Written by The Business Journal Staff
Flindt Andersen, Founder & Executive Director
P.A.I.N. – Prescription Abusers In Need
What we do: We do several things. We provide recovery services for individuals and families who are in the throngs of addiction. We spend hours walking families through the recovery process, meeting with them individually and with entire families. Once the family/addict comes to us, we are with them throughout the entire process. We are with the addict and their families for as long as they need us. We actually drive people to the treatment centers. We search out the best recovery programs for the person. We are very particular on where we send someone. Most treatment centers make a lot of promises about “curing” someone’s addiction. The fact is, there is no cure and the addiction never goes away. How do you change, for example a 15 year addiction in 30 days? There is so much more to recovery than just getting clean. We believe in patient treatment is the place to clean off of drugs, but once a person leaves treatment, the real work then begins. We then provide counseling and psychological services for both the individual and their families.
Flindt, what prompted you to found P.A.I.N.?
After some years in recovery I decided it was time to give back the only way I knew how, by telling my story. Plus the more I read and heard about the prescription drug problem occurring in Fresno/Clovis and the rest of the country, I decided it was time the real truth came out. There were too many people and organizations trying to put a band aid on a huge open wound. There are some great organizations out there that are doing a fantastic job, but there are also so many that don’t. They make false promises and mislead families while charging exorbitant fees, all in the name of recovery. I’ve been to my fair share of recovery programs during my 20 year addiction and I know what works and what doesn’t. So I vowed to always tell the truth about the addiction and the recovery process.
When did you know it was time to get help, Flindt?
After a 20-year addiction, I finally realized that I was going to die if I didn’t get help but I didn’t know what to do. I had been to several inpatient and outpatient facilities and always failed. I had cried wolf so many times before that no one would have believed me if I told them I was really serious this time about getting clean. After my open heart surgery in 2000, I continued using pain killers for another year. I now had a valid reason to keep using and of course the doctors kept giving me as much as I wanted. Then came 2001, I weighed 155lbs and looked like I had incurable cancer. Fortunately for me, my best friend took a hard stand with me and got me into the Betty Ford Treatment Center. It saved my life. But as anyone who works a serious recovery program will tell you, it is always up to the addict to get clean and sober and stay that way. Family and friends can only do so much.
Are you surprised to hear about the prevalence of drug abuse, especially among young people, Flindt?
No, not at all and particularly with prescription drugs. The drug use is not noticeable at first, it’s easy to hide, you can’t smell it, and your teen is in a good mood. Most teens are always in a bad mood! We have to keep in mind that most teenagers experiment to some degree whether parents believe it or not. No teenager says “I want to be a drug addict when I grow up,” but these kids and most parents do not understand the addictive nature of opiates (Vicodin, Norco, Percocet and benzodiazepines, Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, etc.) A person can become dependent on these drugs within thre weeks, that doesn’t mean they’re a drug addict yet, but after long term use the body actually requires the drug. Now the person will do just about anything to get the drug. That’s when the addiction sets in and the addict behavior starts to appear. Now the trouble really starts to show. Most teens can hide their abuse or dependency thru their high school years, but I’m here to tell you, it always catches up to them by the time they turn 21.
We have seen over 400 families in the last three years and 95 percent of the families that walk thru our door seeking help live north of Shaw Avenue and their kids went to high school at Clovis West, Bullard, San Joaquin Memorial, Clovis North, Buchanan, Clovis High and Fresno Christian. One of the statistics that has always gotten to me is 90 percent of all adults (age 18-35) with an addiction started in their teens. There is something wrong with this picture. Parents need to wake up, get involved, drug test them randomly and know what your kid is doing
How many students have you reached with your message? What is your goal, Flindt?
Just over 150,000 since we began. Obviously our goal is to reach as many as possible. We have made great strides with certain school districts and universities, but this is still a subject that some schools don’t necessarily want to address, and I just can’t understand that. Twenty-five hundred teens everyday across this country try a narcotic painkiller for the first time. New statistics now show that prescription drug overdoses kill more Americans than motor vehicle accidents. There is now an enormous increase in heroin use among our teens simply because it’s cheaper than prescription drugs. We have to reach the students and particularly, their parents. This is truly an epidemic were facing among our youth.
What signs can people watch for if their loved ones are addicted to prescription drugs, Flindt?
The list is long, but here are a few: Weight loss, having a large sugar intake i.e.; sodas, candy bars, etc., increase in smoking tobacco, spending a lot of time in the bathroom, staying up late and sleeping during the day, change in friends, lack of motivation, excessive yawning and massive mood swings. People can go to our web site at www.GotPainUsa.com and find out more of the signs and symptoms.