MY OPIOID ADDICTION
My body is my major negative asset. I am riddled with pain. At a 5, 6 or 7 out of 10 on my pain scale, I still function normally, just living through it. At a 10, I suffer in bed. As a youth I had occasional, classic aural/nausea migraines. They became more frequent and less severe, till they morphed into chronic daily headaches. Knee pain resulted in a knee replacement. But arthritis continues to attack my lower back and neck. My piriformis muscles too, add to the relentless pain.
I probably saw a hundred medical practitioners from both traditional medicine,-pain or neurology specialists, to alternative treatment, from acupuncture to cupping. Nothing worked except drugs… especially when oxycodone was introduced to the medical market.
My doctor was very enthusiastic. There was a medical mantra they all bought into that was clearly promoted by the drug company.
They believed that there was a difference between those who used oxycodone for recreational use who could be addicted, but if used for pain and no high was experienced, you could not become addicted, you were only ‘dependent’. I never experienced any high on opioids.
Somehow it was assumed that ‘dependent’ was a mild issue that could be easily rectified if necessary. You could just quit anytime. I started with Percocets a few times a day. It soon was not enough. My doc prescribed Oxycontin. It was soon not enough.
A friend had a fentanyl patch. My doc said he only prescribed a patch for terminal cancer patients. He upped the Oxycontin dose… again… and again. I continued to complain of pain. Finally he added a fentanyl patch. I began taking 160 mg of combined Oxycontin and Percocets, plus the patch.
I was a drug addict. I remember driving up the Don Valley Parkway in Toronto, in bumper to bumper, stop and go, rush hour traffic, in a drug stupor. I fell asleep at a pause and was only awakened by car horns urging me to move on. It was time to stop.
A pain specialist advised moving into a residential rehab facility. I opted for the do-it-yourself option. I researched the process and decided to do it on my own. It took me 6 months to get off the opioids.
I asked my wife what it was like when I was getting off the drug. “You lost your mind. You kept saying to everyone you saw the Buddha on the road. You wandered up and down the beach at the cottage buttonholing people and talking nonsense and breaking down crying.”
My cottage neighbour, a doctor, who observed me in this state, called it ‘ebullient emotion’, typical when patients have strokes or when in shock. I burst into bouts of convulsive weeping without any reason. I did that frequently during my detox.
I reduced my dose by 5mg a week. It was agony. After a couple of months the detox twisted my mind. I was nearly mad. Even when I was down to 5mg per day it was excruciating. I wanted to give up and get a strong dose, but I persisted.
I remember talking to Laurie, a pharmacist at Shoppers Drug Mart in Penetanguishene and asked her if there was anything I could take to get me over the agony on my last 5mg.
She asked how much I had reduced from. “160mg and a fentanyl patch,” I replied.
“On your own?’ she asked, incredulously.
“Yes,” I said.
“That’s unheard of,” she said. Her face signalled shock.
Every time I hear one of many current statistical opioid stories on TV, I am reminded of my addiction and detox. For example: * There were 2833 opioid related deaths in Ontario last year. * In the USA, there were more than 70,200 overdose deaths in just 2017. More than 130 people died every day from opioid- related drug overdoses.
On TV as I wrote this, someone declared, “One hundred people die from gun violence in the USA every day”. 130 from opioids! 100 from gun violence! Are these not preventable?
I have been free of opioids for a few years now. The pain persists but I am better off than where I was. My wife had nightmares about my drugged period. “I thought we were going to lose you.” I am still here.
By the way, I really did see the Buddha on the road.