So I had a bunch of teeth removed about 10 days ago. No fun. Not to worry, they are wisdom teeth and two others you thankfully can't notice.I need this for my braces to work properly in a very over-crowded mouth.
I was out for the entire process even though I had requested IV anesthetic that puts you in that twilight sleep - an 'you are aware but you're not' kind of thing. Me? Knocked out for an hour. And thrilled about it.
When the staff and my husband put me into the car, I was awake again with a mouth stuffed with bloody gauze and supplies from the dental surgeon. All those and a prescription for a strong pain killer. Despite three terribly painful c-sections in two and a half years, I'm a big baby. "Did I get a prescription?" I asked my husband, barely comprehensible with the enormous wads of gauze covering 6 gaping holes in my mouth. Having stitches in two of the holes didn't help either. "Yep, not to worry," he said. "And did you make sure..." I started. "Yes," he interrupted. "I told them Vicodin makes you really sick, they gave you Percocet." How well he knew my intent to avoid as much pain as possible. That expression 'what doesn't kill me makes me stronger' is nonsense to me. I've had many hard knocks in life and am quite hardy but what doesn't kill me might leave me miserable. And we don't want that.
I twisted around to the dental 'goody' bag and fumbled for the prescription. I wanted to make sure the surgeon gave me more than a few in order to get me through this. He had. I loved him.
So I took my pills. Not to get high, I have no interest in that. Just to avoid the pain. I still have 3 very small children and work and a home to run. And I'm not much of a martyr. So I took what I needed to get me through the first few days of pain.
But I got to thinking. It's a nice feeling - having the pain meds. I don't advocate any kind of abuse but let's face it, if a medication takes the edge of life away - who wouldn't want it? Especially those of us who live pretty close to that edge!
The meds are gone now. But I do see how a woman (or man) could want more. Despite the nausea (and darn it, the Percocet gave me awful nausea too but I figured out a good meal with it helps) the medication takes your pain away and somehow gives you a lift. And this is why people get addicted.
What are the odds of being prescribed pain pills and getting addicted? Fortunately they are low. And as with alcohol, cigarettes or other drugs, you are more likely to become addicted to pain medication if you have a family history of addiction.
According to Susan Foster, director of policy research for the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University in New York City, "Substance abuse and addiction is by far the number one women's health problem, causing illness, injury and death and contributing to a whole host of related social problems."
That seems a little far-fetched but she has a good point because she's also talking about alcohol, food and nicotine addiction.
Some facts - Abuse of prescription drugs overall is the fastest-growing category of substance abuse in women. Women, particularly Caucasian women, are far more likely to abuse prescription drugs than men or women of other ethnic backgrounds.
(Source - Simoni-Wastila L, Ritter G, Strickler G. Gender and other factors associated with the non-medical use of abusable prescription drugs. Subst Use Misuse. 2004 Jan;39(1):1-23.
Overall, women are 43 percent more likely than men to use narcotic pain relievers for nonmedical use. And when women abuse or misuse prescription drugs, they're often also abusing alcohol or other drugs.
(Source - Simoni-Wastila L, Strickler G. Risk factors associated with problem use of prescription drugs. Am J Public Health. 2004 Feb;94(2):266-8.)
I know of one woman who became so addicted to pain medication, she left a career with one company in order to gain new health insurance with another. Her insurance , doctors and surgeons had cut her off. She ultimately lost that new job and became unemployable.
Lest anyone think they'll become a homeless crack smoker if they take prescription pain pills - rest assured - you won't! But this kind of abuse is very common. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimated that 9 million people abused prescription drugs in 1999. And it has grown since then.
If you do suspect that you or someone you care about may be dependent on pain pills for reasons other than pain, here are some signs to look for
- You take more pain medication than your doctor has prescribed.
- You request prescriptions from multiple doctors.
- You use alcohol or other medications to increase the effects of the pain medication.
- You take pain medication to deal with other problems, such as anxiety or stress.
- Your doctor, friends or loved ones express concern about your use of pain medication.
There is no shame in this. Many pain medications have addictive properties to them. It's not your fault. But abusing pain medication can lead to long term health problems and even death. And is something that affects your entire network of family and friends. Talk to your doctor if you feel you need help. Talk to anyone.
As for my 6 missing teeth - I miss 'em. I'm all gummy at the back and still have the odd ache and kernel of corn or stray pea that disappears up somewhere and needs to be hosed out with a weird contraption they gave me at the doctor's office. Now I know how my poor babies feel when I insist they eat something difficult and the poor things only have 8 teeth. No wonder they give me that "get lost!" look. I'll never insist on that again! But I'm feeling better and pain medication free. And glad it gave me food for thought about the millions of people who cannot shake the pain medication, long after the pain has gone.