wrote the script knowing they were addicts or alcoholics, I would be a very, very wealthy woman.

Here is one of my favorite stories: I know a woman who was in a treatment center. During some very intense therapy she began having a severe anxiety attack. She was taken to the emergency room. After she was stabilized the doctor began writing her a prescription for Xanax – knowing that she had come directly from a treatment center and that she was a newly recovered alcoholic.

The woman told the doctor she wasn’t sure if she should take Xanax -  because she is an alcoholic and living at a treatment center for ALCOHOLICS AND ADDICTS. He said it was “Okay” and gave her the ‘script. She threw it away.

Heck, my dentist, who knows I’m a recovered alcoholic, gave me a ‘script for Percocet after I had a tooth pulled. I have talked with him often about addiction because he has had new patients come in and ask for a prescription for a specific painkiller and then never come back. He knows I will not so much as use his mouthwash because it contains alcohol. He is a great dentist but he thought my “problem” was just with alcohol – not drugs. He wouldn’t blink if I asked for nitrous oxide (such a lovely drug…)

The problem becomes a catastrophe when dual-diagnosed addicts and alcoholics try to get medication for their depression/bipolar/schizophrenia or whatever. Word of advice doctors: Give us antidepressants, anti-psychotics, anti-anxiety meds that we cannot abuse – drugs that will NOT get us high. We are addicts and alcoholics and we always will be!

If we are still abusing drugs and drinking, we WILL lie to you. So, ask a lot of questions. For example, if a patient says she had a few drinks last night, ask her how many is a “few.” If she says she had a “couple” of drinks, ask what kind. Back when I was tossing them back, if I drank two bottles of wine, that would be “a couple.” Addicts and alcoholics count differently than normal people. And the directions on the prescription bottle? Forget about it. That’s not for us. We pay no attention to those instructions if the drugs in the prescription bottle will get us high.

Even if we have been sober for decades, we can’t take Xanax or Klonopin or Percocet. There are other antidepressants, mood stabilizers and pain killers that are safe for us. Do a little research and ask a few questions before you write that ‘script. And if anything seems hinky – ANYTHING – keep asking questions and – if it is safe – write a prescription for a short period of time instead of a week’s worth of Percocet for a pulled tooth or a month’s worth of Xanax.

What does this have to do with Michael Jackson or Anna Nicole Smith? I don’t have a medical degree but from what little I know about these cases, it was pretty darn obvious that Michael Jackson was an addict (who also suffered from body dysmorphic disorder). As for Anna, you only had to watch a few minutes of her reality TV show to know she was an addict.

The doctors who provided the drugs that killed Michael and Anna knew that their patients were addicts. This kind of malpractice been going on for a very, very long time. It must stop. We would be outraged by a doctor who gave massive doses of aspirin to a teenager with a viral infection, knowing that the teen had a viral infection and that the aspirin could cause Reyes Syndrome. If that doctor continued upping the dose of aspirin while the teen got sicker and sicker and sicker and finally died – we would call that a crime.

And that’s what it is. A crime.

 

 


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    Last reviewed: 22 Oct 2011

APA Reference
Stapleton, C. (2011). The Michael Jackson Case: How Not to Prescribe Meds to Dual-Diagnosed Alcoholics/Addicts. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 2, 2014, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/depression/2011/10/the-michael-jackson-case-how-not-to-prescribe-meds-to-dual-diagnosed-alcoholicsaddicts/

 

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