Drugs are great.
Drugs are what let me live my life. Along with a strict exercise regimen and yoga stretches, medication loosens my tight muscles, quiets the shouting pain, and lets me move forward.
One of my parents’ main concerns about me taking narcotic pain medication on a daily basis is that I’ll wind up in rehab for prescription drug abuse. We know people who have had to be hospitalized, and they were like me — spine injuries. Broken backs.
It might comfort them to know that while “drug use is common, drug addiction is rare.” Some people are just predisposed to it. While I certainly have non-immediate family members who have made some pretty poor life choices, we haven’t shown a predisposition to narcotic drug abuse. If I run out of Vicodin and there are a few days before I can get a new prescription, I’ve been able to handle the withdrawal symptoms.
I take Vicodin on an almost-daily basis, generally in the evening when I’m exhausted and sore. I used to take Tramadol, which is a lesser synthetic opioid. The trouble is that I am now on three nerve medications that, when paired with Tramadol, can cause Serotonin Syndrome. This syndrome occurs when there is too much serotonin in the body, causing agitation, vomiting, rapid heart rate, changes in blood pressure, and hallucinations.
Tramadol used to be my go-to medication. It was stronger than over-the-counters, but not strong enough to worry others (like a Vicodin or Percocet). However, when I started this new cocktail of Cymbalta, Lyrica, and Nortriptyline, I was told to avoid the Tramadol.
The problem is there’s a sizable gap between what the nerve medications cover and where the pain ends. “What can I take when the pain gets bad?” I asked my doctor.
“Either Tylenol or Vicodin,” she replied.
Every month is a fight with my doctors to get medication. Narcotic meds are controlled so tightly that I, with my decade of experience in the medical system, have to advocate for my right to be medicated. No refills are given. Doctors fear that their licenses will be suspended if they prescribe too many narcotics to patients. I’m shuffled among my team of doctors until I find a practitioner to prescribe what I need. Each month I call up and beg for Vicodin, balancing on that delicate line between sounding like a hurting patient versus a crave-filled junkie. I can’t function in my job without medication. I can barely put on pants without my meds, much less help clients with estate plans. Meanwhile, Governor Charlie Baker is planning to kick off his tenure with a fight against prescription drug abuse. While this is admirable and certainly needed, it’s only going to make my life more difficult.