Increasingly, there are stories in the media about the opioid epidemic happening in Canada, and particularly in the Prairies. People are taking opioids–fentanyl in particular–recreationally, and consequently, many are overdosing with a significant percentage of them dying as a result. The solution that is being touted is to heavily regulate the prescription of opioids, rather than treat the cause of the addiction.
Moreover, there have also been media reports of how people are taking more acetaminophen than needed and causing damage to their livers. The solution to this, in a similar vein, is to decrease the recommended daily amount one can consume in a day rather than treat the cause of the pain.
You may recall that I have chronic pain. I have osteoarthritis, that is, the degenerative type of arthritis usually associated with aging. One of specialists said it was the result of my body being incapable of handling the physical demands of adult life. More specifically, the bones in my forearm and wrist are too damn small.
I have pain in my wrist almost constantly. For me, a good day is when my pain level is a five or less (out of ten). A five is the kind of pain where I take two Tylenol Arthritis pills three times a day. It’s been over six months since I woke up with something less than a five.
When there is talk in the media of restricting access to opioids I become worried. I am concerned that I will be called a drug seeker and I won’t be able to get a prescription for the painkillers I sometimes need. I am uneasy for other Spoonies in the same situation (or one similar).
With that long and somewhat rambling preface, I begin my story.
A few days ago I noticed my supply of stronger drugs had begun to deplete to need-to-get-a-refill levels following a week of frequent temperature and climate changes. I counted the pills I had left: there were 30.5 remaining. If I’m taking 2 pills at every dose (every four hours) I go through 12 in a day; this means I had about 2.5 days worth. However, I had kept forgetting to call in my refill during the hours my pharmacy was open.
Now, I don’t take narcotics if I can help it because not only do they limit my ability to do academic work, but also negatively impact how I “function” on most other levels. Some weeks I don’t need any narcotics because my pain levels are a five or less. Then there are other weeks when T3s aren’t enough and I have to go the next step up.
But I never know when any of it is going to happen: the only thing I do know is the more I use my hand and fingers the worse the pain gets. Though I do have a confirmed osteoarthritis diagnosis, and even though I’ve had surgeries to ‘fix’ it, I still have pain. From what exactly myself and several specialists are still not sure.
This morning was one like most others. I went through my morning routine, including taking my AM Tylenol Arthritis dose. Before I went to school, I intended to (finally) call and order the refill.
When I called the pharmacy, the pharmacist I spoke to said it’s too early for my refill: I had to wait until the second week of May.
If things became bad (as they sometimes do) and without warning (as they also sometimes do) I would not have enough medication.
I was scared.
As much as I live with pain and live in pain, being in moderate pain, and not being able to find relief can mean all kinds of unpleasantness. And knowing what that means made me anxious.
I had to hope that either I would be very lucky and I would not have to deal with much pain for the next three weeks, or I had to hope that somehow or another I had more painkillers stashed away that I had forgotten about.
These were thoughts I had in only a few seconds.
Hopefully this reiterates my point prior about my not being able to access what I need for pain management. And also I hope it clarifies what may be lost for myself and others if restrictions on opioids come without options for treating the root of the pain.
I looked for another vial on my kitchen table. Nothing.
I looked for another vial in my purse. Nothing.
I looked for another vial in my backpack. Nothing.
I looked for another vial in my cabinet. Something! A vial!
I have enough. I have enough for now, at least.