The "House" depiction of drug abuse

I’m hoping for factual answers here, but perhaps there are none.

In the TV series “House,” the title character is depicted as a drug abuser.

My sister suffers chronic pain. She has a daily pain medication regimen, and when her drugs were stolen by a contractor’s crew member during some house renovations and she couldn’t get them replaced right away, she began experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

She has a good job and is well respected. Her pain meds make it easier to do what she does.

My mom and brother both refused to take the Vicodin that had been prescribed to them because they “didn’t want to become addicted.” (Mom had a broken hip; my brother had a limb amputation."

When my brother was refusing medication, my sister said to him, “If you take pain medication to relieve pain, you are not addicted. People who are addicted to pain medication take it when they are no longer experiencing pain.”

That made sense to me.

So is House an addict/abuser or is he someone whose pain is poorly controlled?

Your sister is full of it. Plenty of people with chronic pain conditions become addicted to their drugs, through no fault of their own. And an addict is not necessarily an abuser.

My girfriend is addicted to prescription pain medications. She’s been on everything from Vicodin to Duragesic patches to morphine to oxycontin over the last few years for a severe low back injury. She is starting to wean herself off of the meds since her surgery and goes through withdrawal symptoms at each step. She would have given anything to not need the meds. Addicted? Yes. Drug Abuser? No.

Of course, you can have withdrawal symptoms when going off all sort of medications.

House is fiction.

TV should have nothing to do with anyone’s treatment or therapy.

Characters on TV have nothing to do with anyone else’s self control, either.

Edit: by the way, nothing says you can’t be both in need of pain killers and also addicted to them.

Discipline: This isn’t about self-control. It’s about physical dependency, which happens regardless of the content of your character because it’s completely based on the content of your bloodstream and neurochemistry. The “moral failing” theory of dependency has been roundly refuted by our knowledge of the underlying biochemistry.

Saying that there’s a physical draw and saying that, with enough will, it can be resisted, aren’t mutually exclusive :dubious:

I’ve had pain medication prescribed to me for legitimate reason, and it definitely helped. But the stuff is ridiculously good. I have to agree that just because you have a legit reason for taking it doesn’t mean you can’t become an addict.

Total crap, but if it got your brother to take painkillers for his obvious pain, good on your sister. Addiction doesn’t take a pass just because your prescribed it, but that’s honestly no reason to not take pain meds if you have an obvious need for them.

I am not quite sure why society seems to have this obsession with “addiction” for certain drugs. I’m not even sure why a desire to have a certain (apparently pleasurable) feeling constitutes “abuse.”

On the point of dependency, one might just as well say the insulin-dependent diabetic is “addicted” to insulin. The drug is required to keep the patient’s symptoms closer to a normal physiology.

On the point of “abuse” I wonder what the difference is between eating a piece of chocolate because it satisfies a craving and taking hydrocodone for the same reason…

In any case it is the individual’s right to live their life as they see fit, is it not? To waste it or not? To seek pleasure where they hope to find it? That some chemicals have more profound effects than others upon withdrawal should not, in my opinion, have a bearing on how pejeroatively their use is judged.

Insulin isn’t psychoactive.

The question of what drugs should be legal, if any, and for whom is another question. But we do ourselves no favors by ignoring that “one of these things is not like the others”.


And, AFAIK, stopping insulin results in a return to baseline. Stopping opioid pain medicines after developing dependence results in other symptoms - diarrhea, shakes, sweating, vomiting, etc.

One can be addicted to pain meds without abusing them, abuse them without being addicted to them, abuse them sometimes, need them sometimes and not be addicted, or abuse them sometimes, need them sometimes and be addicted.

Many of these things are not mutually exclusive.

Having said that, I will also say that society in general does people like your mother and brother, with genuine needs for pain meds, a disservice by making such a big fuss over drug abuse and addiction. Hell, in elementary school little kids are almost indoctrinated with the idea that if you pop one pill, drink one cocktail, etc., you’re a junkie. :rolleyes:

Actually, as I understand it that’s a myth; very few people who take opiates for pain become addicted.

Not that I consider addiction a primarily a moral flaw, mind you; it’s more of a design flaw in the human brain.

That wasn’t what I was talking about. I was talking about the fact dependency is a physical ailment, like cyanide poisoning, and that Discipline’s somewhat curt tone seems at odds with that and aligned with the hysterical extremism of the ONDCP and allied groups.

In fact, it’s a grave mistake to conflate physical dependency with a psychological habit under the blanket term ‘addiction’. They’re two different things and must each be treated on their own terms, and of the two the habit is more difficult to break because it may require a complete change of lifestyle.

The problem here is that questions of addiction (like the classic “does having X drinks over Y time period mean I’m an alcoholic?”) are really about semantics, when it comes down to it. People can (and do) define “addiction” in different ways, and use it in different ways. Case in point: if we take addiction to mean “a situation in which one will suffer physiological withdrawal if they cease taking the drug”… then basically everyone who takes opiates regularly for Z period of time will become “addicted” – when they stop, they’ll have a withdrawal period.

I was told this last summer when I had what I believe were withdrawal symptoms from pain meds. I asked my doc if I was addicted and he said the same thing, almost word-for-word.

Whatever it is called, it sucked for 3 days as I came off Oxycodone.

I was told repeatedly that I was in denial about being an alcoholic - the extent of my drinking is normally about 5 or 6 glasses of wine a year, and about 4 oz brandy over the course of the year in coffee and maybe 1 glass of champagne a year if I go to a wedding. I think I actually had an asbach uralt chocolate brandy bottle with about 1cc of brandy in it this past christmas, though it might have been a different brand, I didnt see it before it was unwrapped. To be honest, I cant really remember the last time I had an actual mixed drink - I am generally the designated driver. I’d rather splurge on my carbs and enjoy a dessert with a fancy dinner that blow it on a drink.

The reason I was at the AA meeting - to take someone who had been ordered by captains mast to attend a certain number of meetings and he needed a ride. When I politely refused to stand and deliver a paeon to how alcohol was ruining my life, I got rounded on about being in denial simply because I might do a grand total of an entire bottle of something over the course of a year. 'Now if I was doing a glass of wine every night with dinner I might be an alcoholic, or i might be obeying doctors orders to drink 4 oz wine a day as part of a medically indicated diet regimen.:dubious:

If the doctor tells you to take a pain med, take it - he probably has decided that the minor chance of you getting hooked is nothing compared to the break your body is getting from the pain enabling healing to happen faster.

Or allowing functionality to happen at all. For example, I just finished swallowing some Darvocet (low-level narcotics, more effective than Advil alone). Why? Because I want to be able to finish fixing dinner and go to the movies with my husband tonight.

Without prescription pain relievers I would be flat-out laid-up in bed pretty damned frequently. It’s the prescription stuff, used as ordered and as needed, that allows me to care for my children, fix dinner, clean the living room, run my modest eBay business, do the laundry, etc.

And all that is just because my kidneys suck, and as such, I suffer chronic pain. I can only imagine what people who suffer worse chronic pain go through. For many chronic pain sufferers, narcotic/opioid pain medications allow us to function instead of just lying in bed or on the sofa all day.

I’m sure that good doctors weigh the chances of addiction against these benefits.

To address the OP’s question directly: House is most certainly (as a TV character) an addict. He is dependent. He probably abuses his pain medication. But on the other hand, his Vicodin enables him to be a practicing doctor, as opposed to being on disability or something like that.

The people who most easily become addicted are those who are depressed and taking drugs to feel better. Another common group is people who take them because they’re bored. Basically, you’re more likely to become addicted if you have some negative emotions to escape from. So people who use it for medical purposes are less likely to become addicted. However, everyone is capable of addiction. You just get used to being high so it starts to feel normal.

Physical dependence, on the other hand, has nothing to do with your reasoning for taking the drug. It strictly pertains to one’s body chemistry and the frequency and dosage of the drug. If you take opioids regularly for a few months, you will be physically dependent no matter the reason.