This morning after fighting muscle spasms for yet another night, my first thought was, “Why does my doctor have the right to say anything about my use of opioids?”
Seriously. That was my first thought.
I’d finally found a way to silence the noise of muscles growing, stretching, and healing — a very mild narcotic cocktail at bedtime. The Percocet given me for the first 8 post-op days lasted me nearly a month, and I still have 3/4 of the Tramadol, so clearly I’m not the one who’s going to overdose. In the day, Tylenol works just fine.
I don’t even like the non-spasm killing effects of the opiates. I don’t WANT to take them but I DO want to sleep. Night sleep is medicine. Given all this, I truly believe I should have the right to tell my doctor what to give me, but according to the law, I don’t have that right.
As for addiction, I’m not going there, but in the current climate of the “opioid crisis” the little white percocet pills are strictly controlled. I can have 7 days at a time. OH WELL.
After I had my first thought I scrutinized it — yeah. That’s a lesson I got from my life. Why do we care what addicts do? Whose business is it of ours, anyway? It’s their lives, their muscle spasms. We care because it’s heart-breaking to watch a life descend into addiction. Beyond that (the addict is the lucky one in that he or she is doing what they want) there’s the damage done to their families, and there’s the cost to society. No one really knows what to do about addiction because it is — ultimately — a personal choice and the person who wants a particular substance WILL find it. I know this way too well. I lost my brother to addiction.
In my first hip surgery experience in 2007, I was physically addicted to Vicodin after having taken it for the 3 years it took my (inept) doctor to order X-rays of my hip and properly diagnose the problem. He just threw pain meds and anti-depressants at it while I lost the ability to walk. Once all that was over I had to kick the drug. It was very, very, very unpleasant. I didn’t like the Vicodin, its effects on my mind and body, but after so long, my body was used to it. Taking it away was a nightmare.
The true danger of an opiate is that your body WILL addict itself to it. The mechanism in the drug is so close to the happy chemicals in our brains that our brains can’t tell the difference. Among the many grim stories of WW II is the story about how the Japanese put opium in the cigarettes it sold in China, addicting wide swaths of Chinese people and driving the market for Japanese (opiated) cigarettes.
So what’s the solution to all this? In my little situation, it’s enough Percocet to last three weeks. In the grand scheme? I don’t know. I wish I knew. It’s a problem that’s flummoxed people for centuries.
I wish I had the all-seeing eye that could gaze directly into the mechanism that spurs someone to abdicate their life to a substance. I wish I had the power to defeat the alcohol industry and provide graphic education about the long-term effects of alcohol abuse to kids in high school and middle school. I wish I had the power to create meaningful jobs with a living wage to all the people in my valley who feel hopeless because of the poverty in which they live and who, then, resort to dealing or using. I wish there were markings on the bodies of newborns that said, “This is a really special little person. He/she has a sensitive soul and will feel things too intensely. Be careful how you treat him/her because he/she is susceptible to addiction. Teach him/her to see the beautiful side of life. Give him/her lots of physical activity and things that engage his/her mind. Show him/her the power he/she has as an individual over emotions. Teach him/her to deal with disappointment. Nurture his/her sense of humor. Love him/her.”