Saturday, October 19, 2013

A is for Ability, not Addiction

My cousin got married last weekend. It was a beautiful ceremony, held at the Krohn Conservatory, filled with just family and some close friends, followed by a reception in which the food was good, the music was fun, and people actually danced. Yep, good weddings can and do happen.

There was one blight on the entire thing for me, though. Last Friday night was the rehearsal dinner, held at my mothers house. About midway through the night, I plopped down with two of my aunts, and we're chatting away. We're a rather *ahem* especially chatty family, which I'm sure comes as a complete shock.

Then it happens. My aunt calls me the A-Word. "Addict".

Considering the fact I live with 6 chronic pain diseases (RSD/CRPS, MFD, osteoarthritis, Degenerative Disc Disease, Fibromyalgia, and autoimmune inflammatory arthritis), my doctors and I decided years ago that one facet on my pain management protocol needed to be narcotic pain medications. There many facets to this pain management plan, though, including PT, anti epileptics, anti inflammatories, an SNRI (type of anti depressant used to control pain), monthly nerve blocks, and physical aides like the crutches and the wheelchair.

The biggest reason it floored me to hear this garbage spew out of my aunts mouth? Her oldest daughter had severe Crohns disease. The fact that even after years of caring for my cousin E my aunt had no clue, at all, the differences between proper pain control and addiction just about knocked me off my chair.

Some definitions:

Tolerance: When a body becomes adjusted to a substance and there is a less of an effect. This is noticed with many medications. There's that pesky period in the beginning when the new med causes side effects. This can be anything from cold sweats from a hormone to dizziness from an antidepressant. Then the body adjusts to it and the side effects ease up. That, my friends, is tolerance. Tolerance can, sometimes, also mean needing more of a medication to get the same effect. 

Dependency: This is when the body becomes very accustomed to a substance and gets cranky when it goes away. The most common medicines to cause dependency are things like anti depressants, pain medications, anti epileptics, prednisone, insulin, and even some cardiovascular medications. If you've developed a dependency on a medication, all that means is suddenly stopping it is going to cause some extreme discomfort, and in some cases, it can even be potentially fatal. If you're taking a medication that causes dependency, they recommend slowly tapering off when discontinuing. There are NO mental cravings for the substance at hand.

Addiction: Addiction is when tolerance and dependency are joined by a psychological craving for a substance. This is characterized by inappropriate behavior  in search of more of the substance at hand. Addicts will do things like steal, harm others, and worse, in an effort to get more of the substance they want. They will sell or trade everything they own. Their family structure is harmed by their behavior. 

I do not now, nor have I ever, actually craved any of my meds. I love the pain relief they provide, but if I'm having a lower pain day, I'll happily skip the meds and give my liver a tiny bit less work that day. To me, the narcotic pain meds mean Ability. Without them, I'd be fully wheelchair bound, unable to wear any clothes but ultra soft fleece, and nearly house bound. Take away all the other pain control tricks and I'd be curled up in the fetal position sobbing 24/7. So yeah, I find it HIGHLY offensive to be called an addict.

To quote my rheumatologist, when  I told him about this, "Saying you're addicted to narcotics is the same as saying a diabetic is addicted to their insulin. And last I checked, diabetics don't car jack to get more insulin."

Just for fun, an example of what proper pain control allows me:

Yep, that's right. I danced at the wedding. I've started to master doing the Electric Slide on crutches. It's a fun party trick, that's for sure! So for me, A is definitely for Ability.


  1. Visiting from Love that Max. Yes. Dance, dance and dance. Forget the others who have no idea. Sigh. Dance!!!

    1. Thanks for stopping by!! And yep, after 6 years on narcotic pain meds, I've long since decided people can keep their opinions. When they live a day, hell, an hour, in my body, then they can say what they think.