It finally happened to me. I watched and reported on it for years, and now I am the subject of my column on abandoned patients. My doctor referred me to a pain clinic for continuing opioid prescriptions. He informed me that with the change in Illinois law governing opioid prescribing that his practice could no longer support the prescribing opioids. He offered me the name and number of a local pain clinic.
This unwanted change upended me late last Summer. I immediately contacted the pain practice for an appointment and was seen rather quickly.
It was then I decided to try to stop taking oxycontin, an opioid among others I had used for nearly 20 years. At first, I gradually tapered off the daily 80 milligrams I’d been taking for five years. In the first weeks, I sailed along with no withdrawal symptoms nipping hungrily at my heels.
No sweat, I had this. I mean, until the demon hubris took over, and I stupidly thought I could skip the last few milligrams I had been taking to allow my brain to adjust slowly to non-opioid-saturated synapses.
Within two days, my calamitous decision dumped me headlong into the horror-leavened universe of Withdrawal Agonistes: I sweated endlessly; my body shook with tremors weaponized by skin-crawling agitation; plagued by sleeplessness and wild mood swings–terror and rage–I endured the full panoply of the harder edges of sudden decampment from the gauzy world of opioid analgesia.
With a call to my new pain docs, I was seen forthwith and given a small dose of a narcotic analgesic and gabapentin. Tag-teaming, the meds wrestled the Agonistes to a standstill, and I returned to my narrow peninsula of normalcy.
Unknown to me at that time, my peninsula had been markedly reduced by the “new normal.”
It’s my experience that anything referred to as the “new normal” is something we used to enjoy but is now significantly reduced or made far less attractive and that we must adjust to these “new” circumstances. In advertising, “new” is always touted as better, improved over the old lot. In reality, not so much!
Not so with the “new normal.” No, this new normal is fucked, no matter how much “new” in the “new normal,” we all know that the “new” is are a fatal reduction from the old, and we must get used to it. In these times, our ability to adjust to reduced conditions is a measure of our mental health.
For me, as a lifelong pain patient, the new normal without Oxycontin or Fentanyl is an expensive chore. For many years, some researchers and addictions docs vilified those physicians who prescribed adequate amounts of opioid analgesics to provide us with a modicum of control over what was once beyond the reach of medical treatment.
Opioids save the lives of those like me who lived, if living it can be called, with the horror of constant mind and personality altering pain. Opioids provide people like me with relative pain-free space that allows us to breathe, to think, to feel without the gnawing anxiety that robs us of our lives.
Doctors routinely excoriated for adding to and hastening the so-called opioid epidemic have been forced to back away from patients like me.
We, the patients in need of care, are given over to the over-priced care of assembly-line clinics who charge way more for pain relief than what I paid in the past. Additionally, we are forced to pay for more doctor visits to get our prescriptions once a month as opposed to every 3 or 4 months.
The necessity of spinal injections compounds these increased appointments, nerve ablations, stemcell recovery, and reinjection into stressed joints increases our time spent in waiting for our docs and fees we pay for the multiplying dates and money spent.
If there were pill mills, and there were in places like Florida and Kentucky, there are now “sanctioned” pain clinics making money off people like me whose bodies are pathways for these newest exploiters to get rich off the least powerful. Whatever new regime steps in, it is sure to make tons of money off exploiting those of us in desperate need of compassionate pain relief.
My next posting will examine how “empire capitalism” impacts our pain care.