Dr. Watkins: Hi. I’m Dr. Boyce Watkins from YourBlackWorld.com. One of the things that we all have to worry about and think about is our health. Many of you may have notice that throughout the country there is a trend of people who are becoming addicted to prescription drugs. And, I know most of these people don’t start off saying that they want to be addicts, it just sort of happens. I want to give you some information that will help you avoid some of those outcomes. So, to discuss this issue, I want to bring in Dr. Jennifer Caudle. She’s a family physician and a pretty smart lady. She knows a lot about this stuff. So I want to, first, welcome Dr. Caudle. How are you doing today? Dr. Caudle: I’m good. Thanks so much for having me. Dr. Watkins: Good. Good. Now, I don’t want to get the name of your institution wrong. Can you say it for me? It’s kind of long. Dr. Caudle: Sure. It is. So, I’m an assistance professor in the Department of Family Medicine at UMDNJ, which stands for the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Dr. Watkins: Okay. Good. Thank you for helping me say that without screwing it up because sometimes – Dr. Caudle: Not a problem. Dr. Watkins: — I do that. I do my best. No disrespect. So I want to ask you, what have you seen as a physician when it comes to some of these addictions to prescription drugs? How do I as a patient go and take advantage of the great drugs that are out there without taking a chance on ending up as an addict? How does that happen and how do I avoid it? Dr. Caudle: Well, you know, I think the first part for patients and the first thing for patients and the public to understand is how the use of prescription pain meds has changed over the years. We estimate that in the last few years, there have been maybe 36,000 people who have died from drug overdoses in 2008, for example. But nowadays most of those overdose stats are due to prescription pain medications. So we’re not talking about street drugs. We’re talking about prescription medications. The first thing for people to know is that over the last few years, prescription pain medicine abuse and misuse is basically becoming an epidemic. So the first thing you have to do is just be informed. You have to know that this is a big problem that the nation’s seeing, that doctors are seeing, that patients are dealing with. Because people aren’t just taking pain meds to deal with their legitimate pain but they’re often taking them and abusing and misusing them. Dr. Watkins: Interesting. So, you’re saying that this is an epidemic. I mean, this is something that maybe some of us haven’t seen featured as much on television but it’s sort of quietly destroying millions of lives. Dr. Caudle: Absolutely. Dr. Watkins: Really? Dr. Caudle: Absolutely. And, if I could make a couple comments actually, the government has a lot of great websites that talk about the epidemic of prescription pain medications. The CDC is a great website. In fact, the CDC shows that about one-third of people who are over 12, who started using drugs for the first time, begin using prescription drugs. So basically, rather than getting heroin or cocaine, about a third of the people who try drugs in the first place, if they’re over 12, are trying pills, or prescription medication. Dr. Watkins: Really? Dr. Caudle: Yes. Absolutely. And, they’re abusing them. And actually 1 in every 6 teenagers has used a prescription medicine to get high. So we’re not just talking about something that’s obscure, where other drugs used to be the problem, prescription pain drugs have really inserted themselves. And, kids are abusing and misusing prescription pain meds, 1 in 6 teenagers. And it’s often — prescription pain medicine is the second most abused medication, second to — excuse me, second to marijuana. So, it’s really high up there. People need to understand, this is really an epidemic. Dr. Watkins: So do you think that most of the people who end up addicted are a lot of these teenagers that are looking for a high or is it more of the old lady who needs the medication to deal with back pain and she finds that she can’t function without her pills? Which are we talking about that ends up as the prevalent case here? Dr. Caudle: Sure. So, many of these prescription pain meds do have an addiction potential if they are misused. And that’s the key part here. There are many many people that have real pain. That’s why these medications exist in the first place. Because they are appropriate for certain situations and for people with certain types of pain. So these medications aren’t bad by their nature. What’s important is that they’re used for the right person for the right reasons. Now for the patient that doesn’t have pain, that’s maybe using the medications to get high, or maybe using more medications than they actually need to for their pain, certainly addiction can become a concern. And what we’re finding is prescription pain meds, when used appropriately, again, are perfectly fine and appropriate. But what we’re seeing now is people using these medications to get high. They’re abusing them, they’re misusing them, and that’s really where the problems are coming in. Dr. Watkins: Okay. So my last question is — just so I can wrap my brain around how this addiction process works. When do you think about what happened to Michael Jackson. Now I know you don’t know the particular facts in his case, per say – Dr. Caudle: Sure. Dr. Watkins: But we do know that he was using a narcotic that shouldn’t be used outside of a hospital because he said he couldn’t sleep everyday. And, in my mind, I’ve always visualized addiction sort of looking like that. Where a person tries something really strong in the hospital that maybe helps the pain go away or helps them sleep and then they get to the point where they literally can’t function without taking this very powerful medication. So it’s not a matter of them looking for a cheap thrill or looking for a high, it’s almost as it seems they can’t cope with life without the drugs. Do those — regular people like you and I, are we sort of at risk of that if we go to the doctor and the doctor says, “Hey, here’s some Oxycontin. Try this.” Am I going to take that home — and how do I avoid getting so comfortable using the Oxycontin that I become an addict? Dr. Caudle: Well, you bring up really good questions about that. First of all, you have to understand that many of these medications — and there are many types of prescription pain meds that can be abused. The ones I’m talking about really are in the opioid class. You might have heard of things like Percocets and Vicodin. So I can’t be all-inclusive when I generalize like this, but that’s sort of the class I’m talking about. It’s addictive by nature but everyone will not necessarily get addicted. This really comes back to the key question: “Is the patient the right patient for this particular medication and for the dose that’s being given?” So when we talk about, as a patient, worrying if you’re going to get addicted to something, when you go to the doctor and you’re talking about whatever aches and pains you might have, if your doctor doesn’t talk with you about what medication he or she is prescribing, this is your opportunity to ask questions. Ask what it is, the medicine; how it works; if there are any risks, risks of addiction, risks of feeling sleepy on the medication, not being able to function. You want to know the potential side effects. You also want to know how to properly take the medication. You want to make sure you’re not taking too much and you want to have a really open dialogue with your doctor about prescription pain meds. I don’t want to instill fear in people because these medications are not bad. Because, once again, when used appropriately for the right people, they are important, which is why they’re FDA approved. The problem is when they’re prescribed for people they’re really not indicated for or when people misuse and abuse them. So patients who might be prescribed some of these medications for pains that they’re having or issues, just need to really have an open conversation with your doctor about the medication. But, the other thing I wanted to mention about this is that there’s stuff that we can do as just a patient. Now that we sort of talked a little bit about the epidemic that prescription pain medications have become, one thing that I would love to ask the public is now that you know this, we really have to be careful. And, ways to limit this epidemic from becoming any further and larger is if you have controlled pain medications at home, if there are patients out there, or folks that are prescribed these medication by your doctor, one thing you can do is keep them safe. Lock them up; keep them private. Because medications are usually — these medications are usually obtained from families and friends. Actually there’s just a small amount of people who get these prescription pain medications from drug dealers. They’re usually obtained from someone that they know. So, the first thing that folks can do if they’re using them how they’re actually prescribed by their doctor is to keep them locked up, to be safe about them, to be educated about the possible risks. Dr. Watkins: Well, those are very wise words from a very wise woman. So, thank you so much, Dr. Caudle, for taking the time to share your expertise with us. I truly appreciate it. Dr. Caudle: Thanks so much. Dr. Watkins: That’s been Dr. Caudle. By the way, how can people get in touch with you? On your website or wherever? Dr. Caudle: Oh, sure. People can find me at www.JenniferCaudle.com. That’s J-E-N-N-I-F-E-R-C-A-U-D-L-E. com or on Twitter @DrJenCaudle. Dr. Watkins: All right. All right. Well, thank you so much and thank you all for checking us out at YourBlackWorld.com. Remember that the world is not always going to help you protect yourself and protect your family. You have to be empowered, and be educated, and make those decisions for yourself. So when you go to the doctor make sure you are a fully informed patient so you can be a healthy patient. So, until we meet again, please, stay strong, be blessed, and be educated. We are gone. Peace.