This part of the opioid series I’m writing will be specifically about me. Why I use opioids, sometimes overuse them, and how they affect my life. Also, how living without them would affect my life and the dichotomy of using opioids vs. not using them. I hope to present a picture of the common patient in need of opioids and some of the trials and tribulations I go through. I hope to present an honest and truthful account of myself in this particular area.
I have been using opioids for many years now. I’ve lost count of the years. I am prescribed opioids for chronic leg and knee pain. I am not sure if something didn’t go right during a surgery to repair a broken knee/leg injury, or if nerves were damaged. I’m not sure if the pain comes from the post-traumatic arthritis I have in my knee and radiates out to my leg. I’m not even sure if the pain comes from the plate and seven screws in my leg. In short, I’m not sure what causes the pain I’m having.
I have been to orthopedists to try to discover the cause of my pain. After tests and x-rays the doctors are baffled by why I have pain. I am told I shouldn’t have pain. As the doctors tell me I shouldn’t have pain, after I tell them I have excruciating pain at times, I get the look from them that tells me they don’t believe me. They give me the look like I’m just telling them a story to get pain pills. Due to the fact that they can’t figure out why I’m complaining of pain, they have doubts about me. That’s the way it goes with doctors. I suppose they believed me enough because they started me on Norco for the pain.
Back in the day, years ago, I was a heavy drinker. I drank enough for 2-3 people almost on a nightly basis. Well, even though I drank I was still a somewhat responsible drunk. I didn’t drive after drinking. I did walk a lot though. I would walk to the store or where ever I would want to go around the neighborhood.
One night after drinking particularly heavy I decided I wanted a hamburger. I start my trek to the Burger King a few blocks away. About 2/3 of the way there I stepped off of a curb and landed hard on my leg. Down I went. I couldn’t get back up. I was down for the count.
I ended up breaking my leg/knee. The break was called a tibial plateau fracture. I called my wife to come and get me and she almost couldn’t get me in the car. I couldn’t put any weight on my leg and I wasn’t sure what was wrong.
I went to the emergency room that night. After I was admitted they did x-rays and told me to wait until they came back before they did anything else. I was so drunk I couldn’t feel any pain. They couldn’t even give me pain meds because I had too high of a blood alcohol content. Eventually the doctor came back and told me I had broken my leg. I was shocked. I hadn’t imagined that I could of broken my leg. The facts were in though and they all pointed to broken leg. Next I had to wait for an orthopedist to come in and look at the x-rays to figure out if I needed surgery or not. Again I was shocked. Now I was in need of possible surgery. Things weren’t going well for me that night.
The orthopedist came in and looked over the x-rays. He talked to me for a while and then broke the news to me. I was going to need surgery to repair my leg. It was a bad break. The break was right were my shin bone connects to my knee and it was broken. They would have to put a plate and screws into help it heal correctly. The orthopedist then admitted me to the hospital and told me he would come for me when an O.R. opened up.
The short of this part is I sat in the hospital for 3 days with a broken leg swelled up to 3 times its normal size. The pain was excruciating. I was on some of the strongest pain killers they had via IV drip and tablets. Barely touched the pain. Every time an OR opened up for my doctor to do the surgery an emergency surgery would come in and usurp his room from him. That made me wait until another room opened up. Three days later it the surgery was done.
I was in the hospital for another week recuperating from the surgery. I was released from the hospital after I could prove I could climb stairs with crutches. Once I did that I was released to go home. Once at home, I spent another month out of work recuperating. The whole thing was quite the ordeal.
I glossed over quite a bit of the whole thing, but this was the gist of what happened. After I recuperated and everything was back to normal, the pain in my leg never went away. I still had chronic pain. So, I went back to the orthopedist to find out why I had pain.
They did x-rays, but couldn’t find anything wrong. They told me to go home with ibuprofen and that should take care of the pain. The ibuprofen did little to ease the pain. Back to the doctor I went. Still they couldn’t find anything wrong, so I asked if I could have a stronger pain killer. They hesitated, but gave me Norco to take home. That did the trick.
I no longer had pain in my leg with the Norco. It solved a lot of my issues with pain and my ability to move around. I felt like it was a miracle. I never realized how much pain I had, or how much it immobilized me, until it was gone. I was pain free for the first time in months and it felt wonderful.
In the beginning of my Norco therapy I was on low doses and it worked just fine. I was still drinking at that time, so there were days where I didn’t take the Norco, instead choosing booze to kill the pain. There were no withdrawals at that time because I only took it every now and then and drank the other times.
As time went on I stopped drinking. It was in my best interest if I wanted to salvage my marriage and friendships. I was on a downward spiral and it wasn’t looking pretty. I just made the conscious choice to stop and did it with no problems. This led to the next issue for me.
Now, I had pain every day. No booze to soothe the pain away. Now I was reliant upon the Norco for my pain relief. I was now using Norco every day for pain. After a few months, maybe a year, the amount of Norco I was using wasn’t cutting it anymore. I needed a higher dose to get the same pain relief I was getting from the lower dose. My doctor upped it telling me that it is common for the dosage to be increased over time because my body is developing a tolerance for the medication.
Fast forward, a few more years and my dosages were increased a few more time until I came to my current dosage of 60mg per day. Or 6 tablets for the day, 10mg each. This has actually been a good dosage for me and I have yet to really feel the need to up the dosage on a daily basis. I have been using this dosage for the last few years. Yet, on occasion I do use an extra tablet or two if my pain is really bad that day.
This brings me to the point of why I use more than I am prescribed. I don’t do it every day, but sometimes an extra tablet would be needed for pain management. 6 pills takes care of 99% of my pain, but that 1% is what I’m talking about. This leads to days of either lower doses for the day, or going a day or so without the pills, which is hell.
Why would I do that if I have to go a day or two with no pills? Well, I have no good reason other than the day I had pain it seemed like a good idea. I have actually been working on this lately and doing a good job of better managing the pills given to me each month so I don’t go through withdrawal days. I have decided a little bit of pain on one day is better than excruciating pain for a couple days. It took me a while to come to this conclusion, but I’m there none the less.
So I’ve been on my current dosage for the last few years with no reason to really up the dose. I’m also not sure if my doctor would up my dosage at this point anyways. With all the media hype going on he seems a bit skittish.
I feel like something was messed up during my surgery which is why I have all this pain in my leg. Either that or the hardware in my leg is causing the pain, but to take it out would be so invasive I’m not sure if it would be worthwhile to do it without knowing for sure that was the cause.
So overall I’m happy with where I’m at with my Norco therapy. I’m even happier now that I’m better managing my pills so I don’t go through withdrawals from the medication. The Norco has given me my life back. No more pain and the ability to move around.
For some pain medication is the only option. Especially for chronic pain. The pain meds are a lifesaver for some people. Some people abuse them, or become addicted to them, but used properly they have less of these negative qualities. Overall, it has been a life saver for myself.