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Addicted To Pain Killers?

Days after an accusations surfaced in the National Enquirer, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh surprised his listeners and admitted to a long-time addiction to pain medication.

The conservative radio talk show host, who admitted Friday that he had an addiction to pain medications, won't say which drug he is addicted to. But a former housekeeper was quoted in the National Enquirer earlier this month, saying Limbaugh abused popular Oxycontin. Oxycodone products, like Oxycontin and Percocet, and hydrocodone products are now widely known to be addictive if misused.

So The Early Show invited Dr. Joel Nathan, who is the director of the Addiction Recovery Institute in New York, to provide details about the dangerous addiction that not only impacts Limbaugh, a famous radio personality, but more than 1.9 million other Americans, as well.

He says, "It's an equal-opportunity disease and affects all on the economic ladder." And he says it is becoming more prominent in the medical field in general.

The reason? Dr. Nathan explains, "Physicians are being taught to treat pain aggressively. However, in 1 percent of patients who are taking these pain medications, they take it long after the pain is gone."

Dr. Nathan notes, "It's almost like the steroid of the business community, whereas in the gym bodybuilders use steroids for enhanced performance, in business, performance is enhanced with Oxycontin-containing products."

And this is what Rush Limbaugh is reportedly addicted to. The medication is designed to have a time-released effect. You take it to get 12 hours of relief, but people who abuse it crush it so that the pain-killing properties are ingested all at once. It produces an incredible high causing euphoria, Nathan says.

"The body makes endorphins," he says, but when opioids (made in the laboratory as opposed to opiates which come from poppy plants)are used to make artificial endorphins, the body stops making its own.

Asked what takes people over the edge from pain management to addiction, Dr. Nathan responds, "Genetics plays a great role in this. People are predisposed to become addicted to opiates long before their first pill. Also, there are psychosocial aspects. People who have depression take an opiate and feel great, getting a secondary gain besides pain relief. They feel happy and more content and more productive."

Once addicted, Dr. Nathan says, the person needs to be on guard for the rest of his or her life. He says, "Addiction is a chronic relapsing progressive disease. It takes continued treatment and beating an addiction is a lifelong process.

According to this week's Newsweek, the DEA has reported that at least 1.9 million Americans have admitted taking Oxycontin illegitimately and call Oxycontin "one of the most abused prescription drugs."