Thursday, February 11, 2016

I Am Not An Addict


    I am not an addict. Those that know me may think that statement is a no-brainer. I’ve never even tried cigarettes. (OK once! But they were menthols and really really bad!) I am talking about harder drug and those have never crossed my lips. Well… Now days, that depends upon your definition. You, and the FDA. Because now days, pain medication is the addiction of ‘choice’. Like orange is the new black right? Or is it?
    Are you confused yet? Cuz I sure am. And I take pain meds so I, for one, should not be. But I am. And here’s why: the FDA has decided that doctors are not smart enough to prescribe pain meds correctly, so they have decided they need to put rules in place. “Guidelines” as they call them. Dosing recommendations as well as recommendations on how often patients need to be seen in order to obtain refills. All in an effort to curb addiction to Rx pain meds. But for people like me, these guidelines are just adding to our pain.
    To start with and so you know where I am coming from, here’s my rundown:I have back issues. ( And you say so does everyone.) Well, in July 2014, I fractured my spine at L-2. In December 2015, I fractured my spine again at T-10. I have arthritis in my tailbone due to fracturing that falling out of a tree as a child. That now makes sitting really painful. In an attempt to strengthen my back, I started PT. That required an MRI to make sure my back could handle it. The MRI showed narrowing around my spinal cord and bone spurs at C-6. (I just thought I was sleeping wrong all these years) And my spine is osteoporotic. Meaning the bones are now fragile. Add to that being 6’2” tall in 2014 and 6’0” tall now and something is compressed! So yeah-I have back issues.
     Now don’t get me wrong, I KNOW there are people out there who abuse their pain meds and develop addictions. I KNOW there are people out there who have overdosed on pain meds. I lost a dear friend to an accidental overdose of her pain meds. And she was a nurse! But the majority of people out there on pain meds actually need them. Believe me. I cannot just call up my doctor, who has known me since his residency (my high school days), and get a script for Vicodin or Percocet. It doesn’t happen. I have been in pain for 20 years and was never given more than NSAIDs. But since my first back fracture, I have always had some on hand to help me through recovery and exercises.  Personally, I try not to take it. I try heat, stretches, my husband’s massages, or lying with my feet up first. But anyone with pain knows that that does not always work. And there are days you just move wrong. I can take up to two pills 4 times per day. That kills my pain and I can exercise and still deal with daily activities. Like showering. I like showering.
    Now, imagine living on that level of medication. I don’t. I do not HAVE to. YET. And I pray I never HAVE to. My online friends know that and they understand why. But I know several of them HAVE to live like that. And it sucks! So where a bottle of Vicodin lasts me months, it lasts them one single month. If that. Some are on more than one pain med. And even that does not always work. Imagine that. All our technology and smarts and so many still live in incredible pain.
    Next, imagine having to prove your pain exists. I just got my MRI results yesterday. So I never knew I had bone spurs in my neck. But it was what was said to me that was jarring. She said Now you have proof of all that pain. It’s not just in your head! Wait, what? There was a question when I was in your office crying back in August? I let you give me 22 shots in my head, neck and shoulders and there was a question about my pain? Oh My-----  And some people never get the proof that I just got. So there is always a question. Most docs are good about it. And there are ways of diagnosing pain without the purely visible scans like mine. But what’s going to happen to those people now?
    You see it’s already happening. People who have been well managed for years on a certain med or dosage have had their dosage reduced or their med changed due to the new guidelines. And many are already in  more pain! Some have run out of medication while waiting to be seen before getting a refill. And don’t ask what happens to pain patients who go to the ED. Talk about judgmentalism
    All of this doesn’t even address those who cannot PROVE their condition. Tell me how that’s even appropriate. And these are all people who have had the same doctor dealing with the same condition for years. My statements aren’t addressing the patient that has multiple doctors writing scripts for the same or multiple pain meds; the biggest red flag of a true addict. I consult with all my docs about my pain but only one writes the scripts for it, and they all receive all my test results so they all know every diagnosis and condition I have. That’s how we keep it real. And trust me, the pain is real!
    So we are back to the beginning. With me telling you I am not an addict. Even lying on the floor popping Vicodin every 6 hours when my back is toast, I am not an addict. I wouldn’t take it if I didn’t need it. I wouldn’t take any of my 7 meds if I didn’t need them. And everyone in my pain group is the same. If we could function without these meds, even in some sort of pain, we would. In fact, we do. Because none of us takes the full dose if we don’t have to. And if we do, it’s because it doesn’t end our pain. But we keep going anyway. We are just that strong.


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