Little Pink Pill

June 5th, 2012 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

Magazines, websites and I hear even the T and V drown in drug ads. Most of those intend to convince Boomers they’ll sicken and die if they don’t accept the capsule, tablet or pill that treats symptoms they didn’t know they had. Vanity, fear of mortality, peer pressure…who knows what makes these is-the-purple-pill-right-for-you attack work.

On the other hand, in my tiny universe of one, in the past four years, I’ve found an effective diet regimen — opiates.

Probably like other blogs that write on common physical issues, this one gets a fair number of hits related to various aspects of my broken legs. That makes perfect sense, both in seeing how someone else dealt with your condition and in filling in the huge gaps that docs often leave. I look at the info sheets the ER provided me for my broken clavicle and ribs, thinking these are as bad as a Microsoft Office Help system. There’s not enough useful there, and no effort to address common and likely problems.

In that context, I’ll note that I had been losing weight and fat, using a self-customized low-carb/moderate protein and fat nutrition plan. Then coming up on 11 days ago, my big boom threw me to the pavement from my road bike at speed at 20-some MPH, with those fractures, cracks and such. Being unable to exercise in the slightest, I have feared what had been my weekly weigh-in. I still record all I eat, but only two days have had the slightest exercise, and that’s been just over a mile walk up and down this hill. While the amble was slow, halting, painful and demanding, it’s far, far from my normal daily fitness attacks.

Mirabile dictu! After not weighing for the past two Mondays, I dared today, knowing I just had to record the damage and push ahead. By the scale, I was down nearly 10 pounds. I suspect I had been holding some water, as I was at a plateau and that some of that recent drop was soggy tissue giving it up. Nevertheless, to a banged up old guy,not gaining would have been plenty of good tidings.

On the way to the weigh-in, I was on oxycodone, an opiate. Likewise, following my leg surgery and much, much worse pain levels, I had hydromorphone, a synthetic morphine replacing the actual opiate given me in the hospital. In both post-trauma situations:

  • I was not hungry when I had the drug in my system
  • There was real, substantial weight loss
  • My typical nervous response did not turn to food
  • I was (almost surely irrationally) terrified

I have known drug addicts in many situations. During my college and professional years working newspapers, I would meet them both on the job and socially. I have never known a plump one. However, I am at a disadvantage (for which I am grateful) in not coming from a family with drug addiction in it.

Still, I fear opiates and other highly addictive drugs. I think at various times in my life, I would have been healthier and more productive if I drank less of an evening. More to the point, I smoked for a decade from my late teens. I was truly addicted to cigarettes and nicotine. Kicking was no fun and took several tries. It was the idea that we’d create a baby that inspired the victory. So, I know I can exhibit addictive behavior.

For both pain drugs, I disdained the doctors and nurses, nurses in particular, who chanted, “Stay ahead of the pain!” They actively encourage what looks like drug abuse to me. At least, they’d have you take the script dosage and stay drugged up all day and night. The idea is that you heal better. The reality is that you would bug them less if you were out of it.

I recalled how they pushed antacids and laxatives and such in hospital. I had no symptom indicating any of the several allegedly preventative drugs and adamantly, repeatedly refused multiple nurses and docs. Likewise, I demanded the minimal morphine dosage over their objections.

Post-hospital and recently post-ER, I weaned myself from the opiates quickly, preferring a higher level of pain to a possible dependency. That’s not for everyone. I know many who get emotionally wrapped up in pain issues and who take analgesics daily and more for any cause. Coffee is a drug for me, as is a drink. Thank you very much.

Alas, the current opiate was to help me sleep at night and manage during the day. Turns out, that wasn’t true in my case. The first full day after the bike wreck, I went with three of the scripted four pink pills. During the day, taking one made me almost pass out and become a dozing drooler. Not cool. At night, one at bedtime kicked in at a half hour, give or take, but only provided two or so hours of rest before the agony of scapula and ribs, that is their related muscles and nerves, had me teary and too, too awake. The cycle repeated if I waited the six hours from the previous pill and dosed again.

I discovered I was better off grimacing and groaning my way into a seated position on a living room couch. That minimized pressure on the torso and chest, allowing more exhausted sleep than the drugs did.

With all the upper body damage, breathing was very painful, coughing almost unbearable, climbing our many stairs (four stories with the basement where my computers are) was very bad down and much worse up. I have reasons to think of pain relief.

I confess on those first few nights of agony, I could understand how junkies and the pain-fleers would double or triple on the dose. I felt the urge. Yet, I went from two pills a day to one to none.

When I can drive again, I’ll swing by the pharmacy where my wife got the pink pills and drop the container off for disposal, as I did with the hydromophone. I’m not quite sure why I am so wary of addictive prescription drugs, but there are many worse compulsions and areas of paranoia.

So to those stuck in acute pain cycles, I advise a bit of self-science. Step back, Newton like, and observe. Do behavior and as in my current case, posture offer relief drugs don’t? Is being shoved into stupor awful to you? Can you manage your pain with fewer doses than the bottle calls for?

I think of a former minister who was on the other end. She said she hated pain and give her anything and everything necessary to take it away. She and I differ.



2 Responses

  1. Uncle says:

    Hobble over to my place and check out the link. Getting off opiates quick or quicker is a good thing to do for your body. They are grossly over-prescribed but it’s hard to decide which way to point the finger: at clinicians, or at people who *will* do anything to avoid pain.

    It’s not a new conundrum, either. It’s been estimated that half or more of the Civil War’s wounded veterans were opium addicts by middle age. With any drug, one must always beware of the cost and weigh it carefully.

  2. Mark says:

    Less than 10% of Viet Nam vets had trouble stopping heroin on return to the states. I’ve had several knee surgeries and long recoveries aided by narcotics. Zero trouble stopping, less depression, more mobility to shorten rehab. Not even constipation, that is often the biggest problem.

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