A Chathamite’s personal insight into his battle with opioids

by Mark Stinson

Silk Hope, NC – I will apologize up front for the long post, but please take time to read it. I have some insight on opioid use I would like to share. 

I have degenerative disc disease and I suffer from lower back pain. I also
have bad muscle spasms due to my history with lightning. I have chronic  migraine headaches as well. I own a very broken human body that lets me know how much it doesn’t appreciate my past accidents with constant pain.

I was given Motrin 800mg years ago and after a certain point it just wouldn’t fix the pain. I progressed to Tylenol with codeine and that worked for a while but it wouldn’t fix the deep pain just slightly numbed it.  Eventually I was prescribed Percocet and that finally fixed the deep pain. I was prescribed Midrin which is a wonder drug for my migraines and it was the only drug that worked for me.   I took that drug as needed for migraines for years.  I took Flexeril  for back spasms as needed as well. I could manage my pain between these three drugs very well without taking an excess of any of the three.

The day came when the insurance decided not to pay for Midrin and substituted a cheaper drug that simply did not work. I couldn’t afford the $200 for a prescription refill of the Midrin so I did without.  The next thing I knew the insurance dropped my blood pressure pills and substituted it with another cheaper drug that actually made my blood pressure go up.  It became clear that the good drugs were being dropped due to their cost and cheaper drugs substituted. I had lost the ability to control my blood pressure and my migraine  pain management.  The doctor told me to use the Percocet for my migraines since I couldn’t get the other medicine.

When I started using Percocet for my migraines it would help but not like Midrin. It would numb the pain to a point but it took more than one pill at the onset of a migraine to make it bearable. The only relief then from migraines was when they got so intense I would throw up violently and get so weak I would pass out on the bed.  When I woke from several hours sleep the headache would be almost gone but I was left with back spasms from throwing up which caused sharp lower back pain. I had to take more Percocet to fix that pain. I was having more headaches that went from lasting a day or two to a week or more. I went from a prescription for 30 Percocet every three months to a prescription for 100 a month.  Percocet was paid for by insurance and was their cheap fix-all drug.

I was burning through a 100 Percocet’s a month by this time when the discussion came up with my doctor about patients using to many Percocets  and doctors having to limit the numbers of prescriptions.  I got mad since I had lost every other drug that helped me and I was about to lose the only one I had left that worked. I got desperate to control my pain to trying natural remedies and alternative medicine. I gave Heather at Stillpoint Acupuncture a try.  She worked miracles with my muscle spasms. The spasms decreased and improved to the point where it is a rare occasion I would even need the flexoril. She helped me with my migraines, but I still had these terrible after migraine headaches.  These were not as bad as the migraines but still kept me in bed with my head wrapped up.

In  the process of trying to learn more about other drugs that could help me I learned that Percocet is only meant to be a TEMPORARY pain management drug.   I had taken it daily for several years.  I also learned about rebound headaches caused by using too much of the drug.  I felt that the insurance company didn’t  care about me and just wanted to pay for a band aid to keep me pacified instead of giving me the meds I needed.  

It made me so mad I knew I had to do something and it was going to hurt so I just stopped. I stopped taking Percocet and after a week my blood pressure started to go down some. The dull headache I had for months on and off just went away. One thing that surprised me was the pain levels didn’t increase that much so it was obvious to me the drug had become ineffective over time for me. Over the next  few months the frequency of my migraines diminished.  I learned how to decompress my back and alternate heat and cold to ease lower  back pain.  I learned how to calm my stress and clear my mind.  I still had high blood pressure and with an insurance override I finally got the blood pressure medicine back that worked.  My blood pressure finally started to stabilize. It was high but not as high and not spiking up anymore.  My migraines are intense so I finally scratched up enough money to get a refill on the Midrin. I had a bad migraine hit me shortly after filling that prescription. I took the drug on the onset of the headache and it stopped it like it always had in a few short hours not days with no rebound headache afterwards. I later learned how to change my diet to reduce inflammation. I cut back on caffeine and the migraines frequency lessened even more and I was very happy about that.

I realized that the more I took of the Percocet the less effective it was for me therefore I had taken more of it. Unlike many folks, I was lucky to be able to just quit using it.  I know of others who can’t who have become dependent on the drug.   It’s not their fault , they can’t quit even if they wanted too. It’s a perfect storm of insurance companies cutting expenses , Percocet being a cheap drug and doctors limited in how they can treat their patients. Percocet is a good drug for short term relief of intense pain but if you have taken it more than a couple weeks you need to discuss other options with your doctor.  I suffer from pain 24 /7 /365 still but I have found ways to manage that pain and just deal with it. My weight loss has been the number one thing to help my back.  I was at 290 late summer last year.  At my last doctor visit in the  fall I was 272.  I’m at 252 today struggling to get to at least 200 pounds by my next birthday Nov 8th.  My goal is to be as healthy as a broken body can be.   I am on the least amount of medicines I have been in almost 20 years.  Its been well over a year since I filled a prescription for Percocet. I always hated taking medicines so I feel better about myself now.  I still hurt and I’m slow, but I feel almost human again!

Something has to be done.  Doctors are forced by insurance companies to treat patients with drugs not necessarily designed for long term use or not that effective for the condition the patient has.  When will modern medicine be allowed to stop treating symptoms and be allowed to cure or improve patients lives again with the right remedies?