A Dangerous Line: Unknowingly Dependent on Pain Meds

Pam Makowski of Columbus, Ohio, returned to work a couple weeks after hip replacement surgery.  Her recovery was stunted by a painful complication which nearly paralyzed her leg. She took the recommended dose of pain medication, Percocet, four times each day. Several weeks after her surgery, she noticed she was sweating profusely at odd times, normally within hours of her dosage. She says she didn’t crave the drugs, but felt horrible without them.

Other health problems brought her to her rheumatologist. She asked him about the sweating and he told her that her body had become dependent on Percocet. The sweating was the first sign of withdrawal.

Illegal behavior is not the only source of this country’s opioid and heroin crisis. People have high expectations after medical procedures, that they should be nearly pain free. This is one root of the drug epidemic. Doctors don’t want patients to suffer, receiving insufficient to little training about possible addiction, which can lead to over-prescribing. America uses 80% of the world’s painkillers. Deaths linked to opioids numbered over 28,000 in 2014, more than those killed in car accidents. It is important for patients to request the least-aggressive options. A high dose of ibuprofen three times a day is often more effective than an opiate.

Makowski could not find a doctor to help her reduce her medication, so she ended up quitting cold turkey. She says that it was worse than the world’s worst flu, with moaning, sweating, vomiting and diarrhea. Experts recommend having medical supervision while detoxing. She is sharing her story hoping that others get the help they need before they turn to cheaper heroin when the prescription runs out.

Price, Rita. “Medical goal of eliminating pain can lead to over-prescribing pills, accidental dependence.” News. The Columbus Dispatch, 28 Feb 2016. Web. 28 Feb 2016.

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