How and Why I Quit Taking Pain Meds

How and Why I Quit Taking Pain Meds

Editor’s Note: On June 9th, the National Pain Report introduced you to Gracie Gean Bagosy-Young, a CRPS patient turned crusader. We had excellent response to her story and asked her to contribute more frequently. Happily, she agreed.

Before I was injured and before I developed CRPS, the only thing I would take is a vitamin. When I injured my left hand while I was kick boxing, I had a surgery and was off the pain medication in 3 days. But after subsequent surgery on my right hand, when something went wrong, I was on the meds for months.

Gracie Bagosy-Young

Gracie Bagosy-Young

CRPS and chronic pain are a beast. They come at you and they beat on you constantly.

And like everyone else faced with the challenge of chronic pain, I looked for an answer.

My first answer – given my aversion to medication – was trying a number of things like gels, custom compounded ketamine creams, exercise, and physical  therapy for a year before my doctor insisted upon “breaking the cycle of pain with meds”.

I began taking Gabapentin, Cymbalta, Oxycodone and Sonata.

I was on the meds for six months and I never felt like me. The pain persisted, I was chronically nauseous and vomiting, I was lethargic. I’m 5-foot-4 and weigh 135 pounds. In six months I was down to 115.

One night, on the way to the bathroom, I passed by a mirror and looked at myself. My red hair was matted; I looked gaunt (because I was) and thought to myself, “I look like a heroin addict”.

At that moment, while still looking in the mirror, I said out loud, “I’m not doing this anymore”.

So I quit – right there – cold turkey.

The next morning I called the pharmacist and told them I wanted to get rid of my meds and he suggested pour syrup into the bottles which will disintegrate the medication and then throw them away.

I did.

And then I got to the business of “getting off the drugs” – all by myself.

For four days, I was dizzy, nauseous, vomiting and had bouts of diarrhea. The only good news was that my physical pain hadn’t increased.

I decided to call my doctor and told him what I was doing. He was not happy. “This is stupid and not something you just do on your own; a detox like this must be done with a doctor’s help.”

I see that now.

It took me 14 days to get through this.

I want to state declaratively that it was stupid, arrogant and I would never recommend that anyone do it the way I did.

I didn’t understand addiction then – I do now.

One other thing, I’m not saying that pain meds are bad – in fact they are good – but they didn’t work for me. If they had helped me, I’d still be using them.

This was 4 and half years ago.

The easy conclusion to write is that I became all better magically because I had been able to eliminate my dependency on pain medication.

It’s not true.

My chronic pain, my CRPS, my misery persisted. I still had to address it and I’ll share some of that journey, how I became an advocate, things I’ve tried to make me better and how I use social media to connect with people like me in coming blogs.

 

@NatPainReport

@GracieBagosy

There are 10 comments for this article
  1. Sarah R at 2:21 am

    Good article. I’ve been battling RSD for 15 years now. I also went cold turkey a little over a year into this battle. Like most everyone else I also had to start the med regime again. Addiction is a tricky word. One’s definition makes the difference. My view is it involves the mind, and it involves the body separately. For drug “addicts” it affects their mind. They must have pills (for the high). If they don’t get them, they freak out. For pain patients we depend upon pills (opioids) to mask some of the pain. If we delay taking the morning set, it doesn’t take our bodies very long to remind us why we need them! Mentally, there is no desperation to take them. Our bodies, however, have gotten used to having them. If a body doesn’t get what it wants, it punishes us. First with pain, then with withdrawal. I believe by using the word addiction the author was referring to the second definition.

  2. Mellissa at 8:48 am

    I am 35, have CRPS in three limbs and my back. I withdrew from narcotics last summer. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I also went cold turkey. It was the Thursday night before a three day weekend and my doctor was on vacation. I had no idea of how hard it would be. Wow. Since then I’ve needed to take a narcotic here and there but I try to not take them regularly. CRPS is miserable.

  3. Bill at 7:09 pm

    First Congratulations! Your Dr. was right… going cold turkey off many meds can be not just uncomfortable or painful but can endanger your life.. but you made it! Second Congratulations again! CRPS comes in a rainbow of intensities and pain types… some of which can be managed without pain medication though I’m sure the pain may have made you second guess your decision more than once. Unfortunately and I hope you will point this out in any future blogs.. there are cases of CRPS for which even some of the strongest pain medications are barely able to fight the pain… My case for example labelled the most aggressive my Pain Dr. had ever seen… I take my pain meds and on a good day the pain will come down to an 8… more likely it’s 9… and my CRPS has spread full body… I am at the other end of the curve from you… Whenever I post about my level of CRPS I make sure to include the Dr.’s assessment and stress that from the studies and evidence my level of CRPS is not a normal one… I fought every addition to my medicine cabinet having a before cabinet much the same as yours… I also did yoga when I was younger and know breathing techniques to help.. and they do… but the pain punches through…. so some of us require medication… but good luck and best wishes!

  4. Randy at 7:35 pm

    I have been through 7 spinal fusions and take my pain meds everyday not for my enjoyment but to make it through the day. I don’t get high off of them I am able just to survive through the day. I wish I didn’t have to take them but without them I am not able go do anything but suffer all day long and am in cronic pain all day. I wish I didn’t have to take them but I have no choice. I am not an addict just a man that is trying to make it from day to day. An addict is someone that don’t need the pain meds but needs the high they get off them then the drug takes hold of the person and before they know it they can’t live without them.

  5. marty at 5:12 am

    I am so extremely happy for you. I was drug free and eating healthy and doing light exercises for almost 3 years. Unfortunately my problems came back ten fold with age and I can’t live or move without the help of painkillers any longer. Hate feeling drugs in my system but keep it to a minimum to just be able to function at home. Better alternative then the crying daily wishing to die. Congrats to you. Keep up the good work

  6. Gracie Bagosy-Young at 8:54 pm

    @Kristi M
    Thank you for your feedback. I understand your complaint. “Addiction” and “dependency” are actually synonyms. They are used interchangeably. I see that one feels more harsh to you. I have received other feedback that asked me to differentiate between physical addiction and psychological addiction. Please allow me to explain myself more clearly. My body needed those medications at that point in time, so much that I became violently ill when I (foolishly) stopped abruptly. I NEVER experienced that “gotta have it” feeling that I imagine an addict would feel. No. …we absolutely are NOT addicts and I will go to battle with anyone that has the nerve to call us that! Do you call an insulin-dependent diabetic an addict? I think not!
    I hear your words. I feel your hurt. I’m on the same journey. We are all in this together. #warriors

  7. Mark Ibsen at 8:41 pm

    Just a correction:
    The definition of addiction is continuing to use a substance despite the harm it causes.
    Your very compelling story demonstrates courage, candor and evidence of dependence.
    Thank you for sharing it so authentically.
    I am moved by your story.

  8. Dennis Kinch at 7:43 pm

    It’s common to use the word “addiction” when you mean dependent. There’s a huge difference. Addiction is behavior based – very bad behavior. Dependence just means that the drug will have a withdrawal, usually a week long and you will feel like , yeah. An addict will do ANYTHING to get their hands on the drug, or any drug at a certain point. A dependent person will suffer through the withdrawal, and it will suck, but so be it.

    The DEA’s latest “Let’s Pick on the Legit’s” campaign has caused a lot of us to realize again that we’re dependent on the drug. They force us with their rules to suffer until we get the new rules figured out, start the drug back up again, 3 days later we’re back on track, happier and productive again. An addict gets the drug back, suffers non-stop, and immediately is thinking of the next time he can score.

    The DEA has purposely confused this issue by first inventing the “War on drugs” campaign and then by feeding the media wrong, misleading information so they can start targeting the legitimate patients and doctors. This way they can keep their numbers up and quantify their jobs especially since they lost the actual “War on Drugs” and couldn’t catch a street criminal to save their lives.

    Anyways, much luck and success with stopping the chemicals. You are forgiven for the wrong use of the words and maybe you should re-investigate your own self described addiction. You might have simply been dependent. You would be amazed at how many doctors, insyrance agents, pharmacists, family and friends make this mistake, some to my face, out loud, in front of patients and staff! Oops. I always get carried away at this point.

    Hopefully you are a bit more educated now. I wish I could educate those who ruined my life after making this mistake. By the way, herbs and alternative things don’t work for me. I’ve tried them all. They’re either not nearly strong enough or they do nothing at all. Not being covered by insurance I couldn’t afford them, especially after I lost my job and insurance and all my money because some idiot thinks I’m a drug addict and…oops! Did it again.

    You see, we’re all different and the “mix” that works for us (I’ve been on mine for almost 15 years!) will also be different. It is measured on quality of life and this is measured on happiness and productivity. Good Luck. Be Happy!

  9. Cristal F at 7:23 pm

    I TOTALLY agree with Kristi M … I have a chronic illness that has effected my entire body an some organs , I do not get high EVER , I even try sometimes to go a extra few hrs before taking another dose … An the days I would like to go an do some gardening absolutely I will take that extra one right on schedule , if I’m gonna be walking for more than a hr an lots of Dr aptment’s to get thru the sitting for hr or two there an then heading to a grocery store you bet .. I did not just get hurt or have a accident I have a chronic illness LUPUS SLE an I have no spleen , no thyroid , both hips replaced , ITP, BRAIN SWELLING , Connective tissue disease , raynauds syndrome , sohjens syndrome , nephritis , neuropathy in both legs an two buldging disks , degenerative disk disease an I am not a addict … I use my medication to function like a NORMAL person so I can be productive in a society that is ignorant to chronic diseases , THAT IF YOU LOOKED AT ME you would NOT HAVE A CLUE TO my condition !!

  10. Kristi M at 1:49 pm

    We, who suffer from chronic pain from many conditions do not get addicted to pain meds. We become dependent. Those are 2 different things. We don’t crave the high like an addict does. We crave pain relief, which is not addiction. So I was really offended by your use of the word “addiction” in your own article of suffering from pain.