Prescription pain drug user or abuser? Who knows?

Like many Americans — too many say some — I take an opiate painkiller.  Three times a day, I down two 50mg Tramadol tablets — a total of 300mg by day’s end — to dampen the pain lingering from a serious motorcycle accident seven years ago.

I left the hospital taking the drug and have continued to do so since.

When doctors prescribed the medication, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) considered it a “non-controlled” drug.  However, two years after I started using it, the reclassified tramadol as “controlled” because of reports of drug abuse, misuse and criminal diversion (prescription patients selling the drug to others).

In 2012, FDA said tramadol was not addictive.  Now, they are not so sure.

Which, of course, causes me to wonder if I am addicted to the drug.

One should not quit taking tramadol “cold turkey.”  One must taper off use but every time I have tried, the pain it is prescribed to ease returns so I stay on it.

Without tramadol, I have difficulty walking.  My balance is erratic.  With it, I can function but I also take two extended strength Tylenol every four hours to handle the pain of rapidly-spreading arthritis. It is based on Acetaminophen, which does not bother my liver or kidneys.  Other over the counter pain medications which depend on NSAID or ibuprofen affect my kidney and liver readings so they are on the forbidden list.

If I take tramadol the way it is prescribed, I have less pain and do not “crave” additional pills.  It eases but does not eliminate, pain.  It also does not affect arthritis pain, which is why I use Tylenol.

Am I dependent on these pain medications?  Yes.  Am I overdependent?  Good question.

Reports The Washington Post this week:

The highest per capita death rates nationwide from opioids during those years were in rural communities in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia. In those seven years, those communities also were flooded with a disproportionate share of the 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pain pills from some of the country’s largest drug companies, an analysis by The Washington Post reveals.

In Norton, VA, use of opioids amounts to a rate of 306 pills per year form 2006 – 2012.

In Floyd County, a database compiled by the Drug Enforcement Administration found 2,821,910 prescription pain distributed.  At least 1,077,120 came via Cardinal Health.

Floyd Pharmacy (now owned by CVS) handed out 2,090,310 pills.

That’s a lot of pain medication for a county with a population of 15,000 (based on U.S. Census estimates).

I didn’t start using tramadol until December 0f 2012 but my usage at the present time is 180 pills a month, which adds up to 2,160 a year or 15,120 over the last seven years.

Am I a prescription pain drug user?  Absolutely.  Am I an abuser?  Based on the numbers I see here, I’m not sure.

That uncertainty scares the hell out of me.

 

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