COMMUNITY CRISIS: From prescription to addiction

LANSING, Mich (WLNS) – Injuries are an unfortunate reality in the world of athletics, and the road to recovery can be a long one.

“I was playing basketball at Lansing Community College and within a period of two years I had five surgeries on my right shoulder” says former LCC Star Paul Cook, who played from 2008-2010. “Then after my final surgery, towards the end of my sophomore season was when my addiction really started to pick up,” he continued.

According to the National Institute of Health, opioid misuse among high schoolers has dropped in the past five years, but athletes still abuse painkillers more often than their peers.

Cook says “It started with the prescriptions, I was taking them as prescribed, and they were working to help my surgery, and then eventually it progressed into if one works, then two will work better, and three will work better and then it gets to the point where you feel that physical attachment to it.”

That is how anyone, including athletes, can find themselves going from simple injury recovery, to in Cook’s case, an addiction to heroin. Ingham County Chief Medical Officer Linda Vail says medical professionals are aware the problem begins in their office.

“The provider/physician communities are openly admitting that they have contributed to this in the sense that when prescription opioids were being prescribed back in the 90’s,” spoke Vail.

“There was a lot of information out there saying they were safer or less addictive than they were. There was a collusion of things around pain medication prescribing that really did in a sense, from the side of the medical community, contribute to it,” she concluded.

Nurse Practitioner Nadine Zinn sees it all the time, in patients ranging from athletes to pregnant women. “Either they had a bad accident or bad surgery, something like that that they started on opiates that way.”

Once doctors cut patients off from prescription opiates, that is when heroin enters the equation.

“The Vicodin was kind of few and far between, it was easier to get the OxyContin, then that became too expensive eventually and that’s when the switch to heroin came in.” said Cook, who is recovering from his own addiction to opiates.

While both doctors and patients are educating themselves on how to become less reliant on opioids for injury recovery, cautionary tales like Paul Cook’s show what can happen when addiction takes over.

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