What If Holiday Stress Leads To Prescription Drug Abuse?

Prescription drug abuse and addiction is reaching epidemic proportions. One local expert on pain and dependency says left untreated, stress and depression could cause a holiday rise in prescription drug misuse or even overdose.

Some people find it overwhelming, the stress that is amplified during the holidays. They're not able to cope with what should be the joyful occasion of having family or guests in town, and the tension that seems to mount as a result.

"The stress of the holidays, both with people that we're missing perhaps, family members who may have passed away or who couldn't be there with us. At the same time, all the challenges that go along with the holidays, while still doing all the activities of daily life."

Dr Michael Sprintz is medical director of Memorial Hermann's Pain Recovery Inpatient Program, and the founder of the Sprintz Center, the first private practice in Texas that treats both chronic pain and addiction. He says stress and depression could cause a holiday rise in alcohol and prescription drug misuse or overdose.

"A lot of people really increase their drinking around the times of the holiday, their alcohol use. And there's a huge risk in mixing alcohol with narcotic pain relievers, with anxiety medicines like Xanax and Valium, pain killers such as Vicodin, Hydrocodone. All of those things if you mix them with alcohol, they actually can dramatically increase the risk of death."

Dependency and addiction from a loved one can be stressful for family members trying to manage. The Sprintz Center offers integrative and procedural pain management, addiction and dependency treatment and therapy sessions.

"The one thing that I always tell people is that if you have both diseases, that if you only treat the pain, the dependency gets worse. If you only treat the dependency, the pain gets worse, and you really have to treat both. And if you treat them both, both can get better."

MC, a former patient, got injured on the job as a firefighter and was addicted to prescribed pain medication.

"I'm probably gonna get hurt again, and I'll probably have to use pain medication again. And he has things in place for you, that you have accountability, that you have a plan in place, and you will use the medication as directed, and get off it when you're supposed to."

Dr. Sprintz tells patients that attitude means everything when it comes to overcoming addiction.

"He said, 'You will be okay.' Coming back, I was apprehensive. and everything worked out and I told him that. I said, 'If you hadn't told me that its gonna be okay, no matter if I was able to complete my job or not, it would have been difficult for me to come back.' So, he gave me the first step to get into recovery, and then he gave me first step to come out and rejoin my life again."

You can find more information at SprintzCenter.com.

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Pat Hernandez

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Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...