Pain pills and cocaine in the suburbs: One mother’s story

Guest blog post by Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare Recovery Center Clinical Director Dr. Jeffrey Ferraro.

“Mrs. R.” voluntarily came to the emergency room saying that her life was out of control. After examining her, it appeared she had not slept for days.  She had track marks on both arms and was disheveled and crying.

Her husband had asked for a divorce and told her that he was taking her three children away.  She states she has been using approximately $300 worth of cocaine a day and is snorting more than 200 mg of Roxicodone daily.  She estimates that she has spent more than $75,000 in the past year purchasing drugs off the street.

The patient pleads with me in the emergency room to admit her to the hospital because she’s fearful that if she continues using drugs at this rate that she will soon die.  Since I agree with her, she is admitted for detoxification.

Throughout her hospitalization, the patient finally stabilizes after five days of detoxification.  She talks about the severe amount of shame and guilt she has because of her actions.  The patient reports that over the course of the past year her life has turned into a nightmare.

She says that 18 months ago she received a promotion and became a nurse manager of a large surgical center.  The patient says her husband had also been doing well running his independent finance company.  She says that her three children respected her and were doing well in school.

She describes her initial drug use as being a way “to get more things done during the day and manage her busy lifestyle.”  She reports that she would take pain medication in order to improve her mood and give her more energy.  The patient states that her casual use of opiates quickly progressed to daily use and to the point that she could no longer function without pills.  She reports that she started stealing prescription pads and was writing for medication for herself in addition to taking it from patients that she came into contact with that were having surgery.

She left the hospital and directly entered a residential substance abuse treatment facility several towns away from her family.  The patient spent 30 days in their program and was discharged to an intensive follow-up treatment program near her family.  She reports that she has been sober for the past six months and is starting to get her life back on track.  I am amazed at the progress that she’s made and rebuilding her life since our interaction in the emergency room.

I wish that I could say her situation is unique to my practice, however I do see on a daily basis everyday people who fear receiving treatment because of the stigma surrounding addiction.  Mrs. R, like so many other patients I treat, was afraid to disclose her disease to others secondary to the guilt and shame that haunted her.

This brief summary of her clinical case was an attempt to reinforce the fact that the disease of addiction affects everyone independent of their socioeconomic status and background. I also want people to know that there are successful evidence-based treatments available to help the families in individual struggling with the disease of addiction.


Name and details have been changed, but post still represents a typical case.

If you or a loved one needs help with substance abuse or mental health issues, please take a look at the many resources available to Floridians on the DCF website.

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