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Don't want to take drugs

watchyurbackwwatchyurback Posts: 73
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:36 AM in Chronic Pain
I'm nine months out of L4-S1 fusion with instrumentation and the pain persists -- and the doctors all seem to want to put me on opiate painkillers. I hate opiates. They give me horrible side-effects, like dizziness and nausea, and I'm concerned about dependency or addiction. My pain doctor wants to try me on Suboxone, which is indicated for opiate addiction but can be used off-label for pain. It gave me the worst side effects so I stopped after one tiny dose. Won't touch it again. Norco is OK but it also has similar side effects and makes me feel loopy. Discontinued it three days after being discharged from the hospital.
So -- for all of you chronic pain sufferers, please help me out here. I feel like I messed up my life once by having fusion surgery that worsened my pain. I don't want to mess it up again by getting hooked on dope. I don't trust doctors anymore.
The docs also recommend exercise and mindfulness meditation. I'm pretty active with exercise -- work out three times a week at the gym. I try to work through the pain at home, keeping active despite discomfort. I just don't care anymore. I'm going to live my life with or without pain.
Is anybody here really satisfied with the treatment they've been getting? Are painkillers the only or best way to go? When will the medical insanity stop?
I'm sticking with Tylenol for now.


  • i hate side affects too so its tylenol and an NSAID for me but can you add am nsaid or do you get side effects from them?
  • I'm very sensitive to medications, also, but even if I weren't, I wouldn't take most of the meds the drs prescribe for pain. I just cringe when I read the posts (I read them all) from members on this site who list the medications they're taking. There is addiction involved and a lot of people won't admit it.I'm not criticizing anyone taking pain medication...that's their choice. I know the pain is unbearable and it would be so wonderful just to take a pill and have it relieved. I've had back pain since I was a teenager and this pain is with me 24/7. A couple of years ago I had surgery, which made the pain much worse. I have really bad pain if I try to sit so I spend most of my time standing, which relieves the pain somewhat.

    This is one of the reasons I had the trial for the scs because it didn't involve pain pills. The trial didn't work for me, though. Pete, I know you're having yours implanted very shortly, and "P", this might be an option for you.
  • I believe it is recommended not to use NSAIDS for about a year after fusion surgery? That they interfere with the fusion process?

    Hope you can find some relief P. Maybe cutting down on your exercises and switching to just walking for a while would help. Can you go somewhere for pool therapy? Nine months is still early in your recovery from multi-level surgery.

    Best wishes to you,

  • on narcotics but .if you need then well..then you need them .if you can manage on weaker pain killers then do so .but if your pain wakes you from sleep or weaker pain killers are not doing the job .then the pain will eventually drive you to narcotics .like it did to me ..and yes i am dependant on them as the pain makes me scream with out them .don't feel guilty about taking narcotics.just don't abuse them if you get put on them .the sickness /itching and other side effects will pass after about two weeks the only thing that you will have problems with is constipation ..but again your doctor will be able to give you something for this .i take Oxycontin and like many on here we find it to be a very good pain killer ..with very few side effects ..maybe you could try that one?? good luck my friend{for sickness try tonic water and there are wrist bands that are very good the wrist bands are for sea sickness but they work very well on any type of sickness}
  • Just because someone takes narcotics does not mean they are ADDICTED to them. I take them, when I NEED them. But that does not mean that I need them for something other than pain.

    I have suffered from pain for 35 years now, (darn I'm old as dirt)I have been on narcotics for about 7 years, I take them when my pain levels rise beyond what I can tolerate on a every day basis.

    They may be some here (I don't know for sure) that may be addicted to the meds, but honestly if they are it is because their pain led the way for that addiction.

    Pain meds also make me sick to my stomach, that is why I only take them when I feel I can no longer tolerate the pain. It does NOT stop my pain, just eases it to a more managable level.

    I don't think that anyone would ever want to live as we do, but we have been dealt this hand in life and with it comes the choice of what we all do for our pain.

    I myself am going to try the SCS, and if that doesn't work then I am going to find something that will. I am NOT giving up on my life. For myself if that means living with some form of pain control meds then so be it.

    If you can manage your pain with tylenol and exercise that is awesome, but for many of us we can't do that. For many (myself included) exercise even walking increases my pain therefore I need pain meds.

    I hope you find that you never need anything stronger than tylenol, but if you do, know that there are meds that can help, even with side effects, some just have to be adjusted such as lower doses or even breaking them in half and taking them 2 hours apart like I do.

    Good luck, and please let us know how things go for you.
  • There's a big difference between addiction and dependence. Most patients who are on opioid pain medications don't have true addiction problems, as long as they are taking the medicine as prescribed. These people are hardly 'hooked on dope'. This is something that is stressed over and over by knowledgeable doctors and in the literature on pain management.

    Essentially, addiction is defined by:

    - impaired control over drug use
    - craving or compulsion over drug use
    - continued use despite harm

    I can only speak for myself, but if my pain stopped tomorrow, I would have no more need for my medicine and certainly no desire to continue taking it.

    Physical dependence, however, is something anyone who is on long-term opioid therapy needs to keep in mind. When you stop taking these drugs, there will obviously be some degree of withdrawal involved - this is a sign of physical dependence, not addiction. Physical dependence happens with other medications too - anticonvulsants, antidepressants, sedatives, some muscle relaxants, for example - and isn't unique to opioids.

    In the end I think it comes down to finding the right drug or combination of drugs for you, personally - what is appropriate for your level and type of pain and what you can tolerate. Physical dependence is the downside that all of us on opioid medicines have to accept in exchange for effective pain relief. If other drugs with more potentially serious side effects such as NSAIDs work for you, then maybe they would be more appropriate, but, for many of us with severe pain, opioids are essential in that they are the only type of medicine that will help us cope with the pain and allow us to maintain some degree of activity.

    P, I do hope you find something that works for you. Nausea and dizziness are common side effects of opioids, NSAIDs, and many other meds, but they usually subside as the patient becomes accustomed to the drug being in the system.
  • None of us wanted to start on them!

    There also is a study, that states that having a mental - predisposition to side effects, actually produces those side effects regardless of whether you were on the med previously and have no neg reacts then. Kind of the placebo effect except it produces neg results.

    If there is merit to this and there is, then there should be a way to reduce those side effects through having your sub-conscious look after the side effects, while you are looking after things in the present.

    cheers -
  • I don't have a choice. I have to work and I have to be able to get out of bed to do that. Norco and Oxycodone don't take away my pain but the meds. make my pain somewhat manageable. I don't ever get a "high" feeling and I do not believe any of my co-workers or clients can tell I am using pain medication. It is better that way because of the great stigma attached to pain management. Only my family knows and they are very supportive. I have been on the same doses for 5 years. I take the medication exactly as prescribed. I am not addicted but I am dependant. If I did not have the meds. I would suffer withdrawl. My doctor explained that to me when I first started in pain management. It is probably time that I get an increase due to the tolerance factor. However, I will leave that to my doctors to decide. I did hope my SCS implants would allow me to cut down on the medication. I do have some days that I manage on a little less medication and I am happy for that but I don't have as many of those days as I would like. I have learned that both of my SCS implants are just tools. It is a primarily a combination of meds. and the SCS implants that keep me going. I am happy to have both.
  • There are numerous things that can be done to control pain. The key is to identify the type and source of pain and then attack it with the correct class of drug and or alternative and or conservative treatment. Mindfullness Meditation takes a lot of practice and is best if you have someone to coach you through the initial learning phases. It is only a tool in the vast arsenal against pain. Of course there is acupuncture, massage, yoga, osteopathic manipulation etc ...

    Basically you have to keep trying all the different things you can, until you find what works best for you and your body. Exercise is a great way to trigger the body's natural endorphins. I usually feel far less pain about 15 to 20 minutes into a vigorous exercise routine. That's the only type of high that I really enjoy or crave.

    Work with your pain management doc to try and find something that works. One thing though, is you have to keep an open mind. Try things that you would not normally think to try and you might just find that the most bizzare treatment, is the best solution.

  • Wow!!!!!

    Have to agree with Michael here. This thread has really gone off course rather quickly. For the OP, maybe you need to back down your exercise a little. It could be that you're just over doing it a little. At 9 months you should be feeling better but not 100%. It takes time for everything to run its course. Hopefully your body is still healing and settling into its new mechanics. I definitely recommend walking as that provides the best of all worlds as far as exercise goes.

    Let us know where and what type of pain you're having and maybe everyone can find a way to stay on point better.

    Hope your having a better day today.

  • Which drugs have you tried so far, P? NSAIDs might help with inflammatory pain, but bear in mind they can cause quite a bit of gastrointestinal distress. If you have neuropathic pain, you may find that one of the antidepressants like duloxetine or an anticonvulsant med like Neurontin or Lyrica help with that. Personally, I find the side effects of these meds very hard to take, but it differs from person to person, of course. It's very hard to recommend something that'll work, as pain and its relief are such individual, personal things. Like Michael said, the more info you can provide, the more chance there is of getting some advice that could lead to you finding something that helps. Good luck in finding some relief.
  • I have to agree with "C" here. There are several treatments to try.
    I can't say it better than she has.
    Good Luck
    Patsy W
  • I don't know about opium and morphine. The strongest thing I have ever taken is Lortab and Vicodin. The Lortab made me queasy and nauseous. My doc gave me Phenergan to tone down the nausea and it helped a lot. Something to consider maybe?

    Now I take a Darvocet when the pain flare ups get to me and those don't make me queasy at all. I've been told they are whimpy pain killers compared to what most of you take.

    On the addiction thing. It isn't just opium and morphine. My original surgeon was dead set against muscle relaxers after 2 weeks post op. He said they were the most addictive and abused drugs he saw spineys taking.
  • First off, anytime someone comes on a chronic pain management board and critiques those that use narcotics for pain relief I think you should expect backlash for that.
    To the OP, Pain releif is a personal decision, you have to do what works best for you. It was a big decision for me to use narcotics to help alleviate my daily pain. I have arthritis and also back problems. It is and always will be my goal to not need narcotics on a daily basis. I am not nor have I ever been addicted to anything, including narcotics. For someone to suggest this, a blanket statement, I think is not only rude but small minded.
    I would suggest that you work closely with a Pain Management doctor that you feel comfortable with. The relaxation techniques are wonderful and they do work, I use themself. The Lidoderm patches also give me some pain relief.
    Best of luck to you.
  • Be very careful if you're taking Tylenol or any acetaminophen for an extended period of time, it can damage your liver. Your doctor needs to be aware of how much you take because your liver should be monitored if you plan to use it long-term.

    2009 Foraminotomy C6-72010 PLIF L4-S1Multi RFA's, cervical inj, lumbar injLaminectomy L3-4 and fusion w/internal fixation T10-L4 July 17Fusion C2-C5 yet to be scheduled
  • why I only use percocet for occassional BT pain and take opiates which do no harm to your liver.
  • but those horrible side effects will subside with a little time. I have been assured that opiates are the safest long term pain med due to the fact that they will not effect your organs. I got horribly sick at first too but after a few weeks when my body adjusted I started feeling normal and the side effects went away. Good luck and please keep us posted.
  • Thank you all for your thoughts, insights, advice and information. I want to assure you that I wasn't critiquing opiate users or labeling them as addicts. It's simply a fact, according to the statistics provided by my pain management doctor, that six to 10 percent of people taking opiates for pain eventually become addicted, and another 40 percent show aberrant behavior (drug-seeking behaviors such as hoarding, obsessing about not having enough, etc.). So those 40 percent are in a gray area between addiction and dependence.
    My concerns are twofold: I don't like the side-effects, even if they subside over time, and I fear ending up among the 50 percent who are either addicted or have aberrant behaviors.
    I am certain that most of you on this board are not addicted and take opiates for pain and take them under the strict supervision of your doctors. Dependence is the trade-off for pain reduction. That's a trade-off I would accept if I were reasonably certain it would not lead to addiction. It's a gamble for me.
    Now, as to my pain: it's in my lower back, typically above and below the fusion site, so at the adjacent levels (L3-4 and the sacroiliac joints). The Tylenol helps only a little bit. I'm aware of the liver-related risks and don't take more than three to four 500 mg tablets per day. I'm avoiding NSAIDS for now on the advice of my surgeon to promote fusion.
    My plan for now is to take a mindfulness seminar and perhaps try acupuncture. I'm not ruling out opiates. Please accept my apologies for my somewhat raw language about fearing becoming "hooked on dope."
    Best regards,

  • No worries, P, you were obviously just voicing your concerns. Frankly I don't think any of us want to be taking medication regularly, much less risk becoming dependent or even addicted. I think pain and pain relief are a very individual thing; what works for different people varies a lot, depending on the type and degree of pain one's in and all kinds of other factors. I hope you find something (whether it's chemical or otherwise) that helps to relieve your pain. Good luck with the seminar and the acupuncture.
  • contrary to what has been posted on here and for the general public's safety {not having a go at anyone } opiates do damage the liver especially in high doses so please be careful.that's one of the reasons that most people feel sick when they first start taking opiates .all drugs are metabolised in the liver .paracetamol is very dangerous never take more than 4 grams a day that's 8 500mg tablets .and that's in a healthy adult .and as good practice never take alcohol with any drugs
    kath.. strakers wife {health visitor and registered nurse }
  • I wish I could just take a Tylenol for my pain. I wish the pain wasn't so severe that I didn't have to take pills period. But that's not gonna happen for many of us. Addiction is not an option. Dependence is not so much on the pain pill, but dependence on a better quality of life is the way I see it. Without the dependence on pills for pain I'd be dependent on someone taking care of me, dependent on my recliner, dependent to someone Driving me, dependent to never having a life again and probly would not survive the pain... I think I'd have a heart attack or something cuz the pain would be so bad my bp would be skyhigh and then I'd be dependent on bp meds. If I didn't have my meds I think I'd be dependent on finding a way to end it all. So I'm dependent on my pills to live, to survive, to keep going, to ease the pain enough to not contiplate the worse case senerio. And believe me without pills I wouldn't even have to contiplate such bad things cuz I'm sure my misery would cause someone around me to contiplate it for me to take my misery away and their misery of having to deal with me, LOL. But not funny. I'm just saying it helps my quality of life and also everyone around me and their quality of life with me.
    The right dr would never consider a pill for a person in true need of it to be in danger of being addicted unless you're calling in for a refill way too soon or you're seeing different drs and they are all giving you meds without the other drs knowledge. And most drs know who needs and who wants.
    'p' there are many alternative proceedures to help your pain, and you need a pain management dr to help you with that. Let him know your fear of being on pills and let him work at making your pain as pillfree as possible.
    Good luck to you!!!!
  • Now I understand what you're going through and the reason that you can't handle taking opiates. I like to call it opiates or narcotics, but certainly never refer to them as dope. There's too much stigma attached to pain meds as it is.

    Littlesurfer, the chances of getting addicted to pain medications are slim if you take them as prescribed and you are monitored regularly by doctor. They do screen for those who have a history of alcohol or drug abuse before starting treatment, and even those patients can still be treated with pain meds under close supervision. Like Huggy mentioned, there is a big difference between physical dependence and addiction, and yes, many of us are opiod tolerant and would have withdrawal symptoms if we abruptly stopped taking pain meds (or any medication as well).

    If you can't handle taking these meds and you can get by with tylenol, nerve pain meds, NSAIDs, or antidepressants then that's what you gotta do. I tried a stim trial and it didn't help me, then I went through a pain pump trial which did work. You never know what will help so that's why you must keep looking for something that is right for you. I live for the day that I can finally have my pain pump implanted.

    For now, without meds I could not get out of bed. I made the decision to take them at my doctor's recommendation and I understood the responsibility that comes with it. If you chose to take them, it's okay. If not, it's also okay. We do what we have to in order to get by while living in chronic pain.
  • I like your attitude about living life despite the pain, and keeping active!! That's one of the best things one can do, keeping at least a little active, while keeping in mind not to overdo it. I find that once you give in to the pain, it starts to take over. Some days it's harder than others to not let it (for me, anyways) but as long as I pick myself up the next day, I do start to get back into the swing of things. If opiates don't work for you, and give you such horrible side effects, then don't let anyone push you into doing something you don't want to. Have you tried other things, like injections, accupuncture or even massage (not having had a fusion myself, I'm not sure if that's viable for you?) Working out in the pool I find is also great, soothing, relaxing for me, but still a good, low-impact work out. There are lots of folks on here that use meditation as well, as part of their regimen, I don't do that, per se, but do relaxation and breathing exercises, and do believe in the power of positive thinking. I don't take opiates on a regular basis, only when it's so bad that I can't sit up or stand. I did start taking Tylenol Arthritis this summer though, and it does help immensely with that type of pain, just not for the nerve pain (still looking for something to help with that...)
    Anyways, I hope that you are able to find something that works for you, and keep up with that great attitude of living life and not letting the pain take over!!
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • Your original question is anyone here satisfied with the medical treatment you are getting. Yes, in away is it curing my pain...no. But the doctors are working on answers it is trial and error at this point as to what is the best choices for me. I am sure your doctors are just as frustrated as you are to not find you relief. Not sure if you tried this or not but what about a TEN's unit . Another thing that I am trying albeit a opiate class is Voltaren Gel. It is a topical pain reliever. I suppose it could be habit forming as is nasal spray for some.

    I was just curious did you or do you have issues with addiction in the past or currently? I think C gave some really good alternative choices to the prescription med route. I do hope you find relief soon though. Over time chronic pain does wear on you mentally and emotionally.
  • I have had at least 4 doctors assure me that methadone and like opiates do not effect your organs. I found this online medical encyclopedia Notice this lists what methadone does NOT effect:

    Long-term effects

    Methadone doesn't damage your:


    Liver but see (what is) if you may have liver damage



    Reproductive system

    Immune system.

    It is true to say that methadone, even if taken for years, causes no direct physical damage and is usually much healthier than being dependent on illicit opiates. t However being (constipated for long periods (,in cause problems in later life and....

    Methadone I mg/I ml attacks your teeth because:

    Methadone can restrict the production of saliva which is one of the body's natural defences against plaque.

    if you are prescribed methadone that is not sugarfree it will be:

    50% syrup which causes the growth of plaque the commonest cause of tooth decay.

    Apart from finding a good dentist (your drug agency should be able to put you in touch with one) and regular dental care, it really helps to:

    Cut sugary foods out of your diet

    Drink your methadone through a straw

    Clean your teeth straight after you take it - every time

    Chew sugar-free gum

    Rinse your mouth with water after you've taken methadone.

    But, in the end, methadone is no worse for your teeth than eating sweets or taking sugar in tea and coffee! And research has shown that the teeth of opiate users on methadone scripts are no worse than those of opiate users not on a script.
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