My history with dilaudid (hydromorphone) began in 2003 with Dr. Mitchell Halter at Integrative Pain Center of Arizona and by 2004 I was taking 8 – 25mg pills per day. Since 1995 when my pain originated following unsuccessful foot surgery, I experienced many different attempts at pain control, but nothing was effective until the dilaudid. It was my “miracle” fix! It did mask my foot pain – from my worst easily at nine down to three or four – to the point that my husband and I were traveling and enjoying life and I was pretty much doing what I wanted. Life was good. I could drive my car and manage my own wheelchair which I used for long distance walking, enjoyed my quilting and spent lots of time with friends.
However, our lives did revolve around my prescription – making sure we had it filled each month (which required a 60+ mile roundtrip from Green Valley), had enough pills to get me through whatever we were doing or arranging for it to be delivered to neighbors if we weren’t going to be home – and then figuring out how to get it from them. Also, the drug made me nauseous so I had to always be sure I could get something to coat my stomach each time I took it. The expense of the drug was nearly prohibitive. We worked it out, but certainly there were lots better ways to have spent all that money. Over the almost 10 years of being on this drug, we had several battles with the pharmacy over the insurance coverage and for a few of those years we just simply gave up and paid out of pocket for it rather than fight the exhausting problems with them. The prescription just kept being written and I just kept filling it without much concern for the future. Now however, I can’t believe I did that to myself.
Dr. Bennet Davis took over my case in June, 2011. His very first question to me was, “Do you think you are being overmedicated?” Well, how would one know that? Perhaps the pain wasn’t all that bad any longer and I didn’t really need the drug. Perhaps the dosage could be less. Perhaps I would feel lots better without it. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. But my husband and I looked at each other and answered the doctor. “We didn’t want to do anything different. Life was good”. Why take a chance on getting off the drug? What if my pain is really bad if I do that? What if withdrawal is really bad? And I knew enough that if I had to taper up to the eight pills daily, I surely would have to taper down as well, so how long could this take? I was just not wanting to take this chance and my husband totally agreed with me. “Let’s just leave this alone”.
But then came the problems with the compounded drugs and the pharmacies that produced them. When I called my pharmacy to see if my prescription was ready to be picked up, I was told I could no longer get my drug. What was I to do? Was detox in my future? I think maybe the decision was being made for me. I saw Dr. Davis right away and we agreed that was exactly what I needed to do. He helped me decide on the process that should work best for me and we also agreed that I would first get all of the drug out of my system and then we would reevaluate my pain situation and go from there. One thing at a time. After a whirlwind of research, my husband and I found an out-patient detox center that I could work with. I will admit, it was a very, very scary thing to consider. My husband said he was even more afraid than I was. But we met the people at the detox center and I liked them all right away. They were really great and explained everything to me about how the process and made me feel very comfortable. I knew they would take good care of me.
Actually, it wasn’t all that bad. Sure, the first week was really uncomfortable, but not impossible. The whole process took several months, but after six or seven weeks, I felt fine. I had to continue the process until I could taper off the anti-withdrawal meds, but I felt like I didn’t really need it. Now I feel so much better. Yes, “life was good” on the drug, but now life is great without it! The side effects of the prescription drug that I dealt with for so many years are subsiding, and the best part? My pain simply isn’t that bad. I am hoping for just something over-the-counter when, or even if, needed. The pain was covered up for so many years – the most recent of those years, probably – and totally – unnecessary. But until I did this, how would I ever have known? Maybe I am really lucky on that account. I have no idea. I am just glad that things worked out this way for me. Until ones tries, you just can’t know. My life is good now, and it can only get better. Not much point in saying I wish I had done this sooner, but I sure do!
Jane S. – I’m a retired grandma and this is my journey to be free of pain meds.