There is an opioid epidemic in this country and there are no easy answers. The opioid epidemic specifically refers to the growing number of deaths and hospitalizations from opioids, including prescriptions, illicit drugs, and analogues (chemical analogues of illegal drugs are developed and sold in order to circumvent laws). In recent years, death rates from these drugs have ramped up to over 40,000 a year, or 115 a day, across the US. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, largely due to the opioid epidemic.
That does not stop me from asking the question: “If there is such an epidemic, why can’t I get my hands on it??”
Terrible, I know. But I ask this question, as well: “What is worse? Opioid addiction, or living every single day in pain?”
Pain makes people desperate. People like me. I have chronic pain diagnosis, multiple! I’ve been dealing with some of these since my late 20’s – and it only gets worse as I get older. In fact, at the risk of violating HIPPA laws against myself (is that a thing? ha!) – here’s the stupid list:
- Ankylosing Spondylitis
- Rhomboid Muscle Pain
- Piriformis Syndrome
- Greater Trochanteric Bursitis
- Gluteus Medius Enthesopathy
- Medial Superior Cluneal Nerve Entrapment Syndrome
- Tendinopathy of Left Rotator Cuff
- Dorsal Scapular Nerve Dysfunction
- Sciatic Pain
- Sacroiliac Ligament Sprain
- Sacroiliac Joint Pain
- Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction
I am on daily prescription medications of Gabapentin, Duloxetine, and Diclofenac for pain and nerve pain relief. It helps – but only marginally. I combine the medications with steroid injections in my hips, lower spine, and knees. This also helps, but only temporarily – the injections only last for 3-4 months before the pain comes raging back again. I also worry about the side effects of those injections – those include weight gain, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis.
I do yoga, which helps to take my mind off things. I try to move as much as possible – especially after I’ve had the injections because it’s tolerable enough for me to exercise because I know that losing weight will help my symptoms.
Despite all of this, I can’t get a fucking Vicodin to save my life.
So, yea – I know pain. We’re great friends. Pain and I hang out together ALL THE TIME. The pain burns, bad – – like someone injected some capsaicin in my lower spine and hips (that’s the nerve pain) – – and the pain stabs, and aches and it’s sharp, never dull. I don’t want to lay down, I don’t want to sit, I also don’t want to move around or stand or walk. There are literally ZERO positions in which I am comfortable – so I’ve become very good at putting a smile on my face anyways … telling some jokes, relying on humor to get me through and so my family and friends don’t have to deal with a fucking bitch in pain all the time. It’s not their fault.
Where is the relief for people like me? I don’t want Percocet, Oxycontin or Vicodin for the high – – I want it for the pain relief it offers on nights that I just cannot sleep because I cannot get comfortable – ever. After 3 nights in a row of this, where is the quality of life?
Also, the nurse in me – – and just my common sense, tells me that that my question/answer to the left is not true – – but it FEELS true.
Do you want to know what kind of desperation pain brings into a person’s life? The desperation to consider asking around for a source … ya know … a hookup. I live in an NFL town – there has GOT to be a hook up around here. I’ll pay cash! I can afford whatever it is.
The desperation to decide to drive across the state border to either Michigan or Illinois where Cannabis is legal because there are strains out there that relieve pain, while also allowing you to stay mentally sharp and engaged because it’s not the god damned HIGH I’m looking for – – it’s pain relief. Transporting back home, across state lines, is a federal offense – – but, worth it? Maybe.
The desperation to consider flying down to San Diego and then driving to Tijuana to score some of the medicines I cannot get here – despite the risks of crossing the border with my stash.
The desperation to lurk around in the ‘DarkWeb’ and risk an online purchase with bitcoin.
These are all desperate measures that I have not tried yet – – but I’m getting close, I really am.
I had an honest 1:1 conversation with my doctor and I asked her the same question and pain versus addiction.
I get it. The doctors are being held responsible for people selling this stuff on the streets. Doctors are being sued for people who suffer from addiction or, god forbid, die from an overdose.
What if I sign a waiver, though? Releasing them of all responsibility for my actions?
My doctor told me she’s not worried that I’ll sell it on the streets. She said she is worried about addiction and overdose and the havoc that addiction brings to people’s lives. What if, instead, I become addicted to pain relief? Is that such a bad thing? What if I agree to come in every single month, even if I have to pay cash out of my own pocket because my insurance won’t cover so many visits – and answer all of her questions, and let her run tests to determine if I am becoming a danger to myself?
Doctors have the capability to provide patients like me relief. They won’t do it, though. No matter how many times you ask, or how desperate you become. You can even break down in big fat crocodile tears in their office, and they are not moved. Believe me, I know.
My pain is chronic. I’m going to have it for the rest of my days on this earth. I know that opioids are not 100% the answer – however, there are days where I am in tears, just sitting in my chair because the pain is so bad. Night after night that I cannot get a decent sleep because pain prevents me from sleeping … and then if I do fall asleep, the pain wakes me up in short order to remind me that it’s there, hanging out – – wanting to talk, or something. These are the moments in my life that an ‘as needed’ script for Percocet would really take that edge off and allow me to function. Allow me to have a normal conversation without being an asshole. Allow me to smile, and to laugh and forget, if only for a few hours, that the pain is ravaging my body all the time.
Honestly, pain desperation makes me feel horrible. All of those things I listed that I consider doing are all illegal and that’s not me. I’m not that person. I know addicts, and people who have died from overdose – – and I don’t want that for anyone. I understand the epidemic and the limitations that the medical industry has placed on access. I really, really do.
There are no answers for people like me – – and there are millions of us out there, suffering every single minute of every single damn day with no answers and no end in sight. The feeling is hopeless and scary and sad.
Is it more hopeless than addiction? More or less scary than overdose? More or less sad? I don’t know – I have never been addicted to anything other than smoking (I know, shut up.)
All I know is that pain is a monster. It’s unforgiving and mean. There are no answers and this post isn’t going to find any answers for me (or you, if you suffer) – – but it allows me to vent and open up about it. Maybe someone out there can recommend a non-prescription treatment that they have found helpful, I don’t know. I feel like I’ve tried them all – – but, maybe.
In the meantime, pain and I will just be over here hanging out. If I appear or seem grumpy to you – just know that it’s me, and not you – and talk to me anyway. All I’m really trying to do is safeguard you from my sharp tongue and shitty mood. 🙂
Yes, we have an opioid epidemic in this country. We also have a pain epidemic.