Sean Cameron, a 28-year-old from Mayfield Heights, is addicted to oxycodone/paracetamol (sold by the brand name Percocet). Now a patient at Primary Purpose in Sheffield Township, he last abused drugs on Nov. 17, five days before he arrived for treatment.
We sat down to ask Cameron about his addiction:
“There was alcohol in my family. Growing up, I had been around (Alcoholics Anonymous). I didn’t drink, use anything, or try anything all through high school because I had a fear of what would happen. I didn’t want to drink because I saw it in my family. It wasn’t until I was that I tried marijuana, drinking, and prescription opiates. I didn’t like drinking because I got a hangover from it.
“Life was good up until then. My life wasn’t miserable. I was going to school. I worked and paid my bills. I had healthy relationships. Most people my age would go out and drink. I didn’t like to drink so I would take opiates instead. It seemed like things were better when I did that whether that was before work or before I went to the gym. I was pretty naive since I was never involved with people who used drugs or drank.”
On his first time getting sick:
“I figured it was a man-made substance, so how bad could it be? Within eight months, I began to feel addicted. I went on vacation and got sick for the first time. I didn’t even know what it was or what was going on with me. I had massive anxiety and couldn’t sleep. At the time, in my head I thought I just used for fun every day. I was still functioning in my life, still going to work, still paying bills. It just crept up on me.
“I was supposed to be in Dallas for a week to visit my father. We hadn’t seen each other in a couple of years. On the second day, I woke up and couldn’t eat or sleep. I remember taking a video with my iPhone where I looked totally fine on the outside. I was explaining the symptoms to my family but I was afraid to tell them I’d been taken prescription opiates.”
On how people have false preconceptions about addicts:
“You get pretty well-educated in high school health classes. No one starts out with hardcore drugs. Alcohol is legal. Cigarettes are legal. I never had intentions of doing heroin. Whether someone is prescribed or not prescribed an opiate it has the same effect. Before you know it, you’re sick. I remember what it’s like to be responsible. I remember all of that.”
On how quickly addiction can take hold:
“You’re trying to juggle your job and going to school. There’s a constant fear of telling anyone about it. On top of that, you’re sick. You’re willing to do anything to not feel sick so you can do your job and pay your bills. Pretty soon you lose that stuff too. You lose your self-esteem and self-respect on top of that, your pride.”
On how easy it is to relapse:
“Treatment drills in your head that you have to accept you’re an addict. That wasn’t hard for me. I’d seen all the signs growing up. I knew within the first year I was an addict and couldn’t stop on my own. The problem for me was I’d get sober, and once you’re not controlled by that drug anymore, you feel a sense of freedom. You suddenly have a choice of what you want to do with your day. You’re not controlled by a substance first. Naturally, you want to run your life on your own again. That’s not the case. It’s hard to ask for help initially, but it may be harder to continue to ask for help. It’s hard to not let your pride and ego tell you you’re OK.”
On steps that can be taken to fight the epidemic:
“More treatment needs to be available. This place just opened last month and there’s already around 50 people waiting to get in. If someone fails at this, it’s not a negative or a bad thing. If they make it back here again, they learned something from the last time. Typically, if you tell any alcoholic or drug addict what they need to do, they’re going to try everything and cross those things off the list. It’s a learning experience. That’s the way it’s been for me, at least. I had to find my own answers like knowing I couldn’t drink alcohol on the weekends. I had to find that out the hard way.”
On genetic predisposition:
“It doesn’t matter how I got this way or whether it was genetic. Prior to 22, I didn’t have any problems. I wasn’t depressed. I lived a good life. Whether it was my choice or genetic doesn’t matter now. I know that. Either way I have the same problem as someone else. What matters is what I’m going to do about it now.”
On the notion that having naloxone (Narcan) available makes overdosing seem less scary:
“It’s a good thing for them to have the Narcan. When someone overdoses, they’re not sitting there feeling the high. If they’re a drug addict, they want to feel the high and not waste their money. It’s not like it feels good to overdose. It’s like waking up from a nap and you’re usually pissed off because you wasted the high. Who would want to get high, overdose, then wake up and not be high because the Narcan took it away?”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Evan Goodenow | Civitas Media Sean Cameron, a recovering addict, said he has benefited from injections of Vivitrol, a synthetic drug similar to morphine that blocks opiate cravings.