Oct 14, 2010
I write here sadly knowing my story is the same overused plot with a different name. My story probably started the same way most everyone's story has: prescription painkillers, surgeries, ignorance to a drug so demonic, etc. My 8 year battle and abusive relationship with painkillers has been a long one. My drug of choice is Tramadol. This is my story.
I am 23 years old and I am addicted to opiates of you name it. I was 15 years old when I discovered the true demon that has haunted me everyday for god knows how long. It came in the form of Ultracet (tramadol hydrochloride/acetaminophen 37.5/325mg). I first noticed the feeling that penetrated to my bones. It was as if I had just been given a deep tissue massage but 100x better. It relaxed me and I took a nap after a "hard" day of school. I continued taking the Ultracet until my prescription ran out and noticed I couldn't sit still in class and I felt like there were bugs gnawing at my bones and muscles, esp. in my arms and legs. That went on for about 5 days and stopped. At the time I had made no connection between Ultracet and withdrawal. I was 15 and ignorant. A year or so passed and I was hospitalized for food poisoning. I was given a Demerol/Phenergan drip and about 10 hours after I was released I had that same gnawing feeling in my legs, arms, and back. This time it felt like an unwelcoming tickle but deep inside my bones. I couldn't sleep for a few hrs but still never thought it was due to any withdrawal. The same year, 2005, I had a series of dental procedures and was on Vicaprofen (a combo of 7.5mg of hydrocodone and ibuprofen), then Percocet 5/500. I was on the opiates for a time period of 3 months and that's when I realized I had become dependent. I finally found freedom from the drugs for a few years but more pain hit, and I was put on Tramadol 50mg for a few months in 2006 before an exploratory surgery that found I have endometriosis and had a couple months worth of Vicodin 5/500. I thought Tramadol was safe because I was told, as many others, that it is non-narcotic and non-addictive. However, many doctors now know, like all Tramadol users have known for years, that this drug is not safe and is one of the more addictive opiate agonists with a more complicated bonding structure and longer half-life along with SNRI properties, and this makes withdrawal from Tramadol longer than traditional opiates.
Since 2006, I have steadily started and stopped the use of narcotic painkillers with the longest "clean-streak" being 2 weeks. I have tried all of the following: dilaudid, morphine, methadone, suboxone, oxycodone (up to 30mg/pill), and finally my weakness Tramadol. I have taken up to 12 pills a day which, depending on various medical journals exceeds the max daily dose by 4 pills due to risk of seizures, which I have had due to Tramadol use. What scares me the most is that if I ever come across "h", I am most likely to try it. But my story continues with my struggles of today, which is by far, my biggest battle to date and a sticky situation I, along with enabling doctors, have helped put myself in.
In March 2009, it was speculated by my doctor that I had a herniated lumbar disc and ordered x-rays. I knew that x-rays would show nothing and I needed an MRI but I was not the doctor here. Obviously my x-rays were normal and my doc told me there is still a possibility of a disc herniation (bi-lat radial pain down both legs, numbness, tingling, and a pretty damn painful back, I'd say it's obviously a herniated disc), but good news: they usually heal within 6 to 8 weeks. So i was given Tramadol again for the pain in the meantime. Six pills a day up to 12 for over a year and finally I demand to have something done this past July, 2010. MRI confirmed a disc herniation between my L5 and S1 along with degenerative disc disease in my lumbar spine. But to get rid of the pain it took a whole month (mid August) to receive any kind of long-term strong pain medication (Lortab 10mg). Scheduled for surgery Sept 9, I now had an endless supply of Lortabs and I was using up to 8-10 pills a day. That was 100mg of hydrocodone/day! I was finally at ease with the pain management I was receiving but I admit I did not just take them for pain. I started needing them to function normally. So when I consulted with my surgeon, he told me to cut down. Easier said than done. I was dependent, in pain, and would heavily withdrawal in vain because my surgery was in a week at that point. My surgeon basically told me "you have to pay the piper at some point, it's either now or later." He was choosing for me the "now", but I wanted later so didn't stop with the Lortab because my post-surgery pain meds as I found out was going to be Percocet 5/325 as to be taken 1 every 4-8 hrs for severe pain and Vicodin 5/500 as to be taken 1 every 4-6 hrs for moderate pain. Both of these combined were of less strength than I was taking pre-surgery, and back surgery no less. There was no way I could withdrawal in a week from 100mg of hydrocodone effectively in order for the Percocet 5mg to work effectively. He was out of his mind. So i took matters in my own hands and decided to take (post-op) 2 Percocet and 1 Lortab every 3-4 hrs. Then when I had the pain at a manageable level I switched (2 Lortab, 1 Percocet). This was against the agreement I signed on pain meds from the surgical center but there was NO WAY I was going to let myself withdrawal right after surgery along with surgical pain. Somehow I eased down off the Percocet, rather ran out and started taking the 100 Vicodin I was prescribed. This ran out within a week so I asked if I could taper down with Tramadol so he gave me 3 refills of 60. Those were gone in 3 weeks. That's 60 pills/week. I am currently suffering in silence and going crazy because I just received a script for 30 Vicodin that is supposed to last me 7 more days and I received the refill yesterday but I'm already down to 16 pills. I'm already sweating/nauseous/restless and it's only been 10 hrs since my last dose. Next will be the chills. My parasites will panic and I will succumb to the all encompassing withdrawal monster. I have an appointment to see a pain specialist for the pain I'm still in because the microdiskektomy only relieved the partial radial pain and numbness in my legs. But I just want out. I want to stop taking this parasitic drug that has already altered my brain chemistry that will take maybe years to overcome. Withdrawal is only part of it. Relinquishing the demons inside is the hard part. I fear relapse because I know I cannot do it on my own but I'm suffering in silence. I keep picking up the phone to call a Suboxone doctor but I just cannot bring myself to do it. I don't have the money to pay for the prescription and I'm sure my insurance company won't pay either. I'm a struggling college student and the free clinics treat you like scum, like you're some lazy, drug-seeking, criminal, when really, to get help takes more humility and more judgement than imaginable. Most of us are "functioning addicts". I have managed to keep a job, a healthy supportive relationship, pay my bills, and remain on the National Honor Society for Psychology Students and am due to graduate this spring. My ambition is to help people like us. I have read many peer reviewed journal articles on addiction, its many complicated physiological and psychological components, and if I cannot help myself (right now) I'd like to try to help my fellow sufferers.