In loving memory
Family takes action to stop prescription drug abuse
Published: Sunday, September 30, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
On May 17, 2011, Michael David Israel attempted to commit suicide. His attempt was unsuccessful. Michael was taken to a facility, which by mandate of law is supposed to monitor its patients and take care of them following their attempted suicide.
Michael, the then 20-year-old undergraduate architecture major, was released after one day. On June 4, 2011, he reached the pinnacle of his struggles and took his own life.
Suicide ranks as the second-leading cause of death among college students, according to Amanda Tyson-Ryba, a psychologist at UB Wellness Center. There was a memorial service held in Sept. 2011 to commemorate six UB students who took their own lives.
Michael was one of those six.
Michael was a fun-loving kid – just a joy to have around, Avi Israel, Michael’s father, told The Spectrum in April. A comedian with a knack for impressions, and an intelligent, bright kid with a good eye for detail – Michael built model airplanes in his spare time. He was compassionate and ready to offer a hug to his loved ones, never wanting an argument to end on bad terms.
Even though Michael had been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, he tried to be a normal kid.
Michael was diagnosed when he was 12 years old with the painful chronic inflammatory bowel disease that causes scarring and thickening of the intestinal walls. With the disease came many medication prescriptions.
With the prescriptions came addictions.
Between the ages of 12 and 18, Michael was under pediatric care and treatment for his disease. During the six-year span, he was treated properly without any gelatin encapsulate synthetic heroine or other addicting medications.
Michael’s treatment changed when he legally became an adult at the age of 18. It was illegal for his parents to have open access to any of his pharmacy, treatment or prescription records. Michael also switched from his pediatrician to an adult gastrointestinal specialist, a doctor who specializes in diseases of the stomach and intestines.
That’s when the doctor started prescribing the hard drugs, according to Avi.
The first round of treatment Michael received from his GI included a 15-minute consultation process, followed by a handshake at the door and a prescription for hydrocodone for the chronic pain Michael suffered due to his Crohn’s disease, according to Avi.
“The problem with these pain pills – these opiates – [is] they don’t actually fix the problem or help treat the disease, they just act as a mask for the real problem,” said Philip Luzio, a family friend of the Israel’s. “And they are addicting. He wasn’t being helped or treated; they were just prescribing him pill after pill and not fixing the actual problem.”
Michael visited a second primary care physician. He told this doctor he was struggling with depression, the likes of which stemmed from his condition as well as the medication he was taking. He was written a prescription for Cymbalta, a drug used to treat depression and generalized anxiety disorder.
Michael continued to struggle with anxiety and depression while continuing to take the diet of pills his doctors had prescribed for him.
He eventually visited to a third primary care physician in his quest for help. He repeated to this doctor his growing list of ailments and the anxiety that had taken a hold of his life and in return, this doctor handed Michael a prescription for Xanax, a drug used to treat anxiety and panic disorders.
Now Michael was taking 21 pills a day for both his Crohn’s disease and the depression and anxiety that accompanied it.
After about a year and a half, Michael realized he had become addicted to his pain medication, hydrocodone, which his doctors continued to prescribe him, according to Avi.
Michael never tried to hide his developed addiction.
He wanted help, but help seemed impossible to find.
Michael told his father about his addiction. Avi sought to help his son by getting him into a week-long detox program, but insurance only covered three days of the program. Avi paid the rest out of pocket. He desperately wanted his son to get the help he needed.
Michael’s parents felt the program couldn’t have helped him stay clean for more than a few days because after that week, doctors went right back to prescribing him hydrocodone.
His two-year struggle with his addiction to opiates was getting the best of him so Michael called his drug counselor to try and enroll himself in another detox program.
“Within five minutes, his counselor told him that there were no beds for him and that they could not help him,” Avi said. “He was dismissed. He was ignored.”
That day, right after that phone call, Michael took his own life. After two years of battling not only his Crohn’s disease, but also his continued dismissal and eventual addiction, it became too much for him.