Tag Archive: opioids

Why I Need Hydrocodone

Hello! My name is Crystal Lindell and I’m on opioids — specifically, morphine and hydrocodone.

I need these medications on a daily basis to help manage my chronic pain. And by “chronic pain” I mean daily pain so horrible that I literally want to kill myself. Daily pain that feels like someone literally took a razor blade to my rib bone, whacked me with a golf club and then dropped a car on my chest.

The morphine is time-released, so I take that every eight hours, every day, all day. But it isn’t always enough to control my chronic pain, so sometimes I also have to take hydrocodone pills to help ease something called “breakthrough” pain.

Recently, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency decided that the hydrocodone I take should be reclassified to a Schedule II drug. That means I can’t get a prescription for the drug from a nurse, or a nurse practitioner. I can only get it from a doctor. It also means that I have to have an actual hand-written prescription to give to the pharmacy — no more calling or faxing it in from the doctor.

A lot of people in chronic pain, myself included, are really upset about this. But, if you’re not enduring agonizing pain on a daily basis, I can understand why you might not get what all the fuss is about.

So, below are some common questions those who don’t have chronic pain usually ask about hydrocodone, as well as some answers. Hopefully this helps to clear some things up about the whole situation.

Why are you so upset about this?

I’m upset for few reasons. Personally, this means I now have to get my monthly hydrocodone prescription in the mail, which throws a bunch of new factors into the situation. (More on that later).

Also, those who live in rural areas and only have access to a nurse practitionerwill no longer be able to get prescription for the drug, regardless of how much they may need it.

But more generally, it’s also one more way that hydrocodone, and opioids in general, are being demonized by our society. For me, hydrocodone has been a life saver in the purest senses of the word.

It has helped me to keep my job, take regular showers, and even travel. Without it, I can assure you that I would be spending every day of my life in bed or on the couch. I see the medication as a miracle drug.

But as the DEA continues its fight against opioids in all forms, it not only gives the drug a bad name, it also gives its users a bad name — whether they’re a legitimate user like me, who only takes the recommended dose each day, or a drug addict or dealer who sells the pills for profit.

It also opens up the door for others to treat hydrocodone users as they would an addict or a dealer. Pharmacists already give opioid users the third-degree when they try to fill a prescription for morphine or other similar drugs. And some will even outright refuse to fill it, regardless of how much pain the patient is in.

The new regulations also will likely make doctors that much more gun shy about prescribing hydrocodone, which for many patients is the only path to any sort of relief. Those in pain shouldn’t be forced to endure a fight with the medical community to get the relief they need — the daily battle they’re having with their body is tiring enough.

If you take hydrocodone every day, aren’t you an addict?

No, I’m not. There’s a big difference between “addiction” and “dependence.” My body does have a dependence on the drug after being on it so long, and yes, that would make it hard to go off of it cold turkey.

However, if I was addicted, I would take it for the “high” it can give rather than the pain relief, and thus I’d likely take larger and larger doses each day, and run out sooner and sooner each month.

I personally stick to my recommended dose not only because I’m not “addicted,” but also because I need the pills on a daily basis to help me function. If I took the whole bottle on the first day, I’d spend the rest of the month sinking into the couch in pain and despair.

If you’re on an opioid like hydrocodone, shouldn’t you be seeing your doctor every month anyway? Can’t you just get the prescription then?

Actually, no, I don’t need to see my doctor every month. I have an ongoing chronic illness that has no foreseeable end.

I also have an ongoing relationship with my doctor. We often communicate via email and phone calls between visits, but unless there are any major changes in my health status, I don’t need to see him every 30 days.

Also, my condition is so rare that I have to be treated at a university hospital. However, I live in a small town, so the closest one is about two hours away. Driving such a long distance every 30 days wouldn’t just be impractical — it would be torture for my body.

And of course, there are many, many other patients out there in similar situations who are enduring long-term pain. Just like me, they need a monthly hydrocodone prescription, but they don’t need to see their doctor every single month.

Well is it really that big of a deal to have the prescription mailed to your house?

Yes, it is, for a few reasons. One, the mail doesn’t always get here when it should, meaning I could go into opioid withdrawal if there was a delay.

Two, my morphine prescription also has to be mailed to my house each month. In the past, if there were any delays caused by the mail and my morphine prescription didn’t get here on time, my doctor was able to phone in a hydrocodone prescription so I wouldn’t go into withdrawal. Now, I will no longer have that option.

If you have never gone through cold-turkey opioid withdrawal, the best way I can explain is this: It’s feels like you are literally having years of your life sucked out of the very bones of your body.

Can’t you just take a different medication? Why do you have to be on hydrocodone?

I’ve tried a bunch of other medications and none of them are as effective as hydrocodone at relieving the sudden bouts of strong pain I experience throughout the day.

But really, that doesn’t matter. All you need to know is that I’ve discussed it with my doctor, and he and I have agreed that it is the most effective medication with the fewest side effects for my health situation.

Think about it, if you were sick, isn’t that all you’d want to matter?

Aren’t thousands of people dying from opioid overdoses each year? Won’t this new law help with that?

You are right. A lot of people have died from opioid overdoses. Starting with 4,030 deaths in 1999, the number increased to 16,651 in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

I do feel genuine compassion for those who have died from drug overdoses as well as their families. I have had many personal experiences with loved ones dealing with drug addiction and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

But, I also feel genuine compassion for the 100 million Americans living each day with chronic pain.

Right now, the pendulum has swung really far in one direction, and the needs of those suffering with chronic, as well as short-term, pain are being ignored at the expense of drug addicts.

Also, it should be noted that suicide rates among those with chronic pain are significantly higher than the general population.

In fact, “White men, white women, and white worker compensation men with chronic pain in the age range of 35-64 years are twice, three, and three times as likely, respectively, as their counterparts in the general population to die by suicide,” according to a study in the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

That’s a pretty dramatic difference. But I can tell you from personal experience that the right medication can go a long way in giving someone the will to survive.

If pain patients really fell this way, why didn’t they voice their side of the story to the DEA?

Aside from the fact that it’s incredibly difficult to take on the DEA when you’re healthy, much less when you’re enduring chronic pain, it’s also been hard to get them to understand why anyone would want more access to a drug instead of less.

The anti-opioid community has done a great job getting their message out into the world — but just because they’re the loudest, doesn’t mean they’re right. Those of us suffering from daily, treacherous chronic pain may be quieter (we are dealing with daily pain after all), but we have a point to make too.

We just believe that if there are legal medications out there that can make a huge difference in our quality of life, that we should have access to them. And that access should only be dependent on a conversation with our doctor or nurse practitioner. No more, no less.

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I Am Pro Zohydro

I am pro Zohydro, a new potent, hydrocodone-based, extended-release painkiller, because I am in so much pain, so much of the time.

I am pro Zohydro because there are so many days when I wake up and I’m literally in too much pain to open up a laptop and read my work emails. And I’m in too much pain to talk on the phone, watch TV, or take a shower.

Do you know what that’s like? To avoid taking a shower because you are in too much pain to stand up long enough to wash your hair? I do.

I am pro Zohydro because the pain on my right side shoots through me like a constant stream of agony and defeat. Because it feels like someone reached past my skin, and my blood vessels, and grabbed the last two bones in my right ribs and snapped them in half.

And somehow, at the same time, it feels like someone just dropped a cinder block on my chest and then whacked me with a baseball bat to make sure it hurt.

I am pro Zohydro because its sister drug Norco has helped me so much. It has given me moments of my life back. It has taken my pain away just enough for me to pretend that I might even be well.

It has allowed me to go to a Cubs games with my boyfriend, to go shopping with my sister and my mom, and to go to candy shows with my boss. It has allowed me to keep my job, take showers and, on particularly bad days, walk from the couch to the kitchen. It even kept me alive during my last mission trip as a youth leader. I wouldn’t trade that trip for my life.

I am pro Zohydro because my chronic pain has been like a vicious black alien that slithered out of the night sky and attached itself to my ribs, only to suck the life out of my body, a little more each day.

It has left me for dead, on the door steps of suicide, ready to end it all, and the only thing that has saved my life has been the pain pills from the merciful doctors who try to understand how horrible my chronic pain really is.

I am pro Zohydro because there’s a chance it could help me. There’s a chance it could give me a slice of my life back. And even if it can’t give me a slice of my life back, maybe it can give someone else a slice of their life back.

I am pro Zohydro because chronic pain really is that bad. Because I don’t just wake up feeling like I’ve been hit by semi-truck once in a while, the way people in the land of the well do when they have the flu, maybe once or twice year. For me, it’s not once in a while. It’s every day.

I can’t just call in sick to life whenever I feel like someone just stabbed me 27 times with a butcher knife. So, instead, every single day I have to pull myself out of the sheets, and lift off the covers, which tend to feel like they weigh 49 pounds, and I have to drag myself out of bed and face the world and try to function.

I have to live my life every single day, despite the fact that I’m literally in enough pain that I want to go to the emergency room all the time. But I know there is sometimes relief available. And that relief is opioid drugs. And if Zohydro is that drug for me or anyone else, I want them to have access to it.

I am pro Zohydro because 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain and they deserve hope. They deserve advances in medicine. They deserve cutting-edge treatments, advocates and support. And they deserve new drugs just like anyone else suffering from any other medical condition.

I am pro Zohydro because it will help people. Yes, I worry about those who may become addicted to it. And yes, I even worry that I will be among them. But more than that, I worry that one day, in the dark of night, I will no longer be able to bear the insane amount of pain in my  ribs, grab a knife and slit my wrists, and finally find the relief I so desperately search for.

I am pro Zohydro because I would rather find that relief from a prescription.

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What it feels like to go off hydrocodone cold turkey (for me anyway)

Yesterday — partly because of my own stupidity and partly because the only pharmacy in Byron, Il closes at 7 p.m. — I had to go off hydrocodone cold turkey.

And it was hell.

I ran out on Wednesday evening and I immediately went over to the pharmacy to ask them to call in a refill. But, the doctor’s office was already closed. So they said they couldn’t refill it until the next day.

No big deal. I could make it through the night. And I didn’t want to make a big deal of it and come off like a crazy drug addict.

So, back home I went.

And normally going one night really wouldn’t be that bad, because I take a pretty strong drug to make me fall asleep every night.

But the thing is I had to go into the office the next day. On no pain drugs. And, because my office is two hours away, that meant I wouldn’t get home in time to pick up the prescription before the pharmacy closed for the night.

My mom ended up driving me into work because I have realized that the two-hour drive each way makes me suicidal.

Even with her help, going off the hydrocodone cold turkey was still enough to almost kill me.

When I got to work I headed right for the bathroom, because I had buckets of diarrhea shooting out of me.

My palms were sweating and my rib pain was intensifying.

I lived through that and went to a morning meeting.

After that, I had planned to go to lunch with my mom, but suddenly my boss decided she wanted to take our team out to lunch so all of a sudden I had to look professional for a two-hour business lunch while I was in opiate withdrawal.

I popped some Tylenol hoping they would help take the edge off.

After I got back from the lunch I told my editor that’d I be over to his office in a bit to talk after I finished up some work at my desk.

Then, I ran to the bathroom. More diarrhea.

I was so weak, and my muscles hurt so bad that I just sat on the toilet with my jeans around my ankles, leaned my head against the blue bathroom stall, and prayed to die.

I got myself together, pulled up my pants, washed my hands and made it back to my desk, where I laid on the floor, resting my head on my puffy pink coat, until I could find the will to stand up again.

When I finally walked over to my editor’s desk to talk about the newsletter, so much time had passed that he said, “Wow, you must have had a lot of work to do. I thought you might have left for the day.”

We chatted for a bit, and then I ran back to the bathroom. More diarrhea.

I wanted to go to the hospital so bad. My ribs hurt like hell. My body ached all over. And I just wanted to be dead.

I thought about laying on the floor by my desk in the fetal position and making my mom come up to the office to get me.

But I didn’t.

Instead, I gathered up all the strength inside me, and got my things together so I could go home for the day.

As I walked over to say goodbye to my boss, I thought maybe I had at least pulled off giving him the impression that everything was fine. But when I told him I was leaving, he said, “Wow, it looks like you barely made it through the day.”

I tried to sleep on the way home, while my mom drove, but I was in so much pain that I wouldn’t really call it sleeping. Needless to say we didn’t make it home in time to get to the stupid pharmacy before they closed at 7 p.m.

And so, I had a long night ahead of me.

I tried to go to sleep as soon as I walked in the door, but every single joint in my body hurt.

It felt like a knife was in my ribs, and pain was radiating through my bones. I kept having to run to the toilet because of the diarrhea, but there was nothing left inside of me to come out.

I prayed for relief.

I prayed with all my heart that God would let me die that night. That he would take my life. That I would finally get the true relief I’ve been seeking for months and I would get to go to heaven.

I begged God for this to end.

My ankles felt simultaneously swollen, sprained and twisted. It felt like I had full-on tendonitis in my wrists. My body felt broken — all over.

And I didn’t think I would make it through the night.

I tossed and turned all night.

I thought about suicide. I thought about how much I hate hydrocodone.

I thought that once it got out of my system I would never go back on it.

But even as I thought it, I immediately knew it was a lie.

I knew I would go back on it the very second I got a refill in the morning. I knew because while my whole body was attacking me, there were my right ribs, screeching at me, haunting me, reminding me that I needed the hydrocodone.

My amazing mom drove to the pharmacy this morning to get my refill, and when the new dosage kicked in, I finally felt like I could breathe again.

I don’t want to be on this stupid drug. I really, really don’t. I hate that half the doctors I see accuse me of being a drug addict. I hate the I have to constantly wonder if I am a drug addict.

But more than that, I hate living my life feeling like I’ve just been stabbed in the ribs.

Some people out there might choose to forego the hydrocodone so they could avoid being on an opiate. Some people out there might be strong enough to preserve through this horrible, horrible intercostal neuralgia pain without strong pain pills. And, some people out there might be able to live like that.

I am not one of those people.

Quality of life matters to me.

Having even a few hours a day when the pain is at a minimum is important to me. And if that means my body is physically dependent on a federally regulated opiate, then so be it.

All I can tell you is that the pain that stabs through my right ribs every single day of my life really is that bad.

Hydrocodone

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