Woman's Addiction Ahead of its Time

Updated: Monday, 23 May 2011, 10:41 PM CDT
Published : Monday, 23 May 2011, 9:50 PM CDT

KRISTINE GALVAN
Reporter

HOUSTON - Life is pretty refreshing for Becky Vance. These days, just a simple walk in a park is enough to make her smile.

But back in 1981, life was much different.

"I went back to school and got my MBA," Vance said.

== Success Hid Growing Problem ==

As a young 20-something, Vance's career flourished. She was an office manager for several doctors. It was her job to call in prescriptions, order drug samples and take inventory of supplies.

Can you guess what happened next?

"(I) always got great reviews, great raises and (was) just climbing up that corporate ladder," she said. "But what people didn't really realize, I was quite the drug addict. I worked for doctors so that was part of the easy access. They were available. We had a closet full of sample drugs. A lot of the prescription drugs I did, I don't even know where they came from because we had a drug dealer who specialized in showing up with suitcases full of pills."

== Ahead of its Time ==

Now completely sober, Vance's addiction seems like it was almost ahead of its time.

Back in the 80s, drug counselors at Houston's Santa Maria Hostel , a woman's-only facility, dealt with everything from crack cocaine to heroin. If it was a street drug, they saw it.

But women struggling with prescription drugs? That was almost unheard of.

Not so anymore.

"We are now seeing at least 40 percent of our clients with problems with prescription drugs," said Kay Austin, the center's chief executive officer.

== Treatment while Parenting ==

That's right: At least 40 percent of the women who need Santa Maria aren't even hooked on street drugs. At the center, they can seek treatment and parent at the same time.

There's a nursery onsite for babies, classrooms for after-school activities, and a health clinic for sick children and moms suffering from withdrawals.

The moms share their bedrooms with their children and share their apartment with at least one other roommate while they complete treatment.

== Faces of Addiction ==

And just who are these faces of addiction?

Executive director Donna White said she's seen the following people:

-- Engineers
-- Nurses
-- Teachers
-- Hospital heads

"There was a person who came in, college graduate, finished the University of Houston psychology degree, got in a car accident, started taking Vicodin, and when she came in she was up to 21 pills a day," White said. "She lost her child during her addiction, lost her job."

== Marriages, Communities Crumble ==

And marriages? Yeah, that too.

Attorneys say prescription drug abuse is becoming a driving force in filing for divorce. Men can be addicts too, but according to longtime family law attorney Don Robinowitz , it's becoming more apparent in women.

"When someone has a drug addiction, whether it's recreational or prescription, you're gonna have the fallout," Robinowitz said. "You're gonna have arrests. You're gonna have money being squandered. You're gonna have medical issues. The children are not going to be properly cared for."

"As we see prescription drug abuse becoming more of a problem in our community, it is really important that adults realize that the stand they take will affect the choices their children will make," said Amanda Mclaughlin, with the Bay Area Alliance for Youth and Families .

Just like it was decades ago, marijuana remains the most commonly used drug, but prescriptions now rank second.

"I don't even remember my 20s because I didn't quit using until I was 29," Vance said. "Now I can wake up and I'm excited to greet the day. I'm not coming out of a stupor. It's a totally different life."