New detox center at St. Petersburg General Hospital helps hundreds kick prescription pill habit

Local woman says IF I Die Young special helped her

ST. PETERSBURG - The last time Elizabeth McDougal walked through the halls of St. Petersburg General Hospital, she struggled with a pain pill addiction. "I was in a bad car accident and I was prescribed pain medication."

When taking hydrocodone for pain didn't work any longer, a doctor gave her oxycodone.

"I stopped taking them and I got very sick.  When I went to explain this to a doctor, he didn't tell me it was withdrawal, he just gave me more and increased the amount."

She knew she had crossed the line to addiction, "When I started getting them not just from a doctor, when I had to run out and borrow them from people.  I got very ill last year, and almost died as a result of my drug use. I lost my children.  I lost everything."

After our special, If I Die Young, where we partnered with the Tampa Bay Times and St. Petersburg General Hospital to delve into the growing problem with pain pill addiction, Elizabeth decided to give the hospital's detox program a try.

More:  Watch the special, If I Die Young, in its entirety at http://wfts.tv/NUYk3l .

Dr. Thomas Sachs, who runs the program for St. Petersburg General Hospital, says, "It can be extremely dangerous to detox on your own. So you come here and we can give the person medicine to make sure they don't go through bad withdrawals. We also use vitamins and minerals to start building the person up from the inside as well. "

Elizabeth says, "The physical part of it was very comfortable. They made it very easy."

But detox isn't where this service stops. "I'm still in a program. I have a great support group and I follow the advice that I was given when I left here."

In the last year, Dr. Sachs has helped 382 people detox off drugs or alcohol in the safe hospital setting.  He says insurance does cover the service.

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