breaking news

Prescription drugs can be gripping

Published: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 @ 12:05 AM

Tawny Watkins started taking prescription medication Percocet four years ago to help relieve pain but soon found herself addicted.

Child birth leads woman

to life of addiction

After a long night getting high on heroin and “percs,” the street name for the prescription painkiller, Percocet, Tawny Watkins woke up in a strange house with drugs in her pocket but missing the $4,000 she had taken with her to buy a car.

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“I had no idea where I was or what had happened to me,” said Watkins, 27, who recently completed drug rehab at MonDay Community Correctional Institution in Dayton. “I reached in my pocket and found drugs, but the money was gone.”

Watkins was matter-of-fact about the loss, which she shrugged off as just another tragic consequence of her drug habit: “Even if I had bought the car, I probably would have sold it to buy drugs. I never could keep anything for myself. I would buy something, then a couple of days later, I’d pawn it.”

The Kettering native started taking Percocet to cope with the pain after delivering her 4-year-old daughter, Briella, by cesarean section. The former Fairmont High School cheerleader who now lives with her mother, Melissa Watkins, in West Carrollton, said she “loved” the way the pills made her feel but had every intention of quitting.

When she tried to stop, though, she became physically ill. And since her doctor had stopped filling her prescription, she turned to the streets, where powerful painkillers can be had for a dollar a pill, or about a dollar per milligram.

As her body built up a tolerance to painkillers, she found herself spending hundreds of dollars a week to get high. Then a dealer turned her on to heroin, which delivered a more intense high than painkillers for about one-tenth the cost.

“Once I started shooting heroin, I changed,” she said. “I was manipulative. I lied to my family and friends to get money to get high. Eventually, I lost everything. If it wasn’t for the people here (MonDay), I probably would have lost my life.”

Watkins was diverted to the MonDay treatment program after violating her parole on a drug arrest in February.

Good Sam doctor says

treatment key in drug battle

Dr. Brien Dyer sees people addicted to opiates come into Good Samaritan Hospital’s crisis care in need of a place to lie down and possibly throw up. They could be high or in withdrawal and in need of varying types of treatment.

Later, he may see them leave feeling much better, a small victory in the battle against opioids. He wants to expand that battle and thinks it’s a fight everyone should agree on.

“When I sat on the (Montgomery County) Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services Board, the question that came up was, ‘Why do we give a drug, methadone (to addicts.)’ Put aside the compassion and the humanity that these are illnesses. Whether it’s drugs or food or TV, most of us are addicted to something.

“This is harm avoidance. (Treatment leads to) less crime days, hospital stays, HIV, hepatitis, billions of dollars per year are spent trying to eliminate harm. Look at who is in jail. How many are because of drugs and alcohol? They’re either using, stealing, selling, there’s some domestic abuse because of … it’s probably 95 percent of the population. Maybe if you don’t care about treatment, you might support it because of your pocketbook. For society, (treatment) is less costly.”

Sports injury ignites

addiction to pain killers

Prescription painkillers had been part of Jay Meyer’s life, off-and-on, since he suffered a knee injury playing basketball at Covington High School in his hometown of Covington in Miami County.

Several years later, Meyer suffered another injury that required surgery while playing basketball for Northern Ohio University, and once again he was given a prescription to manage the pain.

“I just noticed when I took the pills that I liked it, but I didn’t think anything of it,” said Meyer, who stopped taking the painkillers when his prescription ran out. “Then life started happening, and my wife didn’t like me having alcohol around the house, so I just remembered how those pills made me feel.

“What started as one or two a day just to take the edge off suddenly turned into a full-fledged addiction,” he said. “The last thing on your mind is you’re going to get hooked on this stuff. But when it came to this, it wasn’t a problem stopping, it was staying stopped.”

That was before his wife, Lori, and business partner, Tom Hagan, intervened.

Ironically, Meyer, spent more than 30 years in the pharmacy business, including joining Hagan as a partner in Health Care Pharmacy in Covington in 1982.

For the next five years, Meyer had access to a virtually inexhaustible supply of painkillers — but, eventually, he couldn’t hide his habit from those closest to him.

“One day, I came home from work on a Sunday, and they were all sitting in my living room,” he said. “They told me the party was over, and I needed to get help.”

Meyer checked into the Greene Hall drug treatment center in Fairborn in August 1987, and he has been sober ever since.

“I consider myself in recovery, but you never really recover,” he said.

— Randy Tucker, Staff Writer