Mike Sorrentino, a personal trainer turned underwear model, quickly rose to stardom when he was cast in MTV’s popular reality show Jersey Shore. With the self-created nickname “The Situation,” or simply “Sitch,” Mike turned a life of partying into a branding empire, which included endorsements for shoes, vitamins and more. He was considered one of the highest paid reality stars in the world. In 2010, however, everything changed after he sustained an injury on a hit dance competition and was introduced to a highly-addictive prescription painkiller — the opiate oxycodone.
Opiates are one of the most addictive substances in existence. “Americans represent 5 percent of the global population. We consume 90 percent of all the opiates produced,” says Joani Gammill, an addiction specialist and author of The Interventionist. “Prescription drug dependence has outsourced alcoholism, so alcoholism is no longer king, and when you hear that, you realize we've got a big problem."
The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 2 million people in the United States are addicted to prescription opiates, and stats show that someone is the U.S. dies from prescription drug abuse every 19 minutes. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that 11 million Americans regularly consume prescription drugs in ways other than prescribed.
"After probably 2 or 3 months, I realized that I needed them on a daily basis just to get through my day, where in the past, I had used fitness to get by. That was my medicine," Mike explains. "I found myself working out less. I found myself being a little bit more irritable, taking more than prescribed."
After his family's wake-up call, Mike agreed to enter a rehabilitation facility. "As soon as I was entered into detox, I think the first day, they put you on suboxone film," Mike says. Mike's rehab process
helped him overcome his prescription pill addiction, but he currently takes suboxone daily to keep his urges under control.
Suboxone is a medication that suppresses withdrawal symptoms and cravings for opiates. While suboxone has proven effective in weaning addicts off opiates, critics of the drug say it’s simply replacing one addiction with another.
"I'm not a doctor. I can only tell you what has worked for me and what I'm currently doing," Mike says. "I kind of have this thing that says if you look too far ahead, you're going to trip over your own feet. So, I'll take it day by day."
On moving forward and maintaining sobriety, Mike says, "The Jersey Shore has been through a lot. It's being rebuilt, and I guess you could say almost the same thing about me. You never can be too positive or too confident in something like addiction because it's very uncertain. I mean, this is the rest of your life you're talking about. That's why I speak in days because if I can just concentrate on 24 hours and be the best Mike that I can be in 24 hours, I've got a good shot at winning."