Sunday, May 3, 2009

Pain Medication

I was talking with someone today who said that her doctor gave her a prescription for Vicoden, 4 times a day, but that she didn't want to take it, "she could just tough it out." I didn't understand that at all, and yet here I am not wanting to be pushed in my wheelchair. Are we all a stubborn lot? Do we all have this feeling that we have to prove something to somebody? Here I am trying to prove that I'm independent, and yet I'm making funny faces at the logic of not taking pain medication because somehow that equates to "giving in." If the doctor can give you pills that will help you feel better, then why wouldn't you take them? I understand if you don't want to take them because you experience negative side effects. That makes sense to me; the side effects from some of the medications I take are quite harsh and hard to bear. But not taking them just to prove that you can handle it yourself, that just seems silly to me. Next time you have a root canal, are you going to skip the Novocaine and just tough it out? I don't really even understand natural childbirth. It seems to me, if an epidural is safe for both mother and baby, and eliminates pain, why wouldn't you use that tool? If there was something that could eliminate my pain, I certainly would go for it. I don't understand accepting pain to prove that you are tough.

I have also heard people say that they don't want to take pain medicine because they are afraid of becoming addicted. I understand this a little better, I sometimes feel like a junkie. But this really is wrong too. There is a difference between taking pain medication to fight pain, and taking it to "get high." Studies have shown that if you truly are taking the medication to alleviate pain, you won't become addicted. I know for me, I am certainly physically dependent on opiates. If I suddenly were to stop taking them, I would go through withdrawal. That's a fact. I have been taking 40mg of Methadone per day (the maximum dose for me) for many years now. But I have never taken an extra pill, and I have no desire to do so. They don't make me "high," although they did in the beginning.

I was actually afraid of the narcotics because I know I have an addictive personality. I had a cigarette in High School just to be "cool," and was hooked for years. I finally quit for 3 years, then had one figuring I could be a social smoker, and I was hooked again, almost instantly. I have since quit (10 years ago in fact), but it was one of the hardest things I ever did.

The first time I took narcotics for pain (after the first surgery - so many years ago) it took away the pain alright, and left my head spinning. I remember kissing the bottle of pills and thanking them. By the time the pain was back and it was time for another pill, I was really afraid to take it. I know my own history just with cigarettes. I've never done any kind of recreational drugs because I was always so afraid of becoming addicted. It took my doctor explaining the difference between addiction and dependence before I would take another pill. And there really is a difference. I have NEVER taken a pill seeking that "high." In fact, I have been on them for so long now, I don't get that feeling anymore. I have never shown any "drug-seeking behavior," as my doctor calls it. Dependence is a physical thing, drug addiction involves psychological aspects as well.

If the pills help you feel better, take them! It doesn't make you weak because you can't manage your pain. Pain is a beast! And if you are honest with yourself, and take the pills for the right reasons, you aren't a junkie either. My body is physically dependent on narcotics, and I have to manage that, but it's not the same as a drug addiction.


  1. I suffer from monthly migraines and bursitis/tendonitis. My main reason for delaying my pain meds is that I want them to work when I use them. I am afraid that I will develop a resistance to my meds. When I first started Imitrex, it worked wonderfully within a short time, the first time; now, I find myself having to use two. I worry that if I take ibuprofen too often, it will not work as well for me as it does now, and now it is wonderful! I just don't like the idea of taking meds for the least little thing (and for me, it usually is a little thing). I do need to recognize my migraines sooner tho, and treat tem right away. For some reason, I tend to deny that it is a migraine until it is too late. I don't want to waste te imitrex on a sinus headache where it doesn't help.
    OK, I've rambled enough now. You say things so eloquently! I've been finding this an interesting read!
    As far as wheels go, I had my first two kids back when all the rules started taking place. Pushing a stroller helped to reinforce the issue to me. I remember often saying that I was glad I wasn't in a wheel chair, and was pushing something more flexible to deal with!
    BTW, I'm an old friend of John's from HS! He got me started on penguins...

  2. Thank you for your thoughts "MooMommy." I also suffer from monthly migraines. They are horrible!! And I get them a couple times a week sometimes (despite the name monthly migraines). And I also try to hold out before taking my Imitrex. It has lost some of it's power with me as well.

    (By the way, the new drug from Glaxo called Treximet is just Imitrex with Naprosin, also called Aleve, so go with the new generic Imitrex and take an Aleve with it. It really does seem to work better - for me anyway)
    But this is NOT medical advice!! I'm not a doctor, blah blah blah.

    Also, the Imitrex injections cost $75 per injection!! I think that's outrageous; you can't tell me they cost that much to produce. But when you have a migraine, you will do anything to make it go away, even pay an exorbitant price for the medicine, and Glaxo knows it!

    With that price, I also tend to wait too long to take the Imitrex. I think "maybe it's not a migraine," or "maybe it will go away with just Ibuprofen." It's really dumb because the quicker you medicate a migraine, the more likely it is to go away. But I have to watch every penny - my drug costs are so high.