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Am I hooked? Four questions to ask about pain medicine

By: beth marshall

Full disclosure: I am not a medical professional, and I am not offering medical advice. All I know is what I experienced the night I tried to make it without pain and sleep medication after surgery, and I never ever want to feel that way again.  

It’s been 10 weeks since surgery to repair three spiral fractures in my leg, and tonight is the first night without prescription pain and sleep meds. It’s 2am. My hands are shaking, my heart is racing, and I feel weird all over. I’ve never been so anxious in my life.

The first few days after surgery were relatively carefree — IV morphine does that for you. Reality set in quickly when we returned home, with no magic button to push for the nurse/ angel to make everything feel better.

The best way to conquer the giant of prescription drugs is to let someone know you’re struggling.

“Stay ahead of the pain,” people would say. But one day will I be able to walk away from all the medication without ruining my life and end up living in a VW van?    

I’ve always had a mental image of the person who depends on drugs: a super skinny, cigarette-smoking, 30-year-old guy. Not someone like me. I have grandbabies, for crying out loud. People like me don’t get hooked on prescription meds, do they?  

Dependency and addiction to prescription drugs can happen to anyone — teens and grandparents, wealthy people and broke people, Christians and non-Christians.

Four Questions to Ask If You Think You Might Be Addicted to Pain Meds

I remember the night my last half of a sleeping pill fell behind the bed. I would have done a back handspring to get my hands on it, even with the knee-high cast and metal rod and screws in my leg.     

Maybe for you it was the Valium you took to help you make it through the days after losing someone you love. Or the prescription pills the doctor gave you after surgery that have become part of your daily routine.   

Lots of us find ourselves on pain medicine for legitimate reasons, but the answers to these four questions can help you determine if your therapy has become a dependency:

  • Are you tempted to take a pill when you’re not in pain?
  • Can you go a whole day or night without the medication?
  • Are you depending on multiple doctors, drive-thru clinics or a friend for more pills?  
  • Do you ever add alcohol to the mix, when the warning label clearly says not to?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time to get some help.

Where Does My Help Come From?

As the sun came up, I was relieved to have made it through the heart racing, no sleeping, shivering night without a trip to the emergency room. The scary symptoms were finally subsiding. I may never know exactly what caused the terrifying reaction.

Was it suddenly quitting the prescription pain medication? Or, could it have been the “non habit-forming” sleeping pills? (If the tiny yellow pills are so harmless, why are there so many websites dedicated to helping you come off of them?)

After attempting unsuccessfully to ease off the medications, I finally embraced my cluelessness. I prayed, and the Lord brought James 1:5 to mind: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

God’s instructions were clear: When you need wisdom, ask me. He is generous to offer wisdom without finding fault. And, that’s exactly what He did as He revealed it was time to quit trying to crack this code on my own. It was time to get help.

Even though I know I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13), the Lord never said I would have to fly solo. He surrounds us with other believers, wise counselors, physicians, and friends.

I called my family doctor who was gracious to work me into her schedule. After listening to my story and checking me out, she walked me through a plan to taper off and ultimately quit the meds completely. We seriously can’t do life alone.

Life after leg surgery gave me a deep respect for the sneaky trap drugs can set. I don’t know your story, but do know the best way to conquer the giant of prescription drugs is to let someone know you’re struggling. To connect with someone who can help, come to the Care Room on Sunday or connect with someone here.

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