What a Ride: The Wave of Withdrawals

First I must state that I am so very lucky to have found a doctor that’s not only compassionate, he knows his medicine. He knows about fibromyalgia, and is PROACTIVE and has seriously started to TREAT ME. Unlike the typical 6-8 minutes with the doctor, “so how’s the pain?” Well, it still sucks. I hurt all the time. “Well, here’s your prescription for Tramadol, see you in six months,” my doctor spends TIME with me. I get to email him and I get replies within a few hours. From him. Not a nurse. From my doctor.

But I know all too well that my situation is NOT THE NORM. I know personally what it’s like to be treated like a pill-seeking drug addict, guilty until proven innocent (i.e., those unconstitutional drug tests – that I must PAY FOR), I know what it’s like to be shamed and cut off from my meds – just like that. A snap of a finger. Although my pharmacists have NEVER treated me like a druggie, I know from reading other’s experiences where some refuse to fill the valid script! Or shame them in front of other customers! We in chronic pain are not the problem, but we’re treated as if we’re the solution, by making folks pee in a cup, or show up – get this – within the hour of being called – with their prescription bottle to count the pills.

The war on pills is never going to succeed, just like the war on drugs. Is it any more difficult to get weed? Pills? Heroin? Meth? Cocaine? Ummmmmmmmm, NO. I use cannabis to relieve my pain, stimulate my appetite, and help me sleep, and have done so for over a decade. It’s no more difficult to obtain today than 10 years ago. As a matter of fact, the plant has been developed stronger, and better. What I’m trying to say is, the junkies out there? Will continue to steal pills to sell them on the street. They will obtain the pills just as easily as they did before.

But those of us with chronic pain? We pay their price.  …

Wow. That was supposed to be a short and sweet introduction to what I really wanted to talk about. Ha! My new doctor, the one who knows his shit, figured out immediately – on my first visit – that my combination of meds were not effective in treating my fibromyalgia. He drew a picture showing how all of the different meds work together. I was on the wrong combination – and had been – for the last decade. So let’s start switching meds, but only one at a time. So the first to go was the wicked Tramadol.

Those that have told us that Tramadol is not addictive certainly have never taken the drug. Not addictive? I’ll tell you what happens when you wean off of Tramadol: a non joy ride through mood swings, panic attacks, frustrating insomnia, night sweats, terrible irritable bitchiness, sadness, depression, and utter lethargy. As in can’t keep my eyes open, until it’s 3:00 a.m. and then I’m up. Up up up up up up with pain pain pain pain pain pain pain pain pain

Finally, it ended. After several months, the wave of withdrawals from the wicked, evil Tramadol subsided. About fricking time. Now I could switch to a different medication, and after several dosage adjustments, it’s working. I feel much – oh so much – better. So the switch to one med got me off of two.

As I told my doctor, after losing my mind – like not knowing words – and gaining 15 pounds in three months without changing eating habits, AND while exercising at least an hour per day, it’s time to get off the even more wicked, evil, oh-so-deceptive Lyrica. From what I’ve read, I’m in for a heck of a ride. This stuff? I have to wean off of very carefully – and not as quickly as I did the Tramadol. Doc agreed. I will follow the weaning schedule, just so I can switch to another med.

Now I forgot my train of thought. This happens quite frequently – yet another reason to rid my body of wicked, evil Lyrica. This drug actually did lessen the pain signals in my body, and it’s a shame the side effects are so awful. Just yet another medicine I’ve tried.

Frickin’ frackin’ here we go again. Fasten your seat belts and hold onto the bars.

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Yes, Virginia, There IS a Santa Claus!

Somebody pinch me because I couldn’t possibly be awake! Why? Because I saw a doctor, a family physician, who believes in treating the whole patient AND he treats fibromyalgia patients. AND he spent well over an hour with me today for a “meet and greet” that turned into a first appointment. You’d think that would be enough! But no … there’s more!

He explained more about fibromyalgia and how it’s treated in an hour than I’ve heard in the last 20 years combined. Instead of throwing a prescription of Tramadol my way, he really explained (even drew on paper) how each class of medication works to treat the fibromyalgia pain, something I never knew. He wants to wean me off the Tramadol I’ve taken for almost 20 years, and start fresh with a new regime. YAY! It’s about time! Those Tramadol are indeed addictive yet they are not nearly as effective for me anymore. This doctor explained that the Tramadol actually interfere with narcotics. So no wonder I’ve still been in pain! I’m pleased that he sees what I’m on hasn’t worked and is willing to try new things. But only one weaning me off one med at a time. Another yay! And obviously a smart doctor.

So how did I find this wonderful doctor? Actually through one of my best friends, one I reconnected with after a long absence in each other’s lives. She, too, suffers from chronic pain, but hasn’t had any issues like I have getting any pain relief (prescriptions) or having to go through those unconstitutional drug tests to get those prescriptions. For months she’s asked “why don’t you see my doctor?” Finally, it’s like a light bulb went off. Why don’t I see if her doctor is accepting any new patients? And then after I studied him, I was really impressed; one of his many awards is a Compassionate Doctor award. That’s what I’m looking for.

I found a great doctor willing to TREAT ME! Really treat me! And not be afraid of writing a prescription for pain medication. And really treating me, that’s the important thing. You just don’t know how happy I am! There is hope!

Yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus and he’s a doctor. My doctor now. An early Christmas present! He’s even seeing me BEFORE the holidays so he can make sure I’m properly medicated to avoid/handle the impending fibro flare. Is he good or what?!?

P.S. I even was honest about everything that I have done for my pain, including cannabis use. He asked “which strain?”

Losing the Battle, Winning the War

So by now you’ve figured out I live in Flori-DUH. We just seem to never get anything right. Even though there was overwhelming majority of votes in favor of medical marijuana (58% vs. 42%), we goofballs earlier voted that amendments had to have 60% in order to pass. We were only two percent away! Unfortunately, and quite sadly, the 18-29 year-old voters (who supported medical marijuana in polls), had a pathetic and measly 14% vote. That’s quite a sad fact, knowing that if THEY had gotten off their butts and gone and voted, we’d have medical marijuana approved today. They even had WEEKS of EARLY VOTING! AND … they could have voted by mail. There’s just no excuse. I feel sad for those that suffered fighting for our right to vote, and they got dissed by those who stayed at home and didn’t.

But anyway, although I’m quite sad that we lost this battle, I’m confident that not only will marijuana be approved for medical use, it will also be approved for legalization here in Florida. That’s how we’re going to win the war. But we MUST change the stereotype of what people associate with cannabis use: the stoner. I cannot tell you how many stories I heard (firsthand) about, “I smoked pot back in the sixties and all we did was sit around and do nothing.” Well, folks, we are not the face of the stoner. At least I’m not.

I am not the person who smokes pot, sits around on the couch, eats food uncontrollably, or laughs non-stop. Who am I? I’m not the stoner. I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications, I’m raising a child, I’m happily married, I have a prestigious full-time job (almost 15 years at the same company), I served on a Board of Directors for five years as the PR chairperson, I volunteer regularly at my child’s school, I’m a photographer, a blogger, I’m well respected. You wouldn’t know by looking at me that I use cannabis. Why? Because I don’t look like the “stoner” that you envision. Because in this decade, we use marijuana to help us – whether for chronic pain, blood pressure control, glaucoma prevention, seizure control, or even for creativity. Or for nausea. Or a natural sleep aide. Yes, I can use marijuana and function, quite well, thank you very much. Because I’m not the generation of stoners you’re thinking of.

I’m merely a user of cannabis.

We’re professionals and workers, we’re scientists and mathematicians, we’re writers, artists, you name it. We’re not the lazy stoners you think we are. We work, we play, we have families. We’re just like you, we’re just not the stoners you think we are.

Yes, there are lazy people who use cannabis. But guess what? Lazy people are lazy – regardless if they use marijuana.

Yes, there are people who have stolen to get marijuana. But guess what? They’d steal for the high, regardless of if marijuana was around or not. They are dishonest, regardless if they use marijuana.

Yes, there are people who might drive around while using cannabis. But guess what? They probably already do, just like the thousands of people who drive drunk. There are ZERO deaths related to marijuana, but tons and tons of deaths related to alcohol abuse. Yet that is legal?

What I’m trying to show you, to paint you a different picture, to change your perspective, is to show you that I am not the face of the stoner.

I’m simply a cannabis user.

I’m telling you, Florida, especially John Morgan, the way we’re going to win this war is to go for the whole shebang – make it legal for medical and recreational use. Then we get the attention of those 18-29 year old kids that didn’t vote. If we vest them, they will go and vote. But more important, we have to show the other side that has the vision of the stoner, that the old stereotype is just that. Education is key!

Education is always a winner. Well, not in Florida. But watch out for us in 2016!

I am not the face of the stoner.

I just use cannabis.

Yes Yes Yes Yes for Medical Marijuana!

So tomorrow is election day, which means we in Florida will FINALLY get to see if the medical marijuana initiative passes. Sadly, there’s been a push of scare tactics and money thrown by a gambler wanting this initiative to fail (so he can try and move a casino to Florida) … and sadly, a lot of folks still seem to live in the prohibition era, where they drink the stupid Kool-Aid that faux news (aka Fox “News”) pushes out, that stupid propaganda. Marijuana is a gateway drug! Caregivers will be drug pushers! My teenager will get a script for pot and I’ll never know! And this one … A coworker will get high and I’ll end up testing positive for drug use. Huh? What? Did I read that right?

Yes, you did.

Are some of us really that dense? That, forgive me for saying this, stupid? I guess so.

Okay, so how about this? Every person on heroin has had alcohol before, so alcohol MUST be a gateway drug, so how about we take away your beloved booze? A caregiver is just that, if you want to vote no for compassionate care giving, go ahead. Just pray karma doesn’t get you. Your teenager? Already gets pot, and without a script! As for the coworker’s cannabis use getting making you fail a drug test? Can’t do anything for that other than say try again.

I don’t need to preach to anyone on here about how this PLANT would do wonders for this pill-popping society. It’s the other side, but sadly, they’ll never read this. They wouldn’t care anyway.

Bah humbug!

Why do I live in Florida again? Because one day I hope we get it RIGHT for once! Please, please, please, vote YES YES YES YES! #voteyeson2

We’re NOT the Criminals

As if things were not already bad enough, October 6, 2014, was certainly a change-game event for those of us unfortunate enough to have some medical condition that causes us chronic pain: the new DEA laws started. In an attempt to weed out the pill pushing pimps (HA!) now hydrocodone is a Schedule II narcotic drug, there are NO refills on pain medications, a new script is required each month. Mandatory random drug tests, only pain management doctors can prescribe our pills. Will the street pain pills be eradicated? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Example: how’s that “war on drugs” i.e., marijuana going? It’s not. Instead we’ve pissed away billions of dollars for what? Is it any more difficult to buy marijuana today than it was 20 years ago? 10? 5? Last year? No, it’s easier. And the quality is better. I’ll tell you one thing: it’s certainly easier to obtain the Schedule I marijuana than the Schedule II pills. And the pills won’t stop being sold on the street. Addiction issues will not end. There will ALWAYS be addicts. I mean, after all, what do we, as society, do with addicts? Do we treat them? No way! We send them to jail, then they’re back on the street. Different day, same story.

But instead society now gets to treat the person with the medical condition – that causes the chronic pain – to be treated like the criminals. Mandatory random drug tests. Wow! Only for us! Not a suspected drug addict, but for those of us with chronic pain (and the condition that causes it, remember that), we ARE treated like criminals, like drug addicts. What happened to reasonable suspicion? Doesn’t apply to the chronic pain. Thanks, doc, that’s $85 for the drug test that my insurance DOESN’T cover of the $270 DRUG TEST! Thanks DEA. Thanks lawmakers. The only thing you’ve succeeded in is pushing more pills on the street.

Guess what? The street’s STILL going to be full of drugs, whatever, whenever, wherever anyone wants. The pills? Will still be there. Wait, there will be MORE! Why?!? Because now that Tramadol is a scheduled narcotic (HA!), those pills will become the newest craze. Beware all those holding prescriptions, now we become new targets for thieves. How do you think the pill pushing pimps obtain the pills to sell on the street? Not the doctors, dummies!

They steal them! Thanks for the targets on our backs. Both literally and figuratively! Treat us like the criminals, make it nearly impossible to obtain the pain relief that our MEDICAL CONDITIONS CAUSE.

You know what ought to be against the law? Mandatory drug tests for people with medical conditions. Land of the free?

Shame on you, America.

The Fears of a Chronic Pain Sufferer

What if I cannot get another prescription for my hydrocodone measly 5 mg. for my pain? What if my doctor won’t change my prescription for a larger dose that might actually kick my pain? What if I can’t get any pills between now and when  finally see a pain management doctor in December? What if I have to take that mandatory drug test and get a dirty result for THC, even though I plan to quit 45 days in advance? What if I can’t ever get pain pills after that?

What if the pharmacy flags me as a drug seeker because of all the prescriptions I have (including the narcotics)? What if my previous doctor (that I fired!) sends my records before I ever meet the pain doctor and screws me over?

What if I have to suffer this pain without any marijuana OR pain pills?

Why should I have to worry about the ability to get a prescription for a well-documented case of pain that I have suffered over 20 years? Why should I be presumed guilty and have to submit to, in my opinion, unconstitutional drug tests, just to receive a prescription to help me live? Do I have to do that for my blood pressure medicine? Do diabetes patients have to pee in a cup to get their insulin? Why are we treated like drug addicts? Why do physicians, nurses, and even pharmacists treat some people like drug seekers when all they do is suffer from constant pain? What if that becomes me?

Why should I have any of these questions?

WHY?

My “Dear Doctor” Fiasco Horror Story Turns Happy!

Since I began this blog just a little over two weeks ago, I have learned so much from not only my fellow bloggers, but from Twitter folks, and especially from Facebook groups dealing with chronic pain and/or fibromyalgia. I have learned that we all have the same stories, just our symptoms differ. What we all have in common are horror stories about how we’re treated by either the medical community, some of our own doctors, pharmacists, and even family and friends. On the other hand, I’ve also learned that we all share hope, concern, compassion, and care for one another. Thankfully, the good always outweighs the bad. And hope always, always prevails.

So if you read my last post, the letter that I wrote to my rheumatologist, you might be wondering what happened. I was so nervous to approach her, because I had only seen her twice. Both times, she typed in her computer, rarely making eye contact. Although she was helpful in explaining certain things, and changing some of my meds, I should have trusted my gut instinct: that I really didn’t know her, and thus, to tread lightly with what I’d tell her. But I’m an honest person. I went to my appointment and proceeded to read her the letter. Halfway through, I started crying. She continued typing away, she didn’t say anything until I was finished.

“I can answer some of your questions,” she said. “No, I do not support the use of marijuana in any sense, and not for medicinal use. Furthermore, if medical marijuana is passed here in Florida, I would never prescribe it.” She then proceeded to shame me for my use of marijuana, and that if I had a dirty UA after this initial drug test, that she would kick me out of her practice. And, I would be drug tested every 2-4 weeks continually, regardless if my next screen came up negative. Why didn’t I tell her initially? Well, I didn’t know her! But I’m coming clean now.

“There is no reason you shouldn’t be clean after three weeks of stopping,” she said. She said that more than once, insinuating that I was lying. So the result of that letter was: no prescription for my meds, and a thoroughly detailed (I’m sure) account of my letter in my records. Remember, she typed the ENTIRE time. When I told her I had an appointment with a pain management specialist in December, she told me that under no circumstances would this other doctor treat me with THC in my system. I MUST swear to her that under no circumstances would I continue my use. I said I couldn’t do that, although I would continue not using it in order to have a clean UA. I continued to explain that what she was prescribing wasn’t even cutting down on the pain, so why should I promise not to use the other, if it DID help? She mentioned that the pain doctor COULD prescribe other meds, which WOULD help me. In that case, yes, I’d be willing to continue not using marijuana.

I left her office in tears, totally struck down. I continued to cry all day, feeling lost and without any hope. If she wouldn’t even prescribe Tramadol (which is now a scheduled drug, too), what could I do? How in the world would I get any relief ever? But several hours after swollen eyes and a crushed soul, I thought, I really need to talk to my own primary physician and tell her what happened. After all, I have a rapport with her, I can trust her, I can talk to her. In the evening, I had to take my son to an appointment, and it just so happened we were talking to a psychologist. I mentioned to her that I had fibro and had a really crappy day, I was in tears again. After my son left the room, she said, “I want to know about your fibromyalgia. What is going on?” So I proceeded to tell her the nightmare I had just lived.

“How DARE that doctor treat you like that?!?” she exclaimed. “She had absolutely no right to shame you that way. As a doctor, she NEVER should have treated you that way!” I told her I had an appointment with my primary the next day. She suggested that I start my conversation with, “I have something I really need to talk to you about, but I need to do it ‘off the record.'” She said if my doctor was keen, she’d know what I was talking about (the marijuana use). I said that I believed I could be honest with her without repercussions, unlike with that other doctor.

Long story short, my primary physician spent an hour and a half talking to me. She was indeed receptive, indeed compassionate, and never once did she make me feel like a drug addict like that other one did. I even asked her, “In all the time that I’ve been your patient, have I EVER given you the impression that I’m a drug addict?” She shook her head no, and said, “absolutely not.” Furthermore, she too, said the other doctor had no right to treat me like that, to insinuate that I was lying, and that I should end my patient status with that practice.

My doctor had no problem taking over my care, that she would be able to prescribe everything that the other doctor did. She would not subject me to drug tests, and she commended me for my honesty. I think she learned several things from me, because I told her some of the information I had learned. I told her about this blog, and how therapeutic it was for me to write. I think I’m a good writer, and I am touched when people tell me “this is me, this is how I feel, but you write it so well.” I am touched when I can spread some hope among us.

So even though my primary did not advocate my former use (or future use) of marijuana, she did express that if we could get me to the pain management doctor clean, that perhaps he could get me to the point where I wouldn’t feel the need to turn to the other. He just might be able to! And for that, I’m willing to be clean.

This all happened this past Wednesday and Thursday. I discovered that if I use my inner strength, that I can persevere through ANYTHING. And with a great primary doctor, I’ve got one in my corner cheering me on.

There IS hope. Spread the word!

P.S. I’ve continued my at-home drug tests, and after 27 days, I’m still testing positive. Even though I could use, I still haven’t. I’m kind of curious to see when I’ll be truly clean! Of course, when my lab tests return, I’ll know exactly how much was left in my system. How dare that other doctor insinuate I was lying! If she knew anything about marijuana use, she’d KNOW that it takes 1-2 months for THC to leave a “chronic” user. Sheesh, I know more about it than she did. And THAT? Is a shame.