Tony Hoffman With Real Talk on Pills
When I came back to BMX in 2009 I was in the beginning phases of reentry into society. I was paroling prison for a robbery charge I was convicted of that was drug related. I know that a lot of people are aware of my story, but some may not be. In 2002, after graduating high school, I became addicted to prescription painkillers. My addiction was kickstarted after my wisdom teeth were pulled and I was given a prescription of Vicodin for the pain. It was my first recollection I can vividly remember where I enjoyed the way pills made me feel. I was young, ignorant, and foolish to the dangers that prescription pills could have on a person’s life.
At 18 years old, I said to myself, “I’m just being a kid,” “I’m only trying what everyone else is trying.” The ignorance behind this thinking is really what opened the door for the hardest years of my life to take place. At this time in 2003 popping pills as a form of getting high was becoming an ever-popular thing among youth. It was more convenient than other ways of changing how the body felt and there was essentially a pill for every type of feeling. I was offered a chance to try a powerful and very commonly prescribed painkiller called Oxycontin. After trying Oxycontin, it seemed as if that was all my body craved after that day.
I was addicted to how I felt and the worst part was, I didn’t realize it was prescription strength heroin. Years later I would move on from pills to heroin, since heroin was cheaper and did the same thing that Oxycontin did.
After several years of living an absolute nightmare, sleeping on the streets, losing friends and family, and spending two years in prison, I was able to get ahold of my addiction— one day at a time.
Today I hold over nine years of sobriety and have spent most of my clean time devoted to preventing my mistakes in others through my action sports non-profit, Freewheel Project, or the public speaking I do across the country, sharing my personal story, helping spread awareness of substance abuse and inspiring audiences to make the most of their life choices.
It’s no secret that BMX is a sport of injuries. And with injury, often comes painkiller prescriptions. I am contacted frequently by people who were/are athletes and their injuries have lead them to abuse painkillers.
The question is always, “What do I do? I don’t know how to stop.” There are multiple avenues for getting clean, unfortunately, no route is easy and every route requires a heavy workload. The most effective way is giving yourself the reset switch/time so you can start over. And that requires some level of inpatient treatment. The biggest dilemma with addiction is that most people don’t understand it and are unaware of their options for getting help.
In my years of traveling to speak and working for community organizations and treatment centers around the country, I’ve built solid relationships for getting people the help they need and the resources required to make sure they are able to get in.
If you are someone who is in need of help, I always make myself available for advice and helping facilitate the help for you. If you are not a person in need of help I would still like to give you three important steps to consider when using pain medication or administering them to another.
1. Take only what you truly need. Often times doctors over-prescribe painkillers. The longer you take the opioid-based painkillers the more you are allowing the body to build a tolerance to the meds and begin creating a physical dependance on them. The physical dependance will likely lead to acute withdrawal symptoms when you discontinue use, but overtime this dependence can become very severe. It’s best to use the painkillers in the beginning phases when pain is highest, then work your way down to an over-the-counter option like ibuprofen.
2. Never let a minor administer the pills themselves. The biggest issue here is that you’re trusting the young person to take the right amount of pills. Avoid the opportunity for addiction to occur. I would also recommend locking up any pain medication and not allowing them to be freely taken by anyone in the household. It’s not uncommon for a guest to rummage through medicine cabinets of friends’ homes and steal their pain medication. I talked to a person who was stealing her best friend’s pain meds every Tuesday, when she and her husband went over there for dinner.
3. Dispose of leftover prescription when you are finished. DO NOT flush them down the toilet or throw them in the trash. Most communities around the United States now offer prescription pill disposal boxes. In Fresno County, where I am from, we have the “Lock It Up Project.” Our police stations all have mailboxes outside their doors to dump leftover prescription medications. Walgreens has installed “safe medication disposal” kiosks at 288 pharmacies across 21 states. I highly recommend getting rid of all medications in an official location, so they don’t fall into the wrong hands.
Not everyone who takes pain medication will become addicted. But we should not let this fact cause us to fail to take the proper precautions and safeguards. Addiction does not play favorites, anyone and everyone is capable of becoming addicted to prescription medication.
Top Photo: frankieleon, via Flickr. Original image was resized to fit the BMX News layout.
About Tony: Tony Hoffman is a distinguished BMX coach and holds the Masters World #2 ranking, Executive Director of the Freewheel Project and well known around the United States for his work in substance abuse awareness field.