Just over a year ago I had both my knees replaced within three months: (the first one in August and the second one in November: (AND NO I WOULD NEVER RECOMMEND HAVING THEM REPLACED SO CLOSE TOGETHER). However, following the surgeries I was given Opiates (including Morphine, Oxy-condone, and Vicodin) for the pain. Now please understand this is not the first Pain medication I have ever taken. Since I was 13 years old I have had no less than 12 knee related injuries, in addition I had Achilles tendon repair, kidney stones, and some other pain related issues. So I know what pain medication is and what it can do.
First, let’s define an Opiate: Merriam – Webster defines it as a “Narcotic: a drug (as morphine or codeine) containing or derived from opium and tending to induce sleep and alleviate pain” This can include pain medication of various strengths, like Tramadol, Vicodin, Oxycodone, Morphine, and street drugs like Heroin.
Individuals that take Opiates are at a very high risk of building up a tolerance to the drug, therefore requiring higher doses to get the same relief or feeling. As addictions counselors we also look at the individual’s family history, and social interaction. In my case there is a history of alcoholism within the family, and this has given me cause to be more cautions than some folks that have no prior family history. The key is to know your limits and be very careful to keep help handy.
I share my story hopefully to help folks understand that despite the pain and the use of medication there is hope for not becoming addicted. For the past 25 years I have worked as an Alcohol and Drug counselor, and have worked with individuals that abuse and even become dependent on Opiates to help them function in their daily lives. I’m fortunate that I have not become one of them. However, I realize it is by the Grace of God, and the encouragement and support of family and friends. It is also very important to have honest and caring doctors.
What has kept me from abusing or becoming dependent on the Opiates, I believe there are three factors that play into this. Please believe me I’m NOT attempting to over simplify sobriety or addiction.
1) My personal relationship with God:
· I believe that God is able to help with the pain. However, believe me when I was waking up every hour or two prayers was not cutting it. However, through that time of pain and prayer I was able to cut back each day to the point of not using on regular bases. And today I very rarely have to take a pain pill, and that is generally only when I do something stupid like over extend the knees.
2) My personal relationship with family/friends:
· I learned a long time ago I have to give individuals permission to ask the Question. “How much are you using and why?” for those of us that use Opiates for pain this may seem like a stupid question, they should already know it because of the pain. However, when you think about it, maybe it is not a stupid question after all; there is a recommend dose for pain medication and a time frame in which you should use them. If you continue to use beyond the recommend dose and time frame you are on the virtue of a serious problem. Let them ask the question, and be accountable to them for what you’re doing, it is time to be honest not only with them, but with yourself. When you start lying about the amount or reason your using, it is time to seek addiction treatment.
3) My personal desire to not abuse them (for me and my family):
· I share with my clients that there has to be a reason to get up in the morning, something that gives you a since of purpose in life. I can’t accomplish that Purpose if I am HIGH on pain pills or running into the dope house shooting up Heroin.
When will I know it is a problem? The simple way is if you give a yes response to anyone of these following four questions’: (1) Has it caused me problems with my family and friends? (2) Has it caused me legal problems? (3) Has it caused me problems with finances? (4) Has it caused me problems with either my mental health or physical health?
I recently read several articles where it becoming easier to buy Opiates (Pain Killers) over the internet from countries like China, India, and other third world countries that don’t have regulations over what is in their drugs like we do here in America. As a result we see a number of people dying from the use of these mail order drugs.
Opiate addiction is a very serious issue, and one that has to be monitored not only by the individual that is taking the drugs, but by your doctor, family, friends, and anyone else that is important in your life that can and will hold you accountable.
Honestly the thought of becoming dependent on Opiates scares me, so for me accountability is the only clear choice.