Some of the most riveting comments came during the Lexington Foum Thursday came from Alex Elswick.
He said the use of pain pills for wisdom teeth surgery turned into a four year addiction. After starting with pills, Elswick said he only used heroin for six months before finding himself homeless in Dayton, Ohio, shooting up under a bridge. Elswick called his parents from a pay phone. “I’ve been kicked out of a treatment center. I need help,” he told them.
“ ‘They said, we’ve done this before. We love you, but there’s nothing we can do for you’, " said Elswick, one of the speakers before the civic group’s monthly meeting. “And that’s a bottom, man. That’s a bottom.”
Elswick, who today is about to complete a masters degree and head into a doctoral program, said it’s that family cutoff that helps many addicts make a positive turn. He said a phrase used in treatment is “to make it as difficult as possible for your loved one to continue to use and as easy as possible to recover.”
His mother, Shelley Elswick, said coming to an understanding of her son’s disease was challenging. She had to educate herself on the fact that addiction is a disease before she could truly help her son.
“It’s not something that he picked. It’s not something that he did to us because he didn’t love us anymore. You have to really understand that on a deep level by reading it over and over and hearing it over and over. That makes it then not be an issue of forgiveness. It’s an issue of understanding.”
Also on the panel, Lexington police officer Reed Bowles is part of a team who responds to drug overdoses. He described himself as an “Overdose Detective.”
He said making a case against local heroin dealers is difficult because often those suffering overdoses don’t want to identify their source or admit they have a problem.
The panel discussion included comments from Dr. Michele Lofwall with the University of Kentucky Center on Drug and Alcohol Research. She told attendees too many pain medications are prescribed today. Afterward, Lofwall said addressing the cause of pain is sometimes lacking.
“Doing symptom management and throwing medications at symptoms when you don’t what the underlying cause is and you’re not trying to modify that, can get us into a lot of trouble.”
Lofwall said physical therapy or even proper pillow use can reduce the need for pain medications. But, she said, the focus on treating addiction is increasing on medicine-based treatments, like Suboxone, that focus on chemical reactions in the brain that lead to addictive behavior.