#16: Drug Abuse is Equal Opportunity
“Did you know, did you know?” was literally screamed through my cell phone over and over by the hysterical wife of one of my male patients. “I know you knew, just like the others”, she continued on in an angry and helpless sort of way. This very real encounter occurred in the early 90’s when I was still in private practice and was my introduction into the world of drug abuse. This woman, whom I will call Carol, had just found out her husband, whom I will call John, was addicted to crack cocaine. Once Carol realized my ignorance of the situation was genuine, she gained enough self control to tell me her story. She had accompanied John on several visits to different providers over the past several months in an attempt to discover why he had sores breaking out all over his body. The drug was crystallizing under his skin and he was picking at the irritation. HIPAA prevented those he “came clean” to from telling Carol the cause of this. Thus her extreme reaction when she discovered the real reason their previously healthy bank account was almost completely depleted. It turns out he had gone through about 500K on his habit. Yes, you read that correctly. His habit was so bad he was taking his three year old daughter to the crack house and leaving her in the car when he went in to get high.
Typically cheaper and more available than powdered cocaine, crack is the most dangerous form of cocaine. When smoked, crack, enters the bloodstream through the lungs and brings a quicker and more powerful sense of euphoria than snorting powdered cocaine. Upon reaching the brain it increases the levels of dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. It is said that first time crack users experience a euphoria which is so intense, they spend the rest of their lives chasing that same feeling. To date more than 9 million Americans have used crack that we are aware of. It was such a common drug in the 80’s that Congress mandated a five-year minimum sentence for possession of five grams of crack when it passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986.
John, now in recovery, was once a very wealthy businessman, who ended up losing his marriage and his business to a drug. I am reminded daily as I see the positive drugs on the reports, that drug usage is not limited to opioids, age, status, income or really anything. Drug abuse is an equal opportunity destroyer of lives. Never take for granted, regardless of what role you have in your clinic, the importance of the job you do. We, as a lab, also cannot take for granted the importance of the job we do. We must be accurate in our testing and reporting, with a quick response to any clinical questions posed to us by our customers.
In closing, I am reminded of an ancient Chinese proverb, “If you don’t change direction, you will likely end up where you are headed.” Thank you for trusting us with your business.
President/CEO Industry Lab Diagnostic Partners