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Terrified of getting addicted

BuelaBBuela Posts: 67
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:58 AM in Pain Management
On 1/3/12 I'm having a 2-level ACDF because of two disks pushing into my spinal cord. I have weakness in my arm (but no arm or neck pain), weakness in my left legs, and significant pain in my left SI joint area related to compensating for that weakness. By the end of the day (and ometimes much earlier) the pain can be up to a 7 or 8, especially if I've been doing too much sitting or strenuous activity.

A few months ago I was prescribed Nucynta, 2-75mg/day for the pain. I've been waiting until the pain is clearly too bad to let me sleep to take one, but my pain doc wants me to take one as soon as I get home from work to ward off that pain (since I told her that no way could I function at work or drive while on that), then another at bedtime. Plus I'm afraid of the SI-area pain getting a lot worse after surgery, since inactivity, and especially sitting, makes it so much worse.

I'm having huge amounts of fear and anxiety about getting addicted -we're raising our two grandkids in part because of pain pill addiction, and so it really scares the crap out of me. At least when I was taking them only when absolutely needed, I could feel at least the chance of avoiding addiction, but having tried a few times now to take one earlier, I'm finding that I really can do a lot more without that pain even if I am tired, plus I'm getting better at working through the sedative effect which scares me even more. Then when I have the surgery, she wants to take FIVE a day instead of just two, and said she'd up it to the 100s if the 75s weren't enough - and she wrote that script for two weeks of 5/day.

I've never taken pain pills for this long, and I definitely haven't taken that many for that long. Having seen firsthand what addiction to this stuff can do to you, it scares the crap out of me.

What can I do? How will I be able to wean off of them after so long on them? Should I go back to just pushing through the pain until it gets really bad, so that I'm only taking it when I really physically need it? That's the only thing that makes sense to me. I don't want to take the chance of finding a way to rationalize taking them if I'm not in significant pain. Or is it really worth risking addiction to take them regularly instead of only when seriously needed, because I can deal with the short term quality of lied issues from the pain if it means that I have a higher chance of avoiding addiction, but I just don't know what to do about being told that I really should take them long before the pain gets bad -- will that help me to heal faster?


  • Fighting pain makes it harder for our bodies to heal both physically and emotionally.

    It is a standard practice to stay ahead of the pain (taking the medicine as prescribed), because it takes far more to gather control once the pain is already out of control.

    I fought the fear of addiction when it was recommended that I begin treatment with narcotic pain medications. Having a history of drug and alcohol addiction, it was a real concern. I trusted my doc and we set up a plan and stuck to it. He was in control and I followed his directions. After a few years of this I became physically dependent on the opioids and after surgery went through detox and got completely off the opioids.

    I could not have made it those years without the meds. Now I take Tylenol as the strongest pain reliever.

    I guess what I'm trying to say, is that it's okay to be concerned, but don't let that interfere with your treatment. Maybe have a discussion with your doc about it and see what she has to say. I bet you will find that for the short time you need them, you will do just fine.

    Best wishes,

  • Thank you. I also emailed a friend who is a hospice nurse and very well trained in pain management, who also avoids western medicine for herself as much as possible and has been a great source of information about alternatives to western medicine, and she replied:
    Hi, there. First of all, it is REALLY important to take the pain pills before you get into too much pain, or else it gets much harder to control. Period. Next, repeated studies have shown, time and time again, that if pain management is being properly treated and monitored by a professional, less than 5% (and I've also heard <2%) of people get addicted. That's *including* people who have histories of addiction. TAKE YOUR F*ING PAIN MEDICINE AND GET OVER IT.<br />
    (she also almost never curses or writes in all caps, soooo I guess she means it!)

    I am going to try to be ok with this, but as someone who is raising our two grandkids in part because of their mother's addiction to pain meds, it just scares the crap out of me to take them if I'm not past the point of being able to take the pain any more.
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  • I too struggled with the idea of taking narcotic pain medications. I have no problem taking something for pain in the immediate post op period. It was the long term stuff that I fought. I too have family members with addiction problems, and knowing my own genetics, I feared what this stuff would do to me. So for 3 years I struggled daily, not allowing myself to take anything stronger than tramadol. The mental block I had against pain meds was very real to me, and I was scared to become like my brother, who is now deceased in part because of his addictions. Consequently, I was not functional because the pain kept me in bed most of the time. Depression set in, which we all know can make pain even more difficult to deal with, and life was not worth living. I wasn't suicidal, but I would have been happy if something were to happen to cause an early death. Finding no joy in life led to me focus on my pain, which just led to more depression, which just led to more pain. My doctors and I discussed doing a pain pump because the medication given that way is 1/300th of an oral dose, and the effects on the body are much less. However, I could not wrap my head around being dosed on the heavier meds 24/7, when there would be times when I would be okay without something that strong.

    I agreed to a trial of oral opiods (percocet). Let me tell you how wonderful my life is now--what a difference it makes in my life! I am certainly not pain free, but when I take one, I get enough relief to function.

    My doctors and I discussed the differences in addition and dependency. Yes it is true that most of us will become dependent upon the pain pills we take, because that is the natural response of our bodies. But most of us will not become addicted. Addiction is when we mentally crave the meds, when we take more than prescribed, when we rely on that pill more than we rely on ourselves. Addiction is when we watch the clock and want to take the next pill before it is time, when the old dose isn't enough and we push for more. (unless something physical has changed). I hope that makes sense, but this is what my doctors have explained to me.

    I take other medications that help with pain, but the percocet I take gives me far more relief than anything. I am strong enough to limit myself and only take it when I absolutely have to. When a person is concerned and aware of the possibility of addiction, that person will likely make certain they don't become addicted.

    I had a pain management appointment last week. My doctor asked me if I needed the narcotic refill. When I told him I still have plenty left over, he said he will never worry about me taking it because I have proven that I can take it responsibly. You can do this too. Take the pain meds to help you function when necessary. If you can get by without on certain days, skip it. At least that is how I am functioning and it works great for me! I found there are far worse things than taking pain pills. Laying in bed all the time is not good for one's health either. Just be aware and always concerned. Take it seriously. You should do just fine.
    Surviving chronic pain one day at a time, praying for a reprieve because living another 40 years like this doesn't sound too fun!
  • The only advice I can give you is to convince yourself that addiction is not and will not be a part of your life. I had serious drug and alcohol problems for years, then I had my sweet little angel (my not so angelic toddler now), and when I have a craving (for the old stuff) I look at him and I know what I really want. An intact family filled with love and trust. Also, address your concerns with your doctor, and listen to them, they are there for you, not against you. I had a L5, S1 discectomy and fusion a month ago. I am just finishing detoxing off the hard stuff (dilaudid), and it sucked. But when you have something in your life that is more important than getting a fix (or in your daughters case, when she realizes what is more important) it is easy to put down what really doesn't matter, and isn't worth it anyway. You can also look up local outpatient mental health facilties who specialize in addiction and seek counseling that way, I have a counselor I see every few weeks who helps me stay on track and clear my mind in an open and safe environment. I guess what I am trying to say is that if you have something more important than getting high, then you will never have to, and it sounds like you have plenty. I hope this helps.
    Sarah D
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 7,385
    ...and agree with your friend who wrote in caps!:)

    Take meds as prescribed to stay ahead of the pain.

    If I understood correctly, you'll be having surgery..maybe it would help to line up a little of your support system to help during your recovery.
    Maybe friends to care for the kids on different days so you can get your rest.

    Caring for yourself and not overdoing.. which could cause a set back.. is the best thing you can do not only for yourself, but your family. You'll be able to recover and when you no longer need the meds... you will not want the meds.

    I say to myself as I say to you, sometimes we are so familiar with the downside of situations that we forget..or unaware of all the successess that are out there. I'm agreeing with your friend..small percentage have addiction...but they are not the people we hear from..so we forget the huge percentage of people who recover without addiction.

    Worry can zap our strength,too..so I hope you will find peace with the issue and have all your strength for a timely and successful recovery. Take care!
    Honorary Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

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  • j.howiejj.howie Brentwood, Ca., USAPosts: 1,745
    But I also agree with everyone else to. Keep in mind that during the bad pain spells you can control the pain to some extent. And if you find it's hard to get off of the drugs Know that there are many,many,things on the market to gently detox you off of them.
    Don't suffer and make your loved ones suffer right along with you for nothing other than a stigma.
    Good luck, Jim
    Click my name to see my Medical history
    You get what you get, not what you deserve......I stole that from Susan (rip)
    Today is yours to embrace........ for tomorrow, who knows what might be starring you in the face!
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