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By Karn Schmidt with introduction by T3Writes editor, Kat Edwards


For the second year in a row, we bring you the story of Stuart and Paulette. A sweet story about an older couple that get caught sneaking around in the woods together, taking hydrocodone and hiding from their families. At least, that’s what we keep peddling because it sounds nicer than the reality. The reality is that Solstice: A New Holiday Adventure is a story about a man who developed a pill addiction after the death of his wife and finds himself near-death, having to learn to let go and move forward.

Don’t let me scare you. This show is so sweet and funny. You will laugh a lot and walk out with a warm and fuzzy feeling in your heart, but I need you to keep the reality of Stuart’s prescription drug addiction at the forefront of your mind because I have a treat for you this week. This week’s blog contribution is from Karn Schmidt, long-time pharmacist and father to our own Jeffrey Schmidt.

So, without further ado, here’s a little pharmaceutical industry insight into a very real problem that is depicted in our very fantastical holiday offering:


I love how the fantasy of theatre is often a reflection of reality.  Stuart and Paulette, in the production of Solstice: A New Holiday Adventure at Theatre Three, demonstrate this in a very unique way.  You see, they are my customers.  I am a pharmacist and although Stuart and Paulette are figments of someone’s imagination, I see them every day at the pharmacy. They need their medication and they need it now.  Sure, they know they shouldn’t be out of their pain medication- not if they had taken it according to directions, but they need it now.  

“Please, Mr. Pharmacist, I’m going out of town and won’t have enough to last until I get back.”

“That’s what you said last month” I reply.

This is a reality story in which I play a part many times a day.  The pharmacy opens at 8:30am.  Usually before 9:00am, I’ve dispensed over 700 doses of Stuart’s and Paulette’s favorite candy.  There are times when I wonder if these fictional characters really aren’t that fictional after all.  Maybe they reflect a very real cultural shift in our society- do whatever it takes to cover or hide whatever we don’t like.  Please note that I don’t mean to imply that there are no legitimate uses for “Hydrocodone.”  It’s actually a wonderful medication.  It does relieve pain, it does relieve harsh coughing, and it does make you feel better. Sometimes it makes you feel so good that it becomes an answer for more problems than pain.  On the subject of pain, I’ve heard it said that “pain is often misunderstood and often underutilized.” Pain is a signal.  It’s trying to tell us something.  It’s trying to tell us that something is not right- that there is a cause for the pain and discovering that cause may give us the relief we seek.  This brings us back to the cultural shift I mentioned earlier. Are we seeking the cause of the pain in our lives or are we just trying to cover it up- make it go away?

Hydrocodone/acetaminophen has become the number one prescribed medication in the world today. I have to wonder if we are actually treating symptoms rather than treating conditions.  By the way, note that I included acetaminophen with the hydrocodone.  Acetaminophen is combined with the opioid in these formulations.  Taken in excess, acetaminophen (Tylenol) can result in liver problems.  (Sometimes the answer we seek presents a new set of problems.)  I’m sure most of you have heard or read that there is an opioid crisis in this country.  Are Stuart and Paulette victims?

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  1. Well said! I can attest to the fact that everything Karn has described is accurate and represents a clear and present danger. We have been using drugs to mask problems for a long time. The problem now is that the drugs of choice can and do kill.

  2. Dear Karn, I was thinking of you today. Yes, I still think of my first employer from 1973. I actually think of you often when some very young person gives me change and how glad so many years ago you taught me how to count it. Now a days the registar tells the cashier how much to give back and heaven forbid something happens to the registar and unable to give the customer the exact change. Their eyes glaze over with panic and I explain how to do it.
    I grew up and became a RN. Did you know that? I have seen the behavior you discribed so well in the hospital, too. Patients who come in with some ailment just to get their next fix and hopes the doctor sends a prescribtion home with them. Its sad really, Liver damage is no joke.
    I hope this comment finds you. It would be lovely to see you again. Dont be surprised if an old grey headed woman comes inside and asks to speak with the pharmacist.

    With much respect,
    Lois (Davis) Calcote