The 411 on the Rx
It’s not a question you should ignore, but it’s also not a question to take lightly. Medication is serious business. And once you start, you sometimes can’t just stop without serious physical consequences. But you also have to give a new medication sufficient time to work before throwing in the chemical towel and moving on to something else, or another medication.
It’s no secret—at least to anyone who’s been reading this blog more than a day—that I do not exactly share the mainstream media’s freakout over pain medication. To the contrary, I heartily encourage anything that gives a chronically pained sister or brother the kind of relief that allows us to—y’know, function. If that’s a weekly massage and a few Tylenol ™ — fabulous. (And go read some other blog because chances are, you’re just either accident prone or getting older, not chronically pained.)
And if that’s a daily dose of little white pills, then that’s fabulous, too. (As long as you take it as directed and get it legally—i.e., from your doc.)
It’s about doing what works, whatever works, as long as it works. And when it stops working? Move on to the next thing.
Are You Ready to Dose Up?
So, how can you tell when it’s time to talk to your doctor, as the commercials say? Well, there are a few questions you can ask yourself, but be warned: this list is purely from my own perspective and experiences. Ultimately, the decision is intensely personal and you should trust your gut. (Unless, of course, it’s your gut that’s causing the CP.)
Have you exhausted all non-medication alternatives that fit your lifestyle?
Look, as much as I’m a fan of medication because of what it’s done for me, it isn’t for everyone, and there are some downsides to turning to prescription drugs too soon. Drugs can and do reduce the pain so you can function again, but they also can mask the source of the symptoms. Turning to drugs too soon after diagnosis or onset of symptoms can sometimes lead us to the false conclusion that the problem is solved.
Explore the conservative measures first—but don’t make the mistake of thinking you have to exhaust ALL conservative measures. If a suggested regimen has you turning cartwheels to down 40 supplements according to a complicated schedule and radically revising your diet to boot, and that’s not for you, don’t be afraid to say “no.” Quality of life is a complex calculation, folks. Pain or lack of it is an important facet, but it’s only one of many.
Have you done your research?
Do you know what your options are? Check out the more reliable medical websites and find out. Look at the side effects and the frequency and risk of each. Check out contraindications. And then throw your hands up in confusion because none of it makes any sense.
Yeah, you’ll get that on medical sites. That’s OK. Don’t let them make you feel stupid because you can’t understand every eighth word or insane because they all conflict with each other.
And then ignore the ones that confuse addiction with dependence.
And all the ones that preach about how eeevil prescription pain meds are, no exceptions.
And the ones that say all you need is a bajillion supplements—or, worse, just one (patent pending, completely proprietary, insanely expensive) supplement that’s only available at that site.
Yeah, it’s a jungle out there. Arm yourself with objective information wherever possible, and write out your questions.
Are you prepared to put in the time?
God willing, you’ll get lucky on the first pitch and that prescription will hit it out of the park. But that doesn’t happen often. In my own case, lucky me, I rode the Bextra carousel for a while (and then they pulled it from the market) before I found tramadol.
In any case, you can expect that it will take several weeks before you and your doc find the right prescription in the right dosage. In the meantime, you’ve got to take the medication as prescribed, and keep a log of any side effects. You also have to continue doing all the other things that foster good health—it’s not a case of “one pill and I’m done.” So those nutritional improvements, the nightly “sleep hygiene” routine, the daily gentle exercise—keep ‘em around.
Are you ready for the potential fallout?
And now the unpleasant, cold, hard truth: people can be idiots. Especially about prescription pain medication.
You may have to educate your significant other, family members, and friends. Hell, you might have to educate your doctor. There could be unwanted effects on your job performance, especially as you work out the dosage. (I could tell you a funny story about me and tramadol in the early days…and I will, in the next Trauma Doll post.)
If you know in your heart that whatever you’re doing right now isn’t giving you the level of functionality you need to live your life, then it might be time to explore medication. Do it with open eyes and go in armed to the teeth. Be prepared for a fight but don’t anticipate one. Enlist your doctor as a team member, not some authority figure to whom you owe obedience. And be a patient patient—it takes some time to get it right, so don’t give up too quickly!