Friday, June 8, 2018

The oh so popular opioid wars

I think I'm about to be a victim of those wars. The facts are this; I use opioids, Norco, and have for ten years or more. I have had 4 different surgeries on my back and those surgeries were successful in that they reduced the amount of intense pain that drove me to see a surgeon. Reduced is not the same as gone. Various levels and types of narcotics were used in the fight to eliminate the pain. Some of them, such as Fentanyl were tried and never repeated. It did eliminate the pain but it left me in a stupor. I was given Norco and that seemed to dull the pain without a lot of side effects. Because of kidney problems I wasn't able to use any of the NSAIDs. My prescription said I could take 1 or 2 every 4 hours. and for at least 8 years I have been doing just that and keeping track of each and every dose in a small notebook. I now have a pile of notes with date and dose written on them. I take four 75% of the time and two for the rest. There are rare times when I need 6. I review the notes every once in awhile and I see a lot more six Norco days back in the beginning. As expected, the Norco became less effective over time and instead of taking more, the doctor prescribed a timed release morphine drug that I take twice a day. With that dosage I was able to go back to the gym and start regaining some lost muscle mass and cardio benefits. Also I was beating back the advance of COPD.

All of this time I thought that I was a responsible user of opioids. As a former Navy Hospital Corpsman I was aware of their addictive qualities and had been documenting my use so that I would know if I were increasing the dosage. I was sad that this had happened to me. Fate, bad luck, karma? My earlier career as a 'sheetrocker' had not helped my back and then at some point I fell and broke my back at the L5 level. I remember an intense pain and it took a few minutes before I regained my feet. I finished the day working as if I were crippled. I was. The pain persisted but in the environment where I worked, you didn't take time off unless you had been taken away by an ambulance. I had broken my left foot on the job at one time and I had a walking cast put on and took one day off to let the cast dry, then I was back to work; climbing the stairs with my crutches and then climbing up a rolling scaffold where I remained, working, most of the day. Over time I forgot the pain in my back and what I didn't know was happening to my back. New bone was growing but it was growing wild and forming an enlarged shield over a portion of the L5 vertebra. I was told of my broken back about 40 years after it happened by my surgeon after the first back surgery. Now, 10 years after that the bony growth prevents doctors from injecting corticosteroids into that area where a nerve exits my spine. Doctors won't surgically remove the bone because the scar tissue from makes it impossible to see where to cut. Doctors have tried to inject there, causing me a lot of pain while they tried...to no avail. Fate, bad luck, karma? I still don't know.

Now the opioid war has started for me. Yesterday, we were told that the prescription we had given the pharmacy would not be filled. This was after we had called to ask when would it be ready? Our doctor isn't answering our queries. The pharmacy tells us that the DEA is stopping the filling of the prescription because "they were worried about heart attacks". An obvious non-answer in the hopes that we will go away. I've taken the last of my morphine time release and my Norco needs refilling. Yet, no one has contacted the person who has the most to lose...me.

My wife just left to see what she can do and she has her Kindle with her; she says she's not coming back without an answer.

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