A Perspective from New York: Plastic Surgery and Opioid Addiction
We don’t have a problem with Jamie Lee Curtis—on the contrary, we admire her work as an actress. But we do have to object to some recent statements made about the celebrity’s experience with plastic surgery.
The headline of the article we spotted set our teeth on edge:
Jamie Lee Curtis Says Plastic Surgery Sparked 10-Year Opioid Addiction Struggle Full of Stealing
Let’s be clear, we don’t dispute that Jamie Lee had a problem with opioids, or that plastic surgery may have been the springboard. What we would like to point out, however, is that her experience is quite unusual. There’s no reason that the average person should become addicted to painkillers due to a cosmetic procedure. If the subject comes up in our New York plastic surgery consultation room, we assure patients that if they follow our instructions, they should have nothing to worry about.
Given that the recent article on a site called “toofab” went on to assert, “Jamie Lee Curtis’ 10-year addiction to painkillers began with plastic surgery,” we’re concerned that people who interested in optimizing their appearance with cosmetic surgery may get caught up worrying about this miniscule risk.
Cosmetic Surgery and Pain
Interestingly, the actress relates that she became an opioid addict after undergoing a “minor plastic surgery in 1989” for puffy eyes. That procedure was almost certainly eyelid surgery on the lower lids, and perhaps the upper lids as well. Medically termed “blepharoplasty,” eyelid surgery is one of the least painful procedures on a cosmetic surgery menu. Many of our New York eyelid surgery patients take no prescription painkillers at all following blepharoplasty. If they choose to do so, invariably they only take the drugs for a day or two. The minor discomfort men and women feel after eyelid surgery is usually described as “a scratchy feeling” or that of a small cut. This kind of discomfort, along with average bruising and swelling, can often be handled with measures like Tylenol and cool compresses. Most people feel pretty good very soon after surgery, though it can be one to two weeks before they are ready to show off their new appearance.
It’s worth noting that there are other plastic surgery procedures that do cause discomfort that has most people using prescription drugs for a short time. For instance, tummy tuck patients typically use painkillers for a week or perhaps a little longer. But usually that’s the extent of it. We are very careful to ask our New York plastic surgery patients about their family history and experience with medication prior to scheduling a procedure, and we know other board certified plastic surgeons do as well. We have never had one of our patients become addicted to opioids.
More Reality Checks
Jamie Lee confessed that she comes from a family with addiction problems. Her father, Tony Curtis, battled both drugs and alcohol, and her brother died of a heroin overdose at a young age. According to Harvard Medical School, “there is plenty of evidence for a connection between genetic endowment and addiction to alcohol and drugs.” Not only is there a hereditary link, if addictive substances are available in the family environment, as they were in Jamie Lee’s case, that’s a factor too.
It’s also worth noting that it’s all too common for celebrity news to get sensationalized as it travels through the Internet. The original article about Jamie Lee Curtis ran in Variety under the headline:
Jamie Lee Curtis Opens Up About Being 20 Years Sober, Going Public With Her Addiction
As the story got picked up and regurgitated on other sites, the statements about the relationship between plastic surgery and drug addiction became increasingly provocative.
We come away from all this with two key takeaways. First, Jamie Lee Curtis indeed seems to have gone through a very rough patch, and we applaud her for sharing her story. Secondly, there is no reason for a prospective cosmetic surgery patient to be unduly concerned about becoming addicted to painkillers.
If you’re considering cosmetic treatment that may require you to take prescription medication, we urge you to be honest with your plastic surgeon about your family and your drug and alcohol use. If you are not and have never been addicted, no worries. If you do have history that needs sharing—share it and plan how to avoid future issues.
We would be pleased to talk with you about plastic surgery in New York at our practice. Give us a call at 212-570-6080.