Thursday, June 2, 2011

Not a Junkie

Thank you to Blurbette and #TeamAfterParty for bringing this simmering topic back to a brain boil.

Days like today find me feeling like a junkie. At least, I think that other people may see it that way. See, the doctor that signs my pain prescription took a long vacation around the holiday, a vaction which happened to include the day my Rx needed to be filled. So, I was, of course, left waiting. I have only rarely experienced any sense of urgency from medical professionals regarding pain treatment.

After years of fighting and enduring, I did finally get my health pros to take my pain seriously. My GP/gateway provider was particularly hesitant. He did decide (eventually!) that my pain is indeed real, and I am not seeking to sell my pills on the street. Even so, my ability to live my day to day life with at least some freedom of pain is not, and has never been, a priority for anyone with a sheepskin.

The difference between opiate dependence and opiate addiction is not obvious to the casual observer. One of the reasons I hate being called an addict is that addiction is a whole different experience, and I do not want to appropriate that experience set as my own when my addictions are mild: caffeine and nicotine.

I am dependent. This means that I require opiates to modulate my pain (it is long past being negated through most anything) and get through even a vaguely normal day. I acquire them through completely legal means, and there has never been any solid inquiry regarding my integrity. By “no solid inquiry” I, of course, mean other than the default suspicion that accompanies using opiates in the first place!

I take a very strong opiate, and still I do not have pain free days.

People dependant on opiates go through withdraw just like addicts do. The difference between dependent and addicted is not a physical one, in my experience, but a moral one. Unless you are willing to break the law and either buy off the street, or doctor shop, or whatever – there is nothing you can do but wait for the duly appointed authority figure in the matter to get off their DAMN ASS and take care of business.

It is not as if I am the one that insists that I need opiates to control my pain. I tried, both through my own suggestion, the suggestions of friends and strangers, and my DEA worried docs’ suggestions just about every non-opiate pain killer out there. I have also, a very few times, drunk myself into a stupor as a last resort escape from consciousness, if not pain. My liver is still not happy about any of that. To be honest, if killing a chicken in the light of the full moon could relieve my pain, I would probably do it. Nothing works but opiates, and I had a truckload of Nancy Reagan to get out of my damn head before I could even begin to be okay with that.

Extreme, unrelenting pain is insane making. No, I am not taking a poke at folks that qualify as insane – I mean that extreme pain can cause symptoms similar to several diagnosable mental illnesses. Pain can lead to shortness of temper, irritability, paranoia, loss of cognitive function, loss of memory, compulsive behavior, self-harm (in my opinion, this is an attempt to set off the CNS’s pain gate function), loss of physical ability, and unpredictable bouts of extreme anger, frustration, guilt, morose, ennui, and pissed-off-ness. Yeah, ahh, those would be, you know, industry terms…

As I write this, I am coming up on missing my first dose. Within a day after that, if it goes that far, I will have extra super flu-like symptoms (lupus is kind of like having the flu all the time anyway), I will hate the whole damn world, and my vocabulary with mainly consist of the kind of language people use when they tell the Aristocrats joke. It is all I can do right now to try to accomplish all the things that will need to be done for a little while in case I need to retreat to my bed, curl up under a blanket I will then play Too Hot Too Cold with, and spit random curses at the world.

There are a lot of side effects I experience that I am not, and will probably not go into here or with much of anyone that does not need to know. And my experience with this may not the same as anyone else’s, let alone everyone else’s.

Oh, and every six months I have to go though a “Do you still really need these pills?” appointment. Look, if I was all better one of the first things I would do is call all the docs that have been humane, recognized my humanity and sing their praises; then call the other docs and describe, in loud detail, what anatomically impossible feats I would like them to perform for me.


As of today, the day I post this, everything is fine. If you were kind enough to have a thought about my well being… well, first, bless you heart! Caring about people on the internet! You are an exemplary human being, Gentle Reader. Second, I am okay. This article was written early, in order to make sure I had something to post even if my doc did not get back to me in time to take away my short term ticket to hell. My doc was still gone, but my old doc is in the same office, was in attendance, and she did come through. So I am okay, and no more likely to explode at anyone than I am on any other regular.


  1. I sincerely hope you are okay and doctors are assholes and don't even get me started on insurance. Luckily my husband, who has suffered debilitating chronic pain for the past fifteen years, has had good pain care docs, but his current one does occasionally forget and takes off for his practice in AUSTRALIA (we're in Arkansas!) for a month without making plans for his patients' refills.

    My husband has also been accused of being a drug addict, usually by family members who are trying to justify their own problems. I always point out that I've never known an addict to *forget* to take drugs, but my husband does sometimes forget to put a fentanyl patch back on after a shower. And then he wonders why he feels so crappy a few hours later. . .

  2. @Handflapper - Thank you! I am doing okay. Australia?!? Wow. Now sometimes I have felt like a complete bitch when I am all "Where are MY PAIN MEDS?!?" and the office says "Oh, your doc is in Honduras giving poor kids vaccines." Poor kids need to not die more than I need pain meds, but on the other hand, I still want my Rx!

    Sometimes I think that the pain-meds-are-bad is from the same place as poor-people-must-not-be-trying comes from: some Puritanical throwback that looks ridiculous as soon as you turn the light on it, but seems reasonable in half-shadow.

    Thank you for taking the time to respond to this - I have just started reading your blog and I really like it!

  3. Just wanted to offer a *fist-bump* of chronic pain solidarity. I'm currently nursing the wounds I caused when taking enough opiates to control my back pain (a car accident, 24 years ago, left me partially disabled). I don't do them on purpose: when I sleep, I scratch myself, including scratching my shins with toenails or heelbone, whatever works, and I not infrequently wake up with scrapes and worse.

    I'm very lucky, though, to live in Canada, and to have an AMAZING doctor (she's been my doc for sixteen years now), who gives me two three-month prescriptions at a time, one post-dated for three months in the future.

    I make no apologies for my usage, nor my usage of other prohibited substances (*puffpuff*), and I make a clear distinction between my necessary use, and any form of addiction. I'm no more addicted to them than I am to air: they're something I need to be able to continue functioning, no more nor less.

    I do, however, have to forget many possible careers, because many of the things I'd be well-suited for are so frowny about people taking meds that I'd never get past their background checks, plus I still have to deal with nominal criminals to get hold of parts of my meds.

    It all rather sucks. So yeah.


  4. @CaitieCat *fist bump* Much solidarity with you!

    Oh, wow - I don't smoke anything questionable because my docs could turn me away if I did and they found out. But it makes me so mad that if I moved a few hundred miles north I would qualify for, and would have access to medical smoke. Grrr!

    It sucks, but getting it out there makes it a little better.

  5. It makes me sick how undertreated pain is in this country. Doctors are so terrified of losing their licenses or accidentally prescribing to a drug seeker, that legitimate pain patients do not get the strength or number of pain pills that they truly need.

    I suffered from endometriosis and adenomyosis for about 10 years before I had my hysterectomy. During that time I became desperate for pain relief and my doctor would give me maybe 10 lowest strength vicodin A MONTH. Out of desperation I began buying pain pills online, and became addicted as well as dependent. To this day I think if I would have had appropriate pain management, I might have been saved from that.

    I believe it's better to give 100 drug seekers what they want than to let one pain patient suffer. People should not have to worry that they sound like a drug seeker when they truly need the medication.

    It might be worthwhile for you to go to an actual pain management doctor (if you aren't already). They are more likely to take your symptoms seriously and give you what you need than some other docs. I wish I would have known that when I was sick!

    AHodges (adrienne porter)

  6. @AHodges - I am so glad you spent some of your time on my blog, thank you!

    Pain is so under-treated that it is just despicable to think of that much unnecessary suffering.

    I have looked into pain management doctors, but I am put off by the draconian, extortionist "agreements" one has to sign to even get in the door. My current doc tries that about once a year, and I have to explain again that this is unnecessary and kind of illegal. Sigh. I also tell him I know he has to do it and I do not blame him personally.

  7. Thank you for the info. It sounds pretty user friendly. I guess I’ll pick one up for fun. thank u

    Opiate Addiction

    1. I am glad you found the article helpful. I am not sure what you are going to pick up for fun, though...


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