My father is a recovering alcoholic. I can say that because he doesn’t care about his anonymity. He’s proud of his 34 years of sobriety and frankly, so am I. It’s his greatest achievement.
As I navigate the world of chronic pain disorders, I am struck by how many medications are addictive. I recently started Lyrica and there’s a risk of dependency. I’ve been taking clonazepam for 18 years. I’ve been taking butalbital for 10 or so to help treat my migraines. I also take Flexeril (cyclobenzaprine). Of my daily meds, the only one without an addiction warning is the cyclobenzaprine…
Yet, I seem to only have 2 addictions: nicotine and caffeine. I can go weeks at a time without taking my clonazepam. It helps me sleep, but I have this irrational fear of med mixing myself to an accidental death, so when I start screwing around and adding new meds, especially medications that impact my central nervous system (like Lyrica) or meds like Tramadol that screw with my seratonin levels or even opiates, I tend not to take my clonazepam.
I don’t have withdrawal symptoms. My anxiety doesn’t heighten until I have been completely off it for months – at which point I suffer from a touch of agoraphobia and paranoia. Which I had before I started taking the clonazepam, so I might just be returning to my natural psychological state at that point and it may not be a side effect of not taking my benzodiazepine. As a matter of fact, I go off it often enough, that in a six month period, I always lose at least one month worth of prescription due to the cutoff date… sometimes, it’s two months.
Butalbital is a barbiturate and also addictive. I don’t need it to function. It doesn’t cause rebound migraines. I don’t have withdrawal migraines if I don’t take it.
Here’s the thing, opiates don’t make me feel good. Just like my butalbital doesn’t make me feel good. My clonazepam does, so if I was going to be addicted to meds, it would be that one. Opiates mostly make me feel like I need a nap. Since I always seem to need a nap right now that isn’t an improvement in my situation and I don’t crave them. I do like it when they help the pain by either bringing it down from a 600 to a 7 or when it makes it so I don’t limp… but it isn’t something I enjoy taking and I don’t know that I would get addicted to them anymore than my clonazepam.
Yet everyone is taking up pitchforks to fight addiction. Except, I didn’t end up on any of these drugs without some serious and careful experimenting. When I found out that if the Lyrica doesn’t help, my only other option is Cymbalta, I started to cry. I can’t take SSRIs… actually, I can’t take any of the 4 classes of antidepressants. That is why I take clonazepam for my anxiety instead of one of those. Gabapentin has less chance of addiction than Lyrica, but it made me suicidal and weepy. Hence the change to Lyrica. So far the biggest side effect is drowsiness, but I take it with a muscle relaxer, so that might be more muscle relaxer than Lyrica.
Does anyone stop to think about the people those pitchforks are affecting? My Vicodin prescription which treats the pain in my hips as well as the pain in my back from the torn disk in one of the lumbar vertebrae isn’t covered by insurance anymore because my prescription is for 30 tablets, more than insurance allows… So I pay for it out of pocket, I have to, because I get to the point where I am in so much pain, even my clothes hurt touching my skin and it feels like I have giant kidney stones in both kidneys (that’s a disk problem – yay torn disk!). My doctor gave me samples of the Lyrica because he is going to have to fight with my insurance company to get it covered, for a couple of reasons: 1. there isn’t really a generic version yet and 2. it carries an addiction warning.
My primary care doctor has to see me every couple of months just to fill my clonazepam prescription because it’s a controlled substance. Same on my butalbital. I even had to fill out a questionnaire for my insurance company about why I take the meds and how effective they are for me. Some of the questions were kind of invasive, especially on the clonazepam questionnaire. I’ve also learned that any time I travel and take my clonazepam or butalbital, if I am stopped for any minor traffic offense, the police have the right to count my pills, they can also report any irregularities to the DEA… so if I should have 16 clonazepam left and I only have 15 because I had a really bad anxiety day, this is considered enough “abuse” that I can be reported to the DEA and have my prescription taken away.
All these laws to keep people from becoming opiate addicts are ridiculous, because I’ve done the research. If I’m willing to drop the cash, I could have 120 Vicodin, Morphine, or Percocet delivered to my door overnight (I was researching for Ritual Dreams & Demonic Dreams). It’s outrageously expensive and I would never buy illegal drugs over the internet, but they exist in massive easy to access quantities. All we’ve really done is make it harder for law abiding citizens with real pain problems to get access to medications to help them. I feel like we are all getting a middle finger and being told to suck it up by those in charge. My research also turned up Xanax, Klonopin, and a host of other addictive non-opiate drugs that can be bought on the internet without a prescription and cause fatal overdoses in higher quantities in the US than opiates.
Sometimes, I feel like we are creating more problems than we are fixing. Sometimes, I also think we should just bring back the days of laudanum and say to hell with it. People will be opiate addicts even if every doctor in the US stops prescribing them. They are mostly just hurting the people that need them, not the ones that are using them recreationally or abusing their prescriptions.