Monday, February 23, 2015

Why Opioids Scare Me (After 15 Years of Prescribed Use)

Forward: I am not knocking the use of medication of any kind, especially if they help you.  Stick around to the end, please....

I was first prescribed Narcotics when I was about 14.  I remember my first bottle of Tylenol #3 like it was yesterday, and the pediatrician that gave it to me.  It was because of this first doctor's belief in my pain (at the time, very frequent migraines) that she was the first and only pediatrician we considered when Robbie was born.  I quickly grew tolerant, and it became Percocet.  Then Fioricet. In between, Vicodin... and a lot of it.

By the time I graduated High School I had a standing refill for Vicodin because of my migraines.

I spent twenty-four hours a day on Percocet for about three weeks after an "oral surgeon" botched my wisdom teeth surgery in 2007.  A couple more weeks on Percocet after an emergency cystectomy a few months later., and about 6 weeks non-stop Norco for knee pain that was bad enough to keep me off my feet throughout the start of 2008. By June, I had blown into my very first Fibromyalgia flare that lasted until my first pregnancy in 2010.

From then on I was on Norco daily.  In January 2013 I started morphine; in February I put on my first Fentanyl patch.  (When they asked if I was opiod-tolerant, I actually giggled.)

I mean it when I say I have been on opioids for more than half of my life.  I turn 30 in June.

When my doctor, whom had prescribed 90% of these medications for me over my lifetime, first told me that because of the drug laws passed in 2014 she was no longer prescribing pain medicine to anyone I freaked out.  They were sending me to pain management and throughout every doctor who had refused me anything that helped (Not going over those multitudes or anything else I tried along the way, this post is 100% about the narcotics.)  I panicked over losing my pain meds... the only thing that somewhat made me functional.

But I was still REALLY sick. I had spent the last year throwing up and lost somewhere around 90 pounds.  We thought the Fentynal might be to blame, but figured they wouldn't give me anything.

What they did end up giving me was worth far more: belief, complete and whole hearted, in my pain. And a STRONG desire to fix it, not just cover it up.  And a little important knowledge; I had become intolerant to my fallback, my safety net...  we tried backing me off of the patches slowly, but I only grew sicker.  Patches didn't last their full intended length of time and my withdrawal symptoms were extremely violent. I had developed "Opioid Induced Hyperalgesia." I had to get off of every single narcotic, and get off of them fast.

We forced me into an acute withdrawal, and they treated me with Suboxone, the same substance used in detox centers for heroin withdrawal.  My next step is Low-Dose Naltrexone, a complete opioid blocker with a remarkable reputation for treating symptoms of Fibromyalgia.

So now I'm terrified of others reacting how I did.  I'm scared that my friends and family with chronic pain and long-term (even appropriate, doctor supervised) medication use may also be suffering from their own attempts at making themselves better.  Or one day, will.  That one terrifies me to no end.  So I get hyper-aware, always trying to see if they exhibit the same symptoms I was exhibiting.  Not out of judgement, but out of the same fear a person who has experience flying through the windshield of a car has for people who don't wear seat-belts.  Out of "What if..." and "I can't bear anyone else experiencing my pain."

And it's not because of narcotics, or even medication, per say... it's because I grew so complacent in my treatment that when I started throwing up every day I just assumed it was my Fibro. (Doc didn't care, she was just happy I was losing so much weight.)  I assumed the increase in aches and pain were Fibro.  But they weren't - it was due to my meds.  As I learned after coming off the opioids, my Fibro was the same as ever... no better or worse, although I felt 1,000 times better and became predominately functional again.  I even bought a bike!  (Although I haven't used it yet, between weather and pain...)  Now I primarily am treated with vitamin therapies, chiropractic, massage, and soon the LDN.  And once again I have hope of being functional most days of the week, because I am.

It's just one more reminder to never grow complacent in your journey to be healthy and happy.