Vicodin found on a plane


You wouldn’t believe the stuff that I’ve found

On the road, the sidewalk, or ground

But it gave me a chill

When I picked up a pill

That was tan, not square, and not round

Synopsis: I’m a Family Practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. In 2010 I danced back from the brink of burnout, and honoring a 1 year non-compete clause, traveled and worked in out-of-the-way places in Alaska, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Zealand. After three years working with a Community Health Center, I went back to adventures in temporary positions until they have an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system I can get along with. Assignments in Nome, Alaska, rural Iowa, and suburban Pennsylvania stretched into fall 2015. Since last winter I’ve worked in Alaska and western Nebraska, and taken time to deal with my wife’s (benign) brain tumor. After a moose hunt in Canada, and a couple of gigs in western Iowa, I’m back in Alaska. Any identifiable patient information has been included with permission.

During my med school years at Michigan State, the student paper carried a piece written by a runner. He kept a journal not only of his mileage, but of the money he found.  The piece pointed out that as time progressed and the value of the dollar decreased, he found more and more change.

I read that before I knew about complex systems, and while I took his point, now I realize that as time went on, he probably improved his money finding skills.

I find money, too, but I don’t run any more. And the amounts that I find progress with the years, so that what I found this summer, in the triple digits, stands as my all-time record.

I’ve also found gold and diamonds, but so rarely I can tell you the weather on those days.

Cycling or strolling, I find tools, as well. I pick them up because I usually end up needing them.  An acquaintance says I find things because I’m a hunter.

Getting onto the plane in Omaha, I found a pill on the floor. It didn’t require a lot of skill; the tan color didn’t match the blue carpet.  After we settled into our seats, I pulled out my smart phone and used the Epocrates pill ID app.  I entered the imprint and the shape and discovered I’d picked up a Vicodin HP, containing 300 mg of acetaminophen (also called Tylenol) and 10 mg of hydrocodone.

We have a nationwide epidemic of opioid addiction; the government has acknowledged that fact to the tune of billions of dollars of funding. Hydrocodone is one of the most popularly abused drugs.  Physicians, pushed by the Pain, the 5th vital sign initiative, and driven by patient-satisfaction survey-driven reimbursement, bear most of the responsibility for this epidemic.

I had to wonder about the person who lost the Vicodin. Was it the one it was prescribed for?  Did they want it medically or recreationally?  What did the patient say to the doctor to get the original prescription, and how many times did that particular pill get remarketed? What drama and irony went into the backstory?

I hope that the fact of finding that pill doesn’t signal the ease with which doctors prescribe such meds, but I suspect it represents the inflation of the supply side of the abusable drug market in this country.

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2 Responses to “Vicodin found on a plane”

  1. Jacks Uniforms Says:

    You are a wise man Doc, and have a fantastic awareness/intuition on addicts and what we’d do to get a fix. I wish there were more Docs with your skills. M​

    On Sun, Dec 18, 2016 at 9:33 PM, Walkaboutdoc’s Blog wrote:

    > walkaboutdoc posted: “You wouldn’t believe the stuff that I’ve found On > the road, the sidewalk, or ground But it gave me a chill When I picked up a > pill That was tan, not square, and not round Synopsis: I’m a Family > Practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. In 2010 I danced bac” >

  2. walkaboutdoc Says:

    After all, most of my business comes, one way or another, from substance abuse. I’m including tobacco.

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