Living with Disabilities
Addicted to Narcotics

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By blford
June 13, 2005

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The BIG news was about Rush Limbaugh being addicted to narcotics and people wondering; How? Why?

I ain't him, so I dunno, but I can tell you how and why I got addicted. And I can tell you that I didn't lie about it either, I was begging my MD to take me off of the narcotics.

I herniated two discs in my lower back in 1988 and then blew out my right-knee ACL* in 1989.

ACL = Anterior cruciate ligament.

The pain at the onset of both injuries warranted narcotics, Darvocet (...purty pink pills...), and I was grateful for having them too. But the pain subsided after a period of time and the narcotics were no longer necessary for either the back or knee...until years later.

While living in VA, I finally had ACL reconstructive surgery on my right knee in 1996 (...when we had the insurance and could afford the $40k price tag...), and what a mess, and major mistake, that turned out to be.

I first spent three months in Physical Therapy (PT) to see if my damaged knee was capable of carrying the weight of my body properly without surgery. It wasn't.

During that time in PT, I watched numerous patients of various ages start PT within two or three days after their knee/elbow surgery. And they had dern near full extension of said surgerized knee/elbow. And everyone loved the MD.

I also had a calcium deposit ( was actually two...a second one growing on top of the first...) on my inside-right knee that had been there since I was around 10 or 11 years old and the MD was also gonna remove that during the ACL reconstruction surgery. (I was never told until then that these calcium deposits are tumorous. Mine was benign.)

I elected to allow the MD to harvest a portion of my right patellar ligament and knee cap to use as the replacement for my ACL. According to the MD, the patellar ligament is strong enough to tow a truck with and we don't need all of what we have. So it's a great way to use your own body to repair itself.

The day I had the surgery was one of the most horrible days of my life. My leg was so swollen after surgery that you could not tell where my knee or ankle was supposed to be. They had me on Percodan at the hospital, but then offered me a morphine drip and I wasn't even asking for it.

(I found out later that during surgery two screws had popped out, one tearing the ligament they harvested from my leg, and they had to replace that with a donor graft. They also had to use larger screws now for those two that popped out. All that caused more trauma to my knee.)

Now, I knew prior to having surgery that I have Marfans's a connective tissue disorder. Basically it means I don't heal normally and it proved that point to myself, my wife, my Physical Therapist, and my MD very clearly right off the bat.

The day-shift nurses at the hospital were horrible and I wanted out bad enough that first day, that I refused the morphine drip they offered and said I was ready to go home...I lied about the pain. They said I had to spend the first night at the hospital since the knee was so swollen, but if I felt good enough, they'd send me home the next day. (I should have stayed in the hospital for the next week, at a minimum.)

Since the Wife was bringing home the paycheck, she couldn't stay at home babysitting me. I was on my own, and what a mistake that was, but I wasn't gonna mention it to anyone as I did not want to return to that hospital.

The narcotics were very welcomed this time too as they helped mask the pain. This was the first time I'd ever had hydrocodone and/or Percodan.

Because of all the trauma to my knee from the surgery, my knee stayed swollen for over two months. I wasn't able to start PT until after six weeks. During that time at home, I was using a machine to bend my knee, but it wasn't enough...the swelling was just too bad and the scare tissue was setting in.

Karen, my PT, tried setting me up on a machine that would bend my knee on the first visit. She wanted to see it bend to 90�. She then stuffed a towel in my mouth in an attempt to stop me from screaming, but it wasn't working.

On the second visit, she and another PT decided to take me into a back, private room and strap me down to a table, get down on their hands and knees, and make my knee bend, physically. It was during this visit that I was bumped up from hydrocodone to Percodan.

On the third visit, I popped three Percodan thirty minutes before the session. I couldn't tell though during therapy. This was the start or popping three Percodan before therapy, scream, kick and cry during therapy, pop two more Percodan on the way home, and then pass out for several hours.

This was also the last time that the Wife accompanied me inside...she waited in the car after this visit...she couldn't handle the screaming and crying. Karen also decided they needed to turn up the radio in the general PT area for the other patients. I did this three times a day for about three months before moving to N.H.

In total, I spent over seven months in PT, and had to stop because the insurance ran out. I only ended up with a 130� bend...way less than the 90� we all wanted to see.

Four months later I had an accident at work and blew out the right ACL again, and this time stretched the MCL in both knees.

Time for a few more narcotics for the pain, but that didn't last long.

In mid 1997 the back pain starting becoming more frequent and intense. And the drugs started becoming more frequent as well. I was back down to Darvocets, but they were becoming more frequent visitors. 3 and 4 per day even.

By early 1998, I was taking between 6 to 8 Darvocet per day and was then moved up to hydrocodone.

By early 1999 I was taking 6 to 8 of those per day and was then moved up to Methadone.

In late 1998 I applied for Social Security Disability because I knew it wouldn't be long before I could no longer work. Can you imagine trying to function in a job while taking 8 to 10 Methadone per day? This was along with three other pain meds and a heart med.

The MD who was treating me for my back and doling out the drugs was a surgeon. When he realized I was not about to let anyone operate on my back after what I went through with my knee, he passed me along to a, supposedly, pain specialist.

He bumped me up to the hydrocodone and then the Methadone. When I got up to 8 to 10 per day, he was gonna put me on a permanent morphine drip. The Wife and I both were trying to convince him that I needed to get off of the narcotics, completely off, not move on to something even stronger.

On the third visit where we're trying to convince him of this, he blows his top and starts cussing me out. He left me with a two-month supply of Methadone and says he never wants to see me again.

I spent the next three months gradually lowering the dosage of the Methadone attempting to wean myself off of it, but I did a rotten job. When I ran out of drugs, I went through two weeks of pure hell. I literally spent a full two weeks in bed, sicker'n a dog. I was so damn cold...the Wife had already put seven blankets on me...I was shivering uncontrollably, while I was sweating profusely.

After those two weeks were up, I waited another 6 weeks before I went to my Primary Care Physician (PCP) to ask for some meds for the pain and a referral for another pain specialist.

I found my current MD myself, a pain specialist who listens to his patients. I told him there was no way he was ever gonna put me on any narcotics, ever. We'd try most anything he suggested, but no narcotics, period!

That was over three years ago. Two days ago I asked him for some narcotics for the first time ever, and he gave them to me.

I have spent the last two weeks in so much pain...the worst it's been in a loonnngggg time...that I finally asked my MD for some narcotics.

And I am so happy that I did...I was ready to cry because the pain was so bad. I shouldn't have waited this long, but with the past history with narcotics, I was hoping the pain would just go away, or become more tolerable, as it usually does.

These narcotics are amazing drugs because of the almost instantaneous relief from severe pain that they provide, but it is way too easy to abuse narcotics without even trying...and with the help of professional physicians at that.


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