Dopesick Withdrawals are Killer in Nashville Opioid Crisis
If you haven’t watched Dopesick on Hulu yet, you’re really missing out. Never has there been a more perfect expose’ (turned into a very entertaining drama) about the opioid epidemic and its relationship to OxyContin. OxyContin is the pain medication manufactured and marketed by the Sackler family, private owners of Purdue Pharma.
Years ago, we referenced the article titled, “The Family that Built an Empire of Pain“. This is a fantastic expose’ written by Patrick Radden Keefe at The New Yorker magazine in 2017 about the Sackler family, OxyContin and Purdue Pharma.
In a nutshell, Dopesick dramatizes the invention, marketing schemes and success of the OxyContin pill from inception. OxyContin was the brainchild of Purdue Pharma co-owner, Richard Sackler.
That incredible article eventually became a book titled, “Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty” which was also penned by Keefe, going even more in depth than his extensive New Yorker article. Which by the way, left almost nothing off the table about the corruption, lies and deceit fueled by the Sackler family in their attempt to make OxyContin the world’s most profitable pharmaceutical drug.
No Wonder So Many People are Dopesick
The Washington Post recently published an article about the DEA’s public release of the ARCOS database, stating “America’s largest drug companies saturated the country with 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pain pills from 2006 through 2012.”
76 billion opioid pills is a whole lotta pills distributed. Many of the southern and southeastern states were hit the hardest with the opioid epidemic, which also explains the explosive expansion on=f both inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities.
This is and was a huge problem that will take many, many years to correct course.
Turns Out, OxyContin Shares a Very Small Part of the Opioid Epidemic
There’s no denying that the mismarketing of OxyContin as “virtually non-addictive” played a huge role in the nation’s opioid epidemic, and explains why so many people are dopesick these days.
However, according to the ARCOS database OxyContin contributed to only 3.3% of the sales between 2006 and 2014 representing a mere 2.5 billion pills sold out of the 78 billion pills sold.
It’s probably safe to say that if their marketing methods not been so corrupt, we might not even know the Sackler name.
What About Legitimate Pain Patients?
This is where things get really sticky. There’s clearly a need for both short-term and long-term pain medications for the people who suffer from legitimate pain issues. The biggest problem is that pain is subjective. Meaning, pain tolerance for one person can and is very different that pain tolerance for others.
I know this first-hand.
Pain is Subjective – Not Everyone Needs the Same Amount of Pain Medication
Back in 2012 at the height of my addiction to pain pills I was given a choice:
If. wanted a higher dose of pain pills, then I had to undergo medical procedures that would justify my pain.
I suffer from lower back pain, and have since 2000 due to a minor skiing accident. I hit what was a very small bump on the slope and felt a sharp pain rise from the small of my back up between my shoulders. It went away almost instantly, but then began aching every day just two weeks later.
The result of my little skiing accident was a slipped disc, a ruptured disc and a pinched nerve. Not all of which may have come from the actual accident, but nonetheless there to make me suffer.
Was I in miserable pain? No. Was I uncomfortable and losing sleep on some nights? Yes.
I was prescribed hydrocodone, and years later bumped up to both oxycodone and OxyContin.
After about a year of pain management, my high tolerance for pain medications became very apparent. My back pain became much worse while taking the medications which is a result of the medications themselves, not my actual back pain getting worse. (More on that in a second)
My discomfort got very bad, so when I asked for more medications my pain doctor told me the only way he could increase my medications was if I underwent epidural steroid injections. And so, I did. And, I got my pain pill dosage increased as a result.
I remember I asked my doctor specifically about my injuries and the pain that came with them. The conversation went something like this:
Me: “Is the pain I’m feeling typical for these types of injuries?”
Doctor: “Well, yes and no. One person with your injuries might have difficulty walking, while another person may not even know there’s anything wrong.”
If you’re a doctor with knowledge like this, how in the world do you prescribe for pain?
The short answer is that doctors prescribe for pain based on a patient’s discomfort. Meaning, if you claim and appear to be in great pain, you may be eligible for stronger pain medications. There just isn’t a scientific method for measuring pain, so doctor’s have to trust their patients are telling the truth.
There just isn’t a scientific method for measuring pain, so doctor’s have to trust their patients are telling the truth.
Phantom Pain Caused from Withdrawal
On November 1, 2013 I checked myself into a in-patient rehabilitation clinic in an attempt to end my addiction. It didn’t work, but that’s a whole other story. Thank God I found Suboxone.
What I can tell you is this:
The first step in rehab is to get the bad stuff out of your system so that they can begin alternate treatments, which in my case was Suboxone. If they had kept me on Suboxone for more than 6 days I may not have relapsed repeatedly. Instead, they tried to taper me from a 13-year opioid addiction using just 6 days of Suboxone. Needless to say it didn’t work. It was only after I left treatment, relapsed 5 times in 6 weeks weeks and eventually found a Suboxone treatment program that I got clean and stayed clean.
Back to getting the bad stuff out of your system…
They let me percolate for almost 24 hours while I went into full withdrawal and nearly seizured. What I began to experience is what’s known as “phantom pain”. This is when after years of taking opioids your brain chemistry has been altered. The moment I stopped taking opioids, my back pain skyrocketed to a level of pain I have never experienced.
Dopesick on Hulu does a great job of explaining this, as well as the need for at least one year of Suboxone treatment due to brain chemistry getting very messed up with long term opioid usage.
The pain I felt in my back was overwhelming during that dopesick period. I would have begged, borrowed, stole or even hurt someone in order to get pain meds and out of withdrawal. It was the most excruciating pain I have ever felt.
Phantom pain happened to me not once, but twice.
After just 6 days of Suboxone (which felt like heaven by comparison to the withdrawals and pain I experienced) they stopped the medications. 3 days later I was back in full withdrawal and excruciating back pain – all while inside treatment.
I left treatment and went home to experience a total of 13-days and nights of hardcore withdrawal symptoms along with my severe back pain.
The Pain After Being Dopesick was Just Horrible
The withdrawals eventually went away, but the severe pain lingered for as long as I can remember. Taking heavy doses of ibuprofen wasn’t even scratching the surface. Eventually, I reached out to a friend and bought some pain pills. Relapse became common.
Not only was there severe pain during and after feeling dopesick, but literally the inability to move. I felt like I had been hit by a truck and weighed 500 pounds. Even lifting a fork to my mouth took a lot of effort. Again – all of this as a result of brain chemistry being changed from taking opioids for 13 years.
A Suboxone Maintenance Program Saved My Life
Suboxone allowed me to live without withdrawals, reduced my pain level substantially and gave me my energy back. This gave me time to get into group recovery, therapy, and also gave my brain the year it needed to reprogram itself from the opioid abuse.
If you or someone you know is dopesick who is living in Nashville, get them into treatment quickly.
Failing to take action in my case would have eventually led to ne dying. Suboxone saved my life, and has saved the lives of hundreds of people I’ve met at the Nashville Recovery Suboxone clinic.
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