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worried about pain meds

DustyDDusty Posts: 10
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:45 AM in Lower Back Pain
hello, I was wondering how long a person should be taking strong narcotic pain meds? I have been eating these for about 3 years, starting with pretty weak stuff and now after failed injections, failed P.T.,a year old l3 l4 fusion that "looks like it didnt take", and due to undergo another fusion in 21 days, I am eating enough narcotics to take down a circus elephant! I still have substantial pain with the meds and without I cant even function. Being my next major surgery is on the horizon I know I will require somthing even stronger (if the make anything) following surgery, and at sum point dont they just stop writing scripts? Dont you end up addicted to these narcotics after prolonged exposure to them? I dont want to end up being a junky, and feel that it's wrong to even have begun taking the meds, yet it is a neccessity for any atempt at a very slightly normal physical ability. Damned if ya do, damned if ya dont. :/
2 low back fusions. 1 neck fusion. Lots of therapy, injections, and so on.


  • Since you're going to surgery hopefully when you recover you won't need as many medications. Well I hope so for you. It's not easy taking medications but you've tried everything else right? Best wishes and all the best for your upcoming surgery and recovery. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • A person doesn't necessarily end up addicted, but they certainly end up dependent. One of the things I did when I was on high doses of narcotics, is I asked my PM doc for help getting off the drugs. He agreed to it, but said for a greater chance of success, there had to be some sort of repair or intervention done on the pain generation source. So he scheduled the detox to coincide with the surgery I was going to have and helped me get free of the narcotics.

    I eventually got to a point where the narcotics were ineffective against my pain and seemed to be adding to the pain. I am so happy to be away from the narcotics, however I was very grateful that I had them available for so long, because for a while they really made a difference.

    Welcome to Spine Health,

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  • saw you briefly in chat but you left..or got booted
    I worked up till i couldn't even take a step before my fusion..and so I do know how you feel.
    For myself I can't take alot of pain meds I get sick from most..
    C is so right get into doc and get some help espiecially if the meds aren't helping take edge off your pain..
    I did catch that your fusion had failed at l3/4 is that correct?
    and you had stated in chat your getting a l4,l5 fusion this month??
    Are you going to same surgeron..perhaps getting few more opinions would be wise...
    I am in constant pain also and most days is pure hell but I hate taking pain pills but if gets me to move a bit more and not suffer i will take them...
    I hope you get to a pain mang doc or someone that can help you perhaps detox and with surgery coming up maybe pill free
    tc and keep us posted
    neck,bone spurs pain started 04, back issues and fusion l4,l5 06~hardware removed.
    good few yrs. 09 pain sharp, numbness feet,legs, diagnosed fibro, neurop. legs.lung issues.
    daily goal do good thing for someone.
  • Do some google searches. Addiction medicine is going through a lot of changes. They now know that the "addiction" that ruins lives isn't the biological change the medicine inflicts on our bodies, but how we react to that change.

    Personally, I never have craved a vicodin, norco, or MS-contin unless I have pain in my body. My MDs assure me that makes me not a junky :) If I had no more pain in my body, they would have to remind me to taper off of the stuff to avoid problems.

    I read an article recently that said that a certain silly young starlet is taking Dilaudid for a tooth surgery. Dilaudid. Sigh. Here we beg for vicodin for severe back pain, and she goes in for a root canal and gets a home RX for the strongest pain killer there is.
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  • Dusty,

    I think first it might be helpful for you to read a little more about addiction versus physiological tolerance. The two are very different, and there are statistics on it but addiction among chronic pain patients does not occur very frequently. I know for me learning that tolerance was not the same thing as addiction helped put me at ease.

    Second, you might ask your surgeon about tapering your meds pre-surgery. I know some doctors like to tape meds before surgery to make post-op pain management easier, so that might be an option for you.

    I'd also go ahead and ask your surgeon if he is planning on having a pain management doctor at the hospital manage your meds post-surgery while you're in the hospital. I was on a low dose narcotic before my surgery, and they went ahead and arranged for a PM doc to do all my post-op meds since it can be tricky in patients with opioid tolerance. It was a relief to have an "expert" managing the pain medication after my surgery to make sure the doses were appropriate for someone with some tolerance to narcotics. You could even see if you can meet with the PM doc during your pre-op so you can go over your concerns as far as needing to increase the dose to cover the surgical pain.

    I think with surgery on the horizon you can't get too caught up in the "What ifs" of your long-term medication use. You will need pain medicine to get you through the surgery, and once you're through the acute phase then it could be wise to start talking to your doctor about how to safely start coming off the medications. Hopefully the surgery will help your pain enough that you can lower your dosages or even come off the meds. That would be a good thing to talk to your surgeon about to before your surgery (what he expects to happen long-term with your medication use after surgery).
  • Happy if you were a cute young starlet you could get whatever you wanted :) so why not take it?
  • LOL, well, since this silly young starlet is about to spend a few days in jail, and the last silly young starlet I heard of who was taking dilaudid ended up dead, I would say there are a couple of good reasons.

    Overtreatment of pain is an absolute no-no. And silly young starlets seem much more likely to get themselves addicted to pain killers that real people with real pain, it seems- maybe because they throw their money around so that doctors don't tell them that what they really need after a root canal is tylenol (OK, if it was a bad one, tylenol 3).

  • I totally agree with you happyHBmom. For a long time doctors, and dentist too, were able to get away with over prescribing pain medications. With all of the regulations now that's a little more difficult to do, but not anywhere near impossible. I just HATE the fact that because of the misuse of narcotics/opiates, legitimate patients like me have to suffer the consequences. I am in no way addicted to my pain meds, but I do know that I am dependant. My PM sees me every three months to do med count, labs, and evaluation. I don't take the medication because I want to, I take them because I have to. The diffence between the addict and the legitimate patient should be obvious to anyone in the medical profession, but even they can be duped.
    I would not set any definitive time line in head prior to or immediately post op in regards to the length of time you will need to be on pain medication. Everybody heals at diffent rates and everyone's pain tolerance is different. Take it one day at a time. What I've done since day one is start with the lowest possible dose to control my pain. As my pain level increased, so did the dosage and frequency. Same with decreases in pain.
    I'm very fortunate to have 2 PMs who are very knowledgable, non judgemental, and are very easy to talk to. Keep the lines of communication open with your medical team. And on a side note-don't UNDER state your pain. Working in the medical profession has shown me that many patients underestimate and understate their pain because they don't want to sound whiny or complain. You are doing yourself a disservice and in the long run you will not have adequate pain relief. Be open and honest about how you feel. Even though you have the medication doesn't mean that you necessarily have to take it all of the time. Most pills are scored and can be broken in half or fourths. I'd rather have at hand more than enough than try to ration the little that I do have.
    On a personal note, I have had to take less pain medication than prior to surgery. I hope that it remains that way, but I wouldn't bet the house on it and set myself up for disappointment.
    Best of luck to you!
  • Yep. I won't name names, but look at a certain doctor in the news these days who was so enamored with large sums of money that he gave a much loved pop star a drug that no doctor in their right mind would administer outside the hospital setting. And look at the consequences. Money talks, people get hurt.

    No, I would not take a stronger opiate just because I could. I want to be comfortable, not an addict. I've done my research and know that there is a reason they don't seek to keep us pain free. Because as long as those opioid receptor are busy working on the pain issue, they are not making us high. And personally, I have no desire to be high, and no desire for the consequences that come of it.

    I'm no Anna Nicole. I plan to watch my kids grow up. Which means a good, conservative PM doctor who mixes procedures with medications and doesn't overprescribe, and knowing that a little pain is much preferable to the alternative.

    p.s. notice I said a little pain. I'm not saying we should be martyrs, he's a great doctor and lately I've been having a lot of pain and he's doing what he can, which means meds. I'm not anti-med at all. If dilaudid is what you need, then dilaudid is what you should take. But silly young starlet did not need it, and the mindset she has that she shout get what she wants is going to get her in trouble.

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