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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

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It's Hip to Be High


Miotto says serious abusers become "doctor shoppers" -- going from doctors to dentists on an almost daily basis picking up one prescription after another.

One celebrity female patient of hers actually kept a computerized spreadsheet to track her prescription-collecting rounds. The woman ended up in full-blown liver failure and required a transplant due to her long-standing Vicodin habit.

One of the main ingredients in Vicodin is acetaminophen, also the main ingredient in Tylenol. Over time, acetaminophen "doesn't just cause a problem, it destroys your liver and you die," Miotto says. Alcohol makes the situation even worse and hastens the destruction of the liver.

While Vicodin and other prescription painkillers may seem cool, they can destroy more than your health, says William George, a professor of pharmacology at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans.

"When you go out and get a job and you're using these drugs that you have become dependent on, you're going to lose your job. Then where does that put you?" says George, who runs a nationally certified drug-testing laboratory. He says while celebrities may be able to get away with long-term addiction, most people in the real world can't because the decrease in mental alertness will become evident.

"People may want to tell you that [recreational use] isn't so bad," he says. "They're wrong for a variety of reasons, and young people need to hear that."

Miotto says she worries about the pro-drug message that a high-profile celebrity like Eminem sends to young people with his Vicodin tattoo.

"It lends an air of being chic and acceptable," she says. "It's sad really."

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