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Am I an enabler because I helped my hubby take his prescribed medication?

Dear Stanton:

My husband, 43 years old, has had five back and neck surgeries over the past 6 years. They have him on several medications including Methadone and Xanax. He recently went to a local doctor about some swelling he is having and the doctor told him he was addicted to narcotics and that he has heart disease. He really made my husband feel terrible about himself because he has been under doctors' care since his accident. He can't understand why this local doctor would call him an addict when his doctors in Atlanta are prescribing this medication to him. Could you give me insight on this? Also, this doctor told me that I was an enabler to my husbands addiction. I don't understand that theory either. I know this question probably seems strange to you but I would really appreciate an answer. This is the first time in 6 years my husband has been called an addict and I don't even know what an enabler is...can you explain?

Mary


Dear Mary:

An enabler is supposedly someone who allows a loved one to continue in his addiction with her tacit support and acceptance. This is a bum rap for you, since you feel that you have followed doctors' directions in order to offer the best care for your husband.

In the U.S., doctors frequently prescribe drugs and then, it turns out, the patient is really (or claims to be) addicted to the substances — e.g., Elvis Presley, Betty Ford, Kitty Dukakis. At the same time, out of fear of addiction, doctors often refuse to provide adequate medication for people truly in pain or other need of it.

Which case is this? I don't know. Has your husband gotten heart disease as a result of reliance on these medications? That is a serious charge, and would amount to malpractice. Have your current doctor write a report indicating that this is the case, if he believes it is so. Otherwise, the heart disease and reliance on pain medications are unrelated. Either way, you need to return to the doctors in Atlanta to report this diagnosis, and ask how this affects their view of the current regimen of pain killers your husband is taking. Be frank about your concerns and the reasons for them.

Yours sincerely,
Stanton