Opioids: Medicine or Candy?

Opioids: Medicine or Candy?

By Cynthia Toussaint

Cynthia Toussaint

Cynthia Toussaint

Last month I treated myself to my heavenly bi-annual facial. I love facial days because I get a great massage on the only part of my body that doesn’t hurt. The products, touch, relaxing music – the whole dreamy vibe makes me feel like a queen while providing a much-needed hour of pain distraction.

There’s no better aesthetician than Carmen. In fact over the past 15 years I’ve followed her to four Los Angeles salons. But despite her hands of gold, Carmen’s always struck me as a sad, empty character. Someone who doesn’t value her life. A few years older than I, she’s had a failed marriage with no children – and too many partners to count. Carmen looks like a million bucks, but when she smiles her eyes betray her. She appears to be asleep.

This go around Carmen gave me some disturbing insight into her “deadness” – as well as the pain world’s opioid problem.

While spreading on a bright pink mask, she told me about her new boyfriend – an unemployed biker from a well to do family. Natch. She went on to tell me about a trip they’d recently taken to Sedona and how she couldn’t face seven hours home with Josh’s non-stop verbal ramblings. Besides his Ferrari convertible, Carmen shared he’s got a crazy-making case of ADHD.

Without a hint of shame or reservation, she casually revealed her remedy. To stomach her time with Josh, Carmen took half of one of his Norcos along with a Xanax. She then laughingly told me about the nightmare that ensued. Unwittingly, she broke the Norco in half because she was mixing Josh’s drugs. But as she learned from him later, the Norco has a time-release agent. So rather than the drug slowly entering her bloodstream, it hit her full on.

Still giggling with a far off look, Carmen described her bad trip, and I’m talking about the drugs. “I was completely zonked. Couldn’t even lift my head for most of the drive.  I can’t believe I didn’t die!” Stunned, I told her to please never again take medications prescribed for someone else. I also pleaded with her not to mix his drugs. They’re not candy.

Perhaps prying a bit too much, I asked Carmen why and how Josh was getting Norco. I told her that folk with chronic pain are having lots of trouble getting opioids. She paused, then sheepishly offered, “Oh, he used to have a bit of back pain.” She told me that Josh worries too about not being able to get his Norco. In fact, he “stockpiles” it and pours his prescriptions into “big jars and more jars.” My mask must have cracked when my jaw dropped.

With an exclamation point, she finished, “Oh my doctor will give me anything anytime I want too.”  Carmen made it crystal clear that she and Josh were popping these opioids, not for pain control, but for recreational use.

In one hour I got a startling, first-hand account of one of the big reasons we have an opioid epidemic in this country. Multiply Carmen and Josh by many millions who aim to get high and have “feel-good” doctors who are happy to accommodate. The big question is – why are some doctors terrified to give a single opioid script to a person with high-impact pain when others are comfy dolling them out “by the jars” to folk who want to party, exposing them to the real possibility of overdose?

I learned well from my HMO reform days that when people die from healthcare it always comes down to the bottom line. But who’s making the killing here? Wealthy patients who pay cash? The doctors who get an unending stream of customers who need their high? Or is it the pharmaceutical companies whose reps are plying the drugs? Perhaps all three. I don’t have the answer and hope this can be a conversation starter for decision makers.

In any case, I now understand the deadness in Carmen’s eyes.

 Cynthia Toussaint founded For Grace, a non-profit that focuses on the unique issues facing women in pain. Her organization sponsors the Women in Pain Conference.  She lives in Los Angeles.   

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There are 31 comments for this article
  1. Anne Fuqua at 8:25 am

    This Norco wasn’t Norco at all. Norco contains 10mg of hydrocodone and 325mg of acetaminophen. The newer extended release hydrocodone are abuse deterrent and couldn’t be split in the manner that Carmen described. When extended release hydrocodone was first introduced as Zohydro, it was available for a brief time without abuse deterrent properties. The only way that this could have truly been extended release hydrocodone is if this were one of the early Zohydro pills that wasn’t abuse deterrent.

  2. Tim Mason at 6:25 pm

    I have great empathy for suffering people. However, some people create their own hell and continue to live in it.
    Daily I read the local arrest report on Chattanoogan Online. On the Breaking news section you will see “Current Hamilton County Arrests”. It is similar to Right 2 Know we have and most large cities have one.
    I would like your you to go to Chattanoogan online and look at it everyday for a few days and you will see the problem. Our city is running a radio ad that says: 75% of the prescription drug problem is from kids STEALING prescription from parents. My town is starting to hit the nail on the head. The chronic pain patient is not the problem and my town has figured it out.

    Daily there are 20-25 year olds stopped by the police that Schedule II, controlled substances and some have them for resale. Why would a 25 year old have Xanax, Oxycodone, Lortab, marijuana and drug paraphernalia? I don’t like to profile people but many of these ‘Kids” have the neck tattoo, hair dyed a color not found in nature, etc.
    take a look.

  3. Sarah Hill at 4:40 pm

    Well this highlights many different things.

    “Those who seek to help others and soothe your heart are often those in the most pain, desperate to feel like less of a burden”
    Hence you reaching out to your beautician to find out why her eyes are dull

    “Those who give away the most of their vital materials and energy are often those with the least to spare”
    You sacrificed the quiet rejuvenating relaxation of your facial to be a sounding board for someone completely responsible for their own detrimental position, rubbish relationship and risky drug use.

    When we live in a world of pain and compromise, we seek to be someone who is never blind to the suffering of others… But we inevitably end up giving away our short supply of energy to unworthy people and emotional vampires who repeat poor decisions, and then those other people.
    The ‘jammy’ people. People with ‘sods luck’ who have the world bend over backwards for them and they fail to see it, use it wisely or appreciate it or worse, abuse it.
    I don’t begrudge those with a kindly doctor who is generous with opiates. I resent those who ‘cash in’ on the kindness of one of the rare breed of physician who could maintain a will to Live in a chronic pain patient.

    But also. Holding anger or Resentment in your heart is poison and will only worsen your pain.
    #viciouscycles

  4. Sandy Auriene Sullivan at 6:09 am

    Sounds like money is allowing them to get away with it. When the prescriber map came out; it was primarily for doctors who take medicare and prescribe opiates. The info was a year ago or more.

    Being that I lived in S. CA and go back to LA often enough sometimes even for ‘events’ like special screenings and such. A friend and I looked at West LA County and there was 2 doctors listed. But we know that the abuse of drugs among the wealthy is staggeringly high and staggeringly cavalier as you learned.

    It always comes down to money and people who pay a lot of cash for their special doctors and special pharmacies? They don’t get busted. Swat doesn’t raid those locations.

    Medicare patients? We’re flogged by the abuses of others. [and let’s be honest, if you are 45 as I am on medicare – you’re sick. It’s not easy to obtain at a young age, disability from the federal government]

  5. JoDawn at 12:11 pm

    I’m so sorry that happened to you. We need as many good Drs as we can get, and it sounds like we lost one when you lost your practice.

  6. MichaelL at 9:15 am

    And those same clinics are denying care to legitimate patients. There are questionable practices being used to determine who is cheating and who is not. Many patients will accept fewer pills, because some treatment, of their pain, is better than none!

  7. Tim Mason at 5:36 am

    This is a general reply to the “Medicine or Candy” thread.
    All of those that view narcotic pain medication as “candy” are being rooted out and dispatched from pain management clinics. The system is working. You simply cannot fool a clinical forensic chemist.
    These people that are after candy have ruined themselves. One day they will be at a loss for treatment when the time comes and there skeletal system starts to break down.
    None of these thrill seekers can see beyond the next day.
    Soon they will all be gone and the dust will finally settle on the problems legit people are having.
    Man who ask for fentanyl by name get Tylenol instead.

  8. Mary Dunigan at 8:25 pm

    Cynthia, your articles are so poignant, informative and always right on! Because of drug addicts who will always “find” the high they are looking for! We chronic pain patients are lumped into a the drug addict/mental health patient category! And everyone knows that society treats drug addicts only a bit better than pedophiles and rapists! I feel great empathy for people that suffer from addiction issue! But I can’t help be pi**ed that people who are already suffering in extremes are forced to suffer even further! The fact that suboxone has been marketed to addicts as opposed to chronic pain patients is infuriating! It is a PAIN medicine! Love you Cynthia!!!! ❤️

  9. Tracy at 8:10 pm

    To make a sick story short, Josh lied to the doctor. And Dr did not do proper assessments or testing. Unfortunately all good things come to an end. The dr gets caught or figures out this **** is playing him and he is not worth it, so he stops prescribing, and word will travel thru the medical circle, IE, other offices, pharmacy’s that Josh is a junkie and he will no longer be able to get narcotics legally, so he will seek relief from the drug dealers and end up shooting up garbage or get addicted to heroin and will drag his stupid girlfriend with him. That’said the way it works. BAMM

  10. John S at 6:53 pm

    What a question ! For me it’s taken just one way, the old – Dr’s are handing them out like candy.

    My injury was in 1986 at a Hospital near Pittsburgh or UPMC Medical Center. My first surgeon labeled me a Drug Seeker after my second operation. I’m sorry but I felt worse and I was. I had a better chance of hitting the lottery than getting prescribed opiates. If I went to the ER I might have got enough for the night or 3 or 4 of the Tylenol with Codeine. Oxycodone, fat chance and usually it was an NSAID or Cyclobenzaprine Even after my 5th operation I was given Darvon or Darvocet that had 750 mg of Tylenol.

    No candy and I’m personally offended when people use the phrase – hand pain pills out like candy. I believe the term was started after reports of wounded Vets getting enough pain medicine to be made comfortable. Then, once Vets got a bad rap the family members reported to the media – my son gets Vicodin like its candy. What they failed to notice was the Vets were using the pain meds for pain – PTSD – Depression – Combat Stress and many other combat related medical issues. The Vets are not to blame and I don’t blame the Dr’s either I blame society and political correctness for the problem.

    I talked to a person I know that does buy meds on the street and in a town well known for the ease of obtaining drugs and he told me ” there are no more pain pills on the streets ” but there is lots of Heroin.

    Thank you,

    John S

  11. Kerry at 5:25 pm

    This story just highlights the absurd stupidity our society is making by combining the issue of legitimate opioid needed by pain patients with severe intractable pain with issue of addiction! There are laws on the books already that make obtaining prescriptions illegally by counterfeit measures illegal. The training and education of our public, lawmakers, and law enforcement on just who the real pain patients are is what’s needed. Instead for some unknown reason we are bombarded with such ignorant information to cloud the issue it’s unbelievable!

    Everyday I scratch my head and wonder if anybody with power and intelligence is looking at the stupid and possible criminal intent of inflaming the two with the strategy on treating addiction?

    The unintended (or intended) consequences of these knee jerk reactions to this inflated opioid epademic is the fact that the legitimate pain patients are refused the opioids to treat their condition while the addiction clinics will be well funded to treat addiction with opioids such as Buprenorphine, a controlled substance with a high risk for addiction and dependence that can cause respiratory distress and death when taken in high doses or when combined with other substances, especially alcohol! This drug will intentionally be handed with those KNOWN to abuse substances! I got those words of warning directly off the drugs website! Please look it up! Ironically the cost of this drug just skyrocketed! Laws and funding to increase the access of this drug are being pushed through our government right now! President Obama’s billion dollar funding request to treat addiction is mainly to make this drug widely available to addiction treatment facilities who are heavily invested by those who wrote the CDCs guidelines to opioid prescribing!

    So thanks to our narrow minded society’s knee jerk reaction to this so called opioid epidemic we are creating an epidemic! This rich guy in her story with the candy jar full of illegal opioids would get off scott free with the help of his money to get a good attorney who could argue he has an “Opioid Dependent Disorder.” He would receive a stint in an addiction center and follow up treatment that includes the prescription of opioids fed by our government for the rest of his life that keeps him hungry for more.

  12. anon at 5:06 pm

    I had a client whose office was in his home. When one visited the bathroom, there was a bowl of valium on the counter.

    At my daughter’s wedding, one of the groomsmen’s girlfriend gave the groom and the men a vicodin before the ceremony. The groom nearly passed out because he’d never had an opioid. All of the men took the pill, but not all of them knew what they were taking. If this happened to grown men, I can’t imagine how many young adults or teens do this when they get into the medicine cabinet. Do parents always care? Do they know? Do they understand how serious it is when this happens? I have to believe some don’t.

    A friend’s mother-in-law was hooked on vicodin, so someone she knew sold her her entire bottle every month.

    In the old days, when I was young, people would state how lucky I was that I got opioids every month. I enjoyed telling them about how “lucky” my life has been in
    since I got sick, and also how lucky I am since I don’t have your attitude.

    Cider Man: someone cares. We do. Keep writing. Your doctors care too. Don’t tell me no one does, just sometimes your friends are online. And we’re on here a lot because as you know, there isn’t a whole lot of going out and running marathons or shopping or visiting friends anymore. Your comment made me cry, and that’s not an easy thing to do. Please write your story and send it to this website. Maybe your purpose is to help other pain people by lending an ear and some words to some of the groups around FB and here.

    L. “Real Pain.” My mom worked in a burn unit. My friends have RSD and I would like to state that “real pain” is felt by many. I believe your words should be directed to the biker who stacks his drugs and people like that. They should, in fact, be required by law to visit burn units and children’s cancer wards, and volunteer to assist. But many of us have real pain. I’m not going to tell you my story, but I’m old enough to know real pain. You just make me feel bad about the children and the burn patients and I can’t help them anymore.

  13. MichaelL at 4:07 pm

    Last time I heard, Norco was not time released. May be now. But, that was ten years ago. Oxycontin is the formulation that was in a “laser hole” pill that would result in getting the entire dose, by as simply as halving the pill. And, as an ex-pain doctor, now having post-traumatic neuropathic pain, I especially get angry with the losers that lie to get pills, then say their doctor would write it just by asking. It was never received by asking, but by constructing a very intricate lie, so the “caring” doctor would believe it, and write the prescription, putting the patient on chronic pain relief!Gossips like that could ruin a doctor’s career. In the Bible, it says gossip is the same as murder. It did kill my practice!

  14. HDMerchant at 3:43 pm

    And here I am in damn pain from lupus, Fibromyalgia, epilepsy, neuropathy, back pain, hip pain, etc. and these a**es are on recreational use?!?!? Pi**es me off.

  15. JoDawn at 3:24 pm

    When I was newly diagnosed with RSD (later CRPS) Cynthia was an angel that gave me hope. She I almost never hear her less than upbeat, certainly not in public posts. She is a voice of hope in a very scary world, especially when you are new to it!
    Here we are, 13 years later. WE know we take meds to be a part of the world, not escape from it. But there is s problem with people being given meds inappropriate for their situation. It makes life extremely difficult for us. Personally, I’m afraid to move. Even though I’ve seen my dr every month for most of the 13 years after my accident, I worry. Is it enough? Will they believe me?
    I think the article makes it quite clear who needs to be cut off.
    Thank you, Cynthia.
    Oh, and if a facial makes the pain less for awhile, if there is something ANY of us can take joy in, then what the heck are we waiting for??
    No one is promised tomorrow. Let’s make today the best we can. And every once in awhile, for crying out loud, let’s do something we actually ENJOY?
    God bless you all.
    Jo

  16. Cecelia Haugh at 3:21 pm

    First I was a nurse for many years. When I worked in family practice the docs were very careful with pain scripts.Fast track to the last 5 years, I’ve seen folks that somehow are able to get pain meds all over the place ,and I keep wondering why these scripts are filled, and by whom! I have psoriatic arthritis , have seen the same Rhematologist for last 10 years. He never gave me a thing for pain, went on about he could get in trouble . My dermatologist put me on Otezla last June,had remarkable results with my skin, zinc saw him, told him what I was on, he said great, should help my pain,and he told me I didn’t have to make anymore appt with him, and to stop Plaquenil. I was dumbfounded.I also have issues with spine problems. My Family doctor prescribed Ibuprofen 800 mg twice daily, but when pain severe, no relief.He did just prescribe a short Prednisone course and tramadol,which has helped, but as you can see my pain relief has mostly gone untreated.My next visit I’m asking for a Rheumatologist referral/ addressing my pain,I’m 65 years old, now retired,have never abused pain meds, but sure need some relief now.I can see when pain levels are high that you just want relief any way, anyhow.And the addicted druggies are getting high on drugs that should be prescribed for the reasons they are manufactured! Sorry for my ramblings, hope I made my feelings known!

  17. Wanda at 1:51 pm

    I am 83 almost 84 yrs old. I have been on Norco/vicaden since 2001. Have deteriorated lumbar and body has shifted to one side because of this. Left side hip now higher and body out of shape. Much pain getting through day and trouble sleeping. Besides the sciatica when trying to sleep on either side. Actually taking 4 per day but does not manage pain. Dr. Gave me higher dosage but still 4 per day. Due to all of the to-do now and trying to take away our meds I am afraid to ask for more help. They say are you selling them, haha and this is insulting after all an 83 yr old is not going to go out and sell her precious meds. I protect them and keep them hidden just in case although have no one that is interested in my meds. Pharmacy makes me feel like criminal and check to see if they have 30 da supply on hand
    Like I was only person in town taking these meds. They then call my insurance to make sure they can refill that day.in hospital recently and doctor gave me prescription for 20 pills and insurance said no and called my dr.to report this.explained extra few pills given to me for add’l pain. Insurance still made me wait 5 days before allowing me to have the add’l 20 pills. What is to happen, go ahead and end it all?after all old anyway and nobody to care. Something wrong here.

  18. Elizabt at 10:27 am

    No one , no one in this world especially a Dr still does this. It would only be Dr with well connected people in very high places who can still get away with this.

    And as we’ve been screaming all along, it is those types of people who choose to misuse the brilliant discovery scientist made to help those of us who have NO other choice at a chance of even half the life of a sedentary person.

    It makes me want to cry. This always boils down to The Right People with The Right Connections.

    I promise you that nearly everyone in politics who’ve exempted themselves from all laws are on more opiates than anyone you’ve ever met.

    Cigna Anthem Obamacare et all over extended the promisises to get elected, that is why this is happening to us innocents. This nefarious shield needed to be in power so badly it wrote checks that we will pay for with our lives while they pillage any resources to be had.

    Please open your eyes

    All we can do now is refuse to give them money and especially the insurance companies who are leading this false optic only , war on drugs, lumping us in with the likes of healthy people who want to , who choose to be idiots.

  19. Amy at 9:50 am

    That is very sad and shame on the bad doctors. My doctor is very careful. He makes me take drug test all the time to prove I’m taking my medicine and because of bad doctors and people who want to get high on the pain medicine. I can never sleep because I am only allowed 3 pills a day and so by night time I have no more pills and I stay up all night with sever pain. I used to be able to have 4 pills so I could sleep at night but the doctor told me the government told him to cut patience back 25% to stop the drug addiction problem in America.

  20. Bob Schubring at 9:46 am

    Cynthia Toussaint, I don’t think Carmen is thinking of the Norco as a candy-like reward or pleasure.

    In her own words, she said to you that she can’t tolerate listening to her boyfriend for 7 hours of driving.

    She has a desire to avoid listening to him during those 7 hours, because listening is distressing to her, and she chooses to cope with the relationship stress by sedating herself.

    People who are afraid of what they might do or say, in response to emotional distress, usually can benefit from psychiatric care. Cognitive therapy can be very helpful, to identify weak spots in one’s interpersonal skills. If arguing results in some sort of psychotic break, the therapist can intervene with a drug that’s specific for the kind of psychosis she has.

    The goal of mental health treatment, is to develop people’s capacity to solve problems. Not to knock them unconscious to avoid problems.

  21. Tim Mason at 9:42 am

    To the real life chronic pain patient there is no “high” as you call it. To much morphine and you are sick. After taking morphine or OxyContin for many months and you stop prior to a surgery you are sick. I know, I have been there. The real feel of dependence is the need to not get nauseated. Of my three surgeries, I backed off my dose for two months and endured the pain before the surgery. A hip replacement allowed me to lower my daily dose of narcotics.

  22. Richard A. Lawhern, Ph.D. at 9:10 am

    Cynthia, I think you make valid points — and you likely understand how emotionally difficult those points are for many chronic pain patients. Ground truth in this public discussion is that millions of people abuse opioid drugs who have never needed them for pain — and a large proportion of those millions first begin their abuse with drugs that they steal or are given from people who have or once had pain bad enough to justify a prescription. Chronic pain patients cannot hope to succeed in getting better care and less stigma, if they ignore this ground truth.

    I think it is inevitable that any real solutions for widespread addiction must acknowledge that some doctors are too cavalier in their prescription practices, despite ample evidence that pill mills are being detected and prosecuted in most US States. On the other side of the same balance, law enforcement practice must also acknowledge that doctors who specialize in pain management are going to write large numbers of prescriptions for people in need. We must find a key to ensuring that those who need help are getting it and those who are recreational abusers or just plain stupid like your hair dresser are cut off.

    One way to accomplish this balance is to encourage development of balanced standards for ongoing oversight of patients who are prescribed opiates, and to apply technology in insightful ways that promote the convenience and security of oversight over the long haul. We must distinguish between practice standards for acute pain versus chronic and intractable pain.

    Specifically, all US States prescription databases for Schedule II drugs need to be combined in a convenient and error-corrected National database. Urine testing for both new and established patients must become routine — including a nuanced understanding of false positive issues in such testing. Patients prescribed opioids must have access to a cheap, secure, lockable storage bag or “pill safe” at home. Follow-up in-person examinations must be done periodically to monitor the patient for depression and promote a strong doctor-patient relationship of trusted care. Pill counts must also become routine — but NOT done in person. Telemedicine has advanced to a level now where pill counts can be done at random and by video call to an I-Phone in less than a minute. And health insurance companies must be compelled to participate financially in supporting these changes of practice.

  23. DParker at 8:52 am

    As I wait for the hammer to drop on my ability to pay for pain medication I read this. No wonder I’m so depressed about the future. Where I come from, people just don’t get away with this no matter how much money mommy and daddy have. And believe me rich people do live in small towns too. The doctors in small towns know all to well what a bad reputation will get them and yet we suffer overzealious medical boards just the same.

  24. Gayle at 7:51 am

    The big question here is why so many millions of people need to feel the “high of happiness”? Life is not easy, most people have many problems. For centuries these people use liquor for that good feeling. We think nothing of watching people at bars or having cocktails at home and it doesn’t cross anybody’s mind that they are chasing a “better feeling”. The war on drugs is a joke. If the government were so concerned about the publics health then outlaw cigarettes and liquor. They kill innocent people too. Perhaps the experts might look into why millions of people need to feel “happy”.

  25. Carla Cheshire at 7:45 am

    I too know of people who get Vicodin from complacent Doctors who take them to mix with alcohol and get high. I’ve mentioned how people that abuse opioids make it hard for those with Chronic Pain to get their prescriptions filled and they look at me like I’m making all this up! Then I say how dangerous it is to mix alcohol with Vicodin and they tell me they’ve never had a problem. Crazy world!

  26. becky at 6:57 am

    I have seen what you see and wonder the very same thing at times. Why do we who are responsible get the abusive behavior and they just go? It is a weirdly horrible twist to a really bad thing. I do not feel bad for the doctors who abuse their MD to say nasty things to people who are looking to them for help and we get the third degree and the words my friend wont even say to me when they are mad at me. It is unfair that everyone is getting hurt this time. all of the people from the addicts to the pain patients to the doctors who try to help those and get the flack for their colleagues getting rich off of a bad thing. Is there a win-win situation for this?

  27. Doug at 6:56 am

    This sickens me!!!!
    The abusers who play the system to get high are idiots. Those of us who really suffer from chronic pain are constantly updated in the air worrying whether this is the month that our meds will be taken away. The constant stress of worrying about loosing the medications effects our pain levels, blood pressure and indigestion while these inconsiderate ***holes just get high. I realize that addiction is a disease but this is ridiculous.

  28. Angie H. at 5:42 am

    I have a slight issue with the comment on cash paying patients. Not all are wealthy. In fact most are not but have no choice but to pay cash because the pain management doctors dont take the insurances off the Health Market. Me personally, I am afraid if I change doctors they will change my meds or remove them. It has taken 5 yrs to get me stable, I don’t want to take a chance again.

  29. Cider Man at 5:15 am

    This is one of those types of articles that chaps me.

    I’ve been taking opioids since 2003, all beginning with a 6-month pain management clinic trial and sustained by panic-pain that I’ll suddenly be pulled off the morphine each time I have to see a new doctor. Each time I see a new doctor, I’m a criminal again.

    I’m a criminal right now, without having committed a crime. Why? Because I take opioids. I’m not sure that Xanax is an opioid? I just know it’s one of those “OH! MY GOD!!!” pills that I’ve been taking for 31 years. Oh, I take them a prescribed, I’ve never sold them or given them away or taken them not as prescribed or anything like that. I’m a criminal just because I take them. I just found that out this year. Of the 25+ MD psychiatric docs in my docs’ practice, only one would continue to write my an AD and AP while I’m still on morphine and Xanax.

    But no more and no more than I’m taking now. Which is the point, I thought. Getting better?

    I spent three years in mental hospitals, taking every type of AD available to be ‘cured’ until I found one that worked – Nardil – but, golly, it almost killed me.

    I finally got the kick in the butt that got my engine going – ECT. It worked well. For ten years, it worked well. More like thirteen years.

    For the past two years, though, I’ve been playing outpatient AD roulette again. I won’t go in-patient. I won’t get stuck in there again. And so I live in fear. Fear and anxiety and unable to say what I want to say because if I do, well, you know, my depression and anxiety are at “that” stage again: and there are “those” words that I dare not speak.

    I’ve been there. No firearms for me.

    I DON’T know of anyone who would suffer by my death. No one who would even feel, well, saddened. Everyone usually is asked, “well, certainly, your cousin, your friend, there must be someone who would be shaken, and I have to say, no, that there is no one. Since my friendly neighbors (both of them) have died in the past four months, I have no one to check on me and, Christ, if I had to call 911 before I went through with it just seems so lame. No, I would have to wait until I was certain someone was coming.

    One “deal” that a psychiatrist was willing to make me early in the year was that if I got off the morphine and the Xanax that she would see about (no guarantees because she doesn’t do them) getting me a consult for ECT. As do so many non-neurologist pain doctors do, she asked, “what is it, your back?” I looked at her as if monkeys would soon begin flying out of my ass, then looked down where I used to have stumps, but even those no more, and said, “no, it’s due to nerve damage, exacerbated by surgical nerve damage.” We both looked at the area where I once had stumps. We waited and waited. Thank God her phone rang because I think that she would have waited until the miracle would have come about.

    I often what kind of reaction that I would have if I just left the morphine and the Xanax off of my list when I see a new doctor. Only my cardiologist is so sophisticated as to have a direct tie-in to my pharmacy. I’ve never abused any of these drugs, but I know that I’m dependent on them I’m old, and I hurt, and I would love to have a week – just a week – of pleasure before I die. But I’m just not suicidal.

    I’ve never met one of those “feel-good” doctors. I can’t deny that they exist – they must be out there, or there wouldn’t be this opioid epidemic. Or Xanax (is it an opioid?). I don’t take more Xanax than I should because I’m certain that I know that it wouldn’t make me feel better – double my dose and I’d feel great. But with my morphine and with my Xanax, I can’t get a refill until one day before I ‘run out.’ And that would mean withdrawal and the only time that I have inadvertently withdrawn I’ve had to go to the withdrawal unit on the psych ward (NOT what I was looking for) and I went through hell. I was in the nursing home, and a nurse heard a patient ask me how I feel –
    “I just feel as if I was dead,” I said. So Ms. Tattle-Nurse ran to Ms. Head Nurse and off I went to the WRONG UNIT.

    I’ve never taken prescription pills for any “feel-good” reasons. I’ve not been much of a hedonist, I guess, so I’m more than just afraid of trusting someone when they tell me Y will make me “high like Z” because I’ve never tried Z, and I only have heard of the bad things that Z will get you to feel. I still believe that LSD will make you jump out of 10-storey windows. I’ve never read anything that said that it wouldn’t. Crikey. I’ve gotten drunk a few times, but that’s saying that I have a drinking problem if that’s like once over 15 years periods or so, I don’t think.

    I suppose that because I’m a criminal who has never broken the law I’m dubious about how an honest-to-goodness pill-pusher doctor would feel me feel. Is it just a nod-nod, wink-wink and no more “I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to be able to do this…” because, honestly, if I have to live in pain, I won’t. I can’t. I can’t. But, there’s this mental pain that those who’ve never had it don’t understand, and I can maybe last another three months, but I don’t think much longer. My step-mother said it was nothing but weakness until she blew her brains out.

    Was she just too strong to take the pain any longer?

  30. L at 5:00 am

    I don’t get it. In an atmosphere where thousands if not hundreds of thousands to include innocent children and the elderly are suffering needlessly in pain because of this war on medication, another “brilliant expert” writes a “bubblegum article” about an “unemployed biker on “Norco”. And by the way she stands to profit off her book. I have been a physical rehabilitation therapist for over 35 years and have worked with children and adults with a multitude of diseases and injuries. I have both respect and disdain for the way Modern Medicine, Alternative Therapies, and Psychiatry have, and continue to approach medicine.
    However, people seem to be so far removed from what the realities are on the front-lines of this situation. Walk into any hospital burn unit, children’s cancer ward, veterans rehab unit, and the list goes on, and you will see “REAL PAIN”. People going to ERs and hospitals for surgeries and injuries are being sent home with aspirin. RSD/CRPS can be considered one of the most painful conditions on the planet and this author is writing about facial masks, spas, and some biker’s girlfriend “popping 1/2 a Norco and being glad they didn’t die”

  31. Patti Plante at 3:34 am

    I’ve heard that there are doctors that will prescribe drugs as described but have never met the users face to face. As a chronic pain patient, I really take issue with this because this is why many of us are having a hard time getting our prescriptions. It’s sad. How do you crack down on this type of usage? It disgusts me.