Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Prescription for Vicodin

I have a huge distrust of medicine. Although Blake's addiction to prescription pills amplified this, I've felt this way on some level for as long as I can remember. When someone offers me Advil or Ibuprofen for a minor ache or pain, I always decline. It's not that I don't think they work, as I'm sure they will, I just don't like putting random chemicals in my body. Something about that has always felt weird to me. Unless something is seriously wrong, I'd much rather let my body heal itself. 

For the past couple weeks, I've had a pretty bad ear infection/ailment of some sort. I'm actually not quite sure what's wrong because the doctors keep telling me it's something different every time I come in. At first I was just going to wait it out like I usually do, but when I told my parents about it over Thanksgiving, they insisted I go see someone. So I saw someone, she looked in my ear, wrote me two different prescriptions, and that was that.

The whole thing felt really rushed to me. When she gave me the prescriptions she said, "These might help, let me know if they don't." Might help? So I'm going to pollute my body with pills that might not even help? And if they don't, you'll chalk it up to trial and error and send me home with another set of prescriptions? This was just too much.

But with the insistence of my parents that I need to get better at taking care of myself, I've been taking the prescriptions exactly as directed. I've been waking up each morning with three pills, taking four more throughout the day, and can't fall asleep until I remember the last two. All the while I've been waiting for my ear to feel better, but it only seems to be hurting more. 

When I went to the doctor this morning, he said he saw no signs that I ever had an ear infection to begin with. But even though I don't need the antibiotics I was originally prescribed, he advised me to keep taking them to avoid the potentially bad effects from cutting them short. Ugh. After he prescribed me something else to attack the ailment he thinks I actually have, he told me he was also giving me Vicodin.

My stomach dropped. "Are you sure I need Vicodin? That's a really serious pain killer. I don't think I really need that one." He was confused, as if he'd never had a patient question his decision to give them medicine before. He explained that if the pain is making it hard for me to sleep, a pain killer could really help. He told me that I don't need to suffer; these pills can mask the pain. 

I don't need to suffer; these pills can mask the pain. 

As that sentence continued to echo in my head, I wondered if it's the mantra of every addict. I wondered if it's that kind of thinking that leads to the justification of coping mechanisms that only serve to hide a problem instead of fixing it.

I let these thoughts carry me away. I wondered if it started out like this for Blake. After his accident, his doctor harmlessly prescribed him Oxycontin. He told him he didn't need to suffer; as he healed, these pills could mask his pain. And they did. They masked his pain and then started to mask everything else. Created a disguise so encompassing that it ended up numbing him to all pain, not just from his injury. A feeling so addictive that the suffering of a real life seemed too unbearable. 

After crawling down the rabbit hole for a while with that thinking, I had to ask myself: will I take the Vicodin? It has been pretty horrible staying up until four or five in the morning wondering if the pounding in my ear will ever cease. The doctor is right, I don't need to suffer. If there is medicine out there that can help me dull this pain, it would be silly not to take advantage of it. So I won't deny myself the help if the help is what I need.

But the difference is being in tune with what exactly I mean by "I need." I know that pain killers like these have a way of tricking you into thinking you need to continue taking them or at a higher dosage or more frequently. What you "need" can potentially change because pain killers make you feel good. And who doesn't like feeling good? If you could get the feeling of peace, ease, and weightlessness instantly from a pill, a pill a doctor told you to have, who wouldn't want to? The lines between what you need and what you want begin to blur. 

I see the pros and the cons, the benefits and the hazards. I can't spend another night up until 5 AM, but I also can't allow myself to believe a cure lies simply in a white tablet either. I am still uncomfortable with how readily doctors hand out prescriptions for pills, based on surface level guesses at what's actually going wrong. But even though I've always had a huge distrust of medicine, I also understand that it is necessary in some situations. What other choice do I have than to put my trust in a doctor? The only thing I can do is take this medication with a critical eye, from a position of ever present self-reflection.


  1. This made my skin crawl!! Ive been in similar circumstances and being in the medical field, I know how easily doctors dismiss you. Even antibiotics are being abused to the point where they are being chemically altered because doctors have prescribed them so much that we are immune. I honestly think pain medications are more harmful than helpful, but only for the small population with addictive personalities. It sets my mind at ease knowing you arent that "type". I hate giving it that label, but I believe the wrong pills got in the wrong hands. There were so many more options with Dane when he threw his shoulder out, physical rehab, pain management techniques, physical therapy.. But they just wrote a script and sent him on a path that would lead to destruction and inevitably death. I am so sorry about your ear doll! I had no idea! But you handle this with so much care. He is so proud.

    1. I get so fired up about medication now. I've never liked it, but now I have even more of a reason to hate the whole idea of it. I really wanted to write letters, call people, lobby for some law... something, to help this problem. It's frustrating feeling so passionate about a cause but not know what to do or if your effort will even make an impact.

      But I realized it starts with small actions that we can do for ourselves and our eventual families. Being very knowledgable about what we put into our bodies and making sure to ask doctors lots of questions before taking anything. I do believe medicine helps, but it is very dangerous when not used properly or observed with a critical eye.