In the waning days of summer, we’re highlighting a collection of our long-form storytelling and multimedia from our archives. We hope you consider supporting our journalism by subscribing to STAT Plus.

M

att Ganem was first exposed to the prescription painkiller OxyContin when he was 16.

He was at a house party in the Boston area — the kind where kids traditionally first experiment with drinking or marijuana. Ganem didn’t know much about OxyContin, but he gave it a try.

advertisement

That first pill was the beginning of a five-year struggle with opioid addiction.

Ganem’s story is not uncommon. The United States is in the throes of a nationwide opioid epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 165,000 Americans died of prescription opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2014.

Part of the reason so many users struggle to get clean is that opioid withdrawal can be physically excruciating.

In this video, STAT explores exactly how opioids affect the human body — and why addiction can be so difficult to kick. Ganem, now 31, learned firsthand.

Leave a Comment

Please enter your name.
Please enter a comment.

  • I should also point out that this guy started with an Illegally obtained “prescription drug” one of many that was sold directly to the black market by the criminal drug manufacturers. This will be counted as a “prescription drugs, even though it is unlikely there was no Physician or prescription involved. Many of these pills were stolen too, form people’s medicine cabinets. The current false narrative about prescription drugs is being used to target people with legitimate pain conditions, while the big criminal drug distributors are getting away with their crimes.
    The use of this and other mass media publications to misinform the public, and continue to make not only the addicted suffer, but to target sick people, really should be criminal. Other developed nations figured this out, but here in the US this misery is being used to market false “Solutions” and spread the disease of “Addiction” along with the Epidemic of Despair.
    Maybe someday real scientists will look back at this scourge and compare it to Nazi Germany. The Medical Industry did nothing to stop any of this, they perpetuated it. It was a convenient way to increase market share and avoid accountability. They even included people who the Surgeons, and Device Industry left with Intractable Chronic Pain, in the addicted category.
    I wonder how many people with multiple Device surgeries, like old women with failed hip implants had to go through this kind of withdrawal after their pain medications were taken away.

  • This article, like many others fails to distinguish the process of Addiction as one that occurs primarily within the human brain.My experience with Oxycontin as a pain reliever ( d/t chronic back pain) for over 8 years resulted in no addiction / physical dependence, nor withdrawal symptoms once I decided to stop the Oxycontin.In addition, Addiction is a Learned behavior.

    • The number of people with Chronic Pain, and Veterans injured in war, who go through Withdrawal, every time their Physician decides not to treat them anymore, or they do anther “crack down” wont be discussed in major media. Due to the lop sided way the media has covered this, topic the death toll in increasing. In my state the pot industry decided to market their product for “Drug Addiction.” Some clever Psychologists are using this as an opportunity to not only market their services, but to continue to create profitability for pharma, insurance companies and the medical industry. Before this was an Epidemic, lobbyists for the AMA chose not to allow continuing education for opiates. All they have to do it tell Physicians it could lead to liability, and they will allow any form of brutal behavior.
      Back in 2011 the “treatment industry” and the pharmaceutical companies, had their paid minions, journalists in the business pages portray all of this as a investment opportunity. They are doing the same thing now with “Super-bugs” instead of informing the public the threat becomes corporate news, and advertising.

      Where some of us see death and despair, clever people know they can make a profit.

    • These miraculous anecdotal “Cures” and testimonials are making this problem even worse. It is really clear that you were on a minimum dosage, because you had a competent Pain Management Physician who tapered you off. That has no correlation whatsoever to what this video is describing. People who abuse these drugs typically are on higher doses that what a pain management physician would prescribe. Also many pain patients are very aware of the potential for addiction, or dependence and keep their dosages low or intermittent. Some pain patients are afraid to even take these medications even when they are dying of cancer. All of the misinformation floating around on social media and unfounded comments are actually killing people. From the video and scientific observation, withdrawal from opiates is a physical process, in some cases causing death.
      There are people with chronic pain who were forced to go through withdrawal, and see their lifestyle and ability to work lost. As we sit here, many are considering suicide, thanks to irresponsible beliefs and denial by the medical industry. There are people who are incarnated, and since about 50% of the people who are described as addicted are over fifty with other health conditions, they DIE!
      That kind of information is not readily available, and certainly does not contain the sensationalism or mass media requires. The medical, pharma and even the for profit prison system does not allow that kind of information to get published.
      There are plenty of un ethical psychologists, physicians and quacks willing to latch on to stories like yours, they sell books, speaking engagements, and alternative cures. Everyone wants a cheap miraculous cure, and billions have been made peddling one. There are plenty of Trolls, or Content Marketers on social media willing to prey on the addicted and their families. There is a lot of money to me made, due to the apathy and ignorance of the public, and the failure by our government agencies to regulate these medications years ago. They were paid off by corporate lobbyists, as industry insiders infiltrated the regulatory agencies.
      We are seeing more deaths, as the system fails to respond in any meaningful way. Even our food safety is under threat, millions of American will get a food borne illness this year, thanks to less regulations. As long as there is a buck to be made, the misinformed will be leading the parade.

  • This interview is great, especially the visuals. Do you have a video that doesn’t bleeps out the swears? Would be a great addition to our school drug unit.
    Thanks

Sign up for our Morning Rounds newsletter

Your daily dose of what’s new in health and medicine.

Privacy Policy