The issue of addiction to medicine has seemed to grow in the past few years. Local doctors and addiction specialists are working on tackling the issue.
Michael Carlton, the primary medical doctor at Accredited Internal Medicine, has been practicing addiction medicine since 1994 and has been in his Ahwatukee Foothills office since 1996. He said that he has had a long-time passion for helping people with medical addiction.
Carlton noted that whether the times are good or bad people turn to addiction. With anyone who has an addictive disorder there are different triggers, he said. He also said that people with more wealth tend to use powdered cocaine and oxycodone, while people with less wealth use cocaine or heroin.
He said that half the risk of being an addict is due to genetics while the other half is due to the person's environment. In addition, Carlton said that sometimes people don't take drugs because they have seen a close family member or friend become destroyed by it. On the other hand, he said that people who have never witnessed addiction may have a different reaction.
"Once people cross into addiction, they can still participate in negative behaviors unless they personally change their ways," Carlton said. "Everyone is different."
Carlton gives lectures where he talks to doctors about different medications that can help people with addiction. He said that some of the treatment plans he offers specifically help with abstinence while others focus on recovery.
Ideally, Carlton said, he recommends both plans because if a patient is only using medicine they can relapse. He says that people with addiction to medicine should have someone who is willing to support them throughout their treatment. He added that many people try to keep their addiction a secret but if there is a professional board monitoring them, they are more likely to get rid of it.
"The more people I have holding me accountable the better I do," Carlton said.
Pete Stewart, executive director at A Sober Way Home, a drug rehab and alcoholism recovery center in Prescott, said that everyone who has an addiction comes to a crossroads in their life. He said there's a point where they have to be willing to reach out for help and take steps and direction.
Stewart graduated from the program six years ago to get rid of his alcohol addiction. He has been in complete abstinence from all drinks since he came into the program. Stewart said that his reason to get clean was the birth of his daughter.
"A lot of people tell addicts, ‘Why don't you just stop?'" Stewart said. "It's really not that simple, so it was beneficial to hear people who were really educated on the intricacies of addiction."
He said that a third, if not half, of A Sober Way Home's population comes from the Phoenix area. He added that a majority of people are young and addicted to opiate drugs due to an increase in prescription giving. It is a lot easier for a doctor to prescribe very strong pain addiction now than what it used to be, he said.
Stewart said that when most people get hurt or have discomfort they go to the doctor and obtain strong prescriptions and narcotics. He said that many start off taking oxycodone in high school and later become addicted. However, he said the pills are expensive so many move on to heroine and graduate to a street drug out of a financial necessity.
Stewart noted that the rehabilitation facility has specific programs for opiate addiction. He also said that many people should realize that people shouldn't abuse the medication that their doctor has prescribed.
"We built a strong network for people to rebuild their lives before they go back," Stewart said. "That way they are prepared to face whatever they need to face on the home front."
• Kirsten Hillhouse is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a senior at Arizona State University.