Sunday, May 16, 2010

Drugs and pain

I just read Nancy's post over at Life in the Second Half about whether or not the states that have approved marijuana for medical use have stepped across some invisible line. She links to a post from Land of Shimp who talks about her son recently being approved to buy medical marijuana for pain relief from a shoulder separation.

This whole debate reminded me of my own struggle with addiction to pain medication. When I broke my pelvis so badly in 2000, I woke up to find I was being medicated with oxycontin, morphine, and a bunch of other narcotics I knew nothing about. My dose was pretty high, and I was still in quite a lot of pain (I had six bad breaks in my pelvis and a shattered sacrum). I was wearing an external fixator drilled into my hip bones, which held my pelvis together, along with two 7-inch pins to reduce the sacral fracture. It was a long recovery, although they didn't allow me to lay around for long; I had to sit up within a couple of days, as I remember, and I used a walker to get around for a couple of weeks before graduating to crutches.

Those days are pretty hazy to me now, since I was in a fog from the drugs as well as the pain. But as I began to get better, I asked about the pain medication I was on. The doctor told me that when I felt capable of dealing with it, I could start tapering off on the drugs. Because I was not wanting to become dependent on them, I tried to do this within a few weeks after returning home.

I couldn't do it. Although I finally got down to taking the smallest dose available to me, I could not go without the drugs for longer than a few hours. In doing some research about oxycontin, I found that within seven days of use, you are addicted to it. And this is no small addiction, let me tell you! The first symptom was itching, like I had ants crawling around under my skin, a runny nose, and a strong desire to make it all stop. Eventually I called the doctor and asked for a smaller dose, and for some advice. He told me just to cut the pill in half! You can't do that, I knew, because it releases the entire time-release drug in your system at once. But he didn't know that.

This was before it became a sought-after street drug. I think it had not been used for long, and the drug companies were pushing it onto the doctors as a safe and effective pain reliever. Yeah, it is that, all right, but it's one of the hardest things I have ever done, getting off of it. I had a friend who became addicted to it and managed to get it prescribed by several doctors because of continuing pain. She could not get off it, and eventually committed suicide (I think because they threatened to cut her off). We had several conversations about our struggle to get free of this narcotic. I eventually used percocet and ibuprofen to wean myself off the stronger and more addictive oxycontin.

My question is this: if I can get ahold of this powerful drug just by asking my doctor for it, why is it that something that is far less addictive and harmful to me is not legal??? It would make me a criminal and give the authorities the right to put me in jail if I were to smoke pot for pain.

Just asking.


  1. I can't understand why pot is not legal..what a source of revenue..I think the government is missing the boat on this one..the drug companies probably don't want to see it legalized. If you can get pain relievers by prescription or even over the counter they make money..with pot they would be totally out of the picture.
    Back in 1979 or 1980 I was in the hospital for a long time .. I was on every pain reliever known to the medical profession..I had to go through withdrawl..what a shaky, sweaty mess I was for days..until it was flushed from my system.
    Far Guy takes Oxycontin but not on a regular basis...he has no problems getting a prescription surprises me, but the Doc's know how much he takes when he needs to take it. :)

  2. Sometimes doctors and drug companies has an agreement about the prescription of such drugs. I observed that when my Father was ill. They don't prescribe a much cheaper medicine other than that particular drug which are very expensive and sales agent are waiting outside the clinic to assist and explain about the drug The medicine the doctor has prescribed has a negative effect on my Father thus I stopped giving it to him.

    My pain reliever which I can buy over the counter is only the medicine that can suppress my bad headache, I know I am addicted to it although I can take the simple paracetamol instead of mefenamic acid which the doctor has prescribed. Well I thought maybe I should try going back to herbal medicines haha, I think it's safer and cheaper.

  3. I seem to recall hearing that many years ago there was an almost-successful movement to legalize marijuana, and then suddenly there was a big campaign to scare people and keep it criminalized. I think the big drug companies were behind it, but I could be mis-remembering. But I suspect they are still against legalization because they aren't set up to grow it and make money from it.

  4. This is the place where big business and the bottom line get in the way of what's actually best for the individual. I'm sure there are multiple reasons why marijuana hasn't been legalized here but I imagine it will happen eventually. Having been in rehab myself I can assure you I'm a firm believer in the beauty of a substance that's non addictive.

    Interesting subject.

  5. Wow DJan, I had no idea you fought this battle, too. Thanks for sharing your experience. I have only been addicted to cigarettes, many years ago, but I clearly remember how hard those things were to kick! It must have been horrible to be in so much pain and the only recourse was a drug that addicted you. We need to start rethinking Big-Pharma in this country.

  6. I am not sure what the answers are but I know when I quit smoking I went through a horrible time. I would never want to experience that again, I can only imagine what drug addiction would be like.......there should be something to control pain that is not addictive and excluding the drug companies would be a start.
    ......:-) Hugs

  7. I am a believer that this should be legalized. God put this here for a reason and no, I don't want every Tom, Dick, and Harry who want to be potheads to use it as an excuse. But they're gonna get it anyway. What happens is that something that could benefit many who are suffering is unavailable to those unwilling to go outside the law. And there is a TERRIBLE stigma attached to it. No one thinks twice about prescription pain relievers even though the side effects are horrid. And I can't take most of them anyway - not even Advil. I'm so sorry you had to go through the hell you did just to break free. How awful.

    I have a degenerative nerve disease that in many ways mimics MS. This would be the drug of choice for me, according to some in the medical community, but do I have a prescription? NO. I've never even asked for one for fear of being seen as irresponsible, excuse making, or worse.

    You were BRAVE to write about this, DJan. I don't know what the answer is but until big Pharma can figure out a way to make big MONEY, this will be an uphill battle. But I'm afraid the battle to dispel the stigma will be even harder.

  8. Will children who are exposed to marijuana smoke become stoned, too? Maybe, pot affects the people around the smoker, whereas a pain pill affects just one person?

  9. If pot were legalized the problem with the Mexican gangs would go away overnight. This would be a perfect way for our government to regulate something to make it safer and to collect taxes on something that would benefit many people. Our government (and Big Pharma) are evil for making this such a difficult thing for states to pass. Money will always win every argument in this country.

    Maybe it won't change because they know people could grow their own easily.

  10. Pain is something some can get used to so the pain pills are seldom used. For me, like you, when I get hurt, I hurt enough to welcome morphine and it seems to help a lot. I remember the last time for the collapsed lung I was able to get either a 5mg or a 10mg shot of morphine every hour depending on how much pain I was in. I was always surprised at how fast the reaction was.

  11. Well I popped back for a visit as I've been away for a while and I stayed to catch up on so many of your posts. You have such a great style that keeps me here. Given my new diet and exercise lifestyle I was inspired by your post on how you took up running - just terrific.

    Re the painkillers - it's pretty terrifying to know that you can be addicted to such things. As if we don't have enough things in life to test us. There was a problem here in the 90's where doctor's were doling out valium willy nilly. So many women in particular have had years of misery getting off it. Sometimes the psychological dependency is harder to cure than the physical. Glad you won that battle.

  12. It's good to know avout the addictive nature of oxycontin. I have been fortunate in not needing anything other than over-the-counter meds.
    I agree that pot should be leagalized and regulated and taxed.

  13. After reading your blog today, I thank my lucky stars I've never been in enough pain to require the hard stuff. As far as legalizing pot for medicinal purposes, I'm to the point of "why not?"
    I'm even to the point of legalizing it across the board and tax it.

    My biggest addiction was cigarettes and thought I'd never get off them. Why? Because I liked smoking a lot. I'd hate to think of what you or anyone goes through get off of serious drug like oxicontin or morphine after a long-term, pain management treatment.

    If you will recall, I broke my ankle in December and it hurt like the dickens for a few days. I took some over-the-counter stuff for a day or so, but I cannot imagine going through a broken pelvis, or any serious break, without some serious pain medication. Then, after the pain subsides to go through withdrawal from the pain medication? It sounds like a nightmare.

    Bottom line, whether or not to legalize pot for medicinal purposes should be a yes when put up against other drugs available for pain. If pot does alleviate pain, why shouldn't it be in a physician's tool box?

  14. Isn't Oxycontin Rush Limbaugh's drug of choice?

    Like so many things, hyped up fear stands in the way of doing what's logical. Marijuana should have been legalized years ago.

  15. I think it has to do with the fallout from the hippie days of the late 60's. Does the government think people that would benefit from medical marijuana are all going to become tie-dye wearing, love bead stringing hippies and start protesting on the streets. Ridiculous !!! People that have medical issues that could be relieved by marijuana should be able to get it.

  16. I'm like Lynn in the pain department, I have never needed anything stronger than Ibuprofen and hopefully never will. I did know that Oxycontin was addictive after reading about it being sold on the streets.

    I do believe Marijuana should be legalized as a pain reliever, not because I want to smoke it but because it would do away with a lot of illegal activity.

  17. Everyone else has already said it: Legalizing marijuana - I can still spell it! - would certainly solve a lot of problems, but there are too many corporations and lobbyists working to keep the negative stigma strong due to the financial threat. Money always trumps people.

    However, although responsible people would have a much easier time managing something like marijuana, as compared to those horribly addictive and destructive legal drugs you mentioned, smoking it still has a lot of inherent risks that should not be forgotten. For one thing, the relatively low physical dependency makes it easier to justify giving in to an extremely long-term emotional dependency. I loved it for years, and I still sometimes think about it, even all these decades later.

    Also, there's a HUGE risk to lungs. The smoke contains a MASSIVE amount of tar - remember scraping so much of it out of pipes and such? - and a LOT more chemicals than just the coveted THC. And gigihawaii's concern about children and second-hand smoke should not be discounted.

    But I would vote for its legalization without thinking twice because the people who just want to smoke it for the high are already smoking it, and yet it could help so many other people who are suffering with pain and addictions to pain meds. I once read that marijuana was by far the most helpful drug for people struggling with chemotherapy.

  18. Legalizing marijuana is long overdue. It is so stupid arresting people for such a petty crime. People do more harm to their liver with alcohol. After a really bad fall last year I took Hydrocodone for several weeks. It was rough getting off of it. I was so surprised how quickly the addiction develops.

  19. I think big PHARMA does not like any type of medicine on which they cannot impose an expensive patent. That is the reason why many cheaper medicines are not popular, or information given on them is not accurate.

  20. Wow! I didn't know that that drug was so adictive!! I use to smoke and still crave them from time to time.


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