I am currently going through withdrawal as I type this. Right now, I’m on Day 5. For those who have read my articles on this subject before, let me assure you it’s not from alcohol. It’s from prescription medication, and no, I wasn’t taking them recreationally. Or anally. I feel like I need to stress that part because some of you know that’s how I used to take all of my booze.
So you understand that this isn’t a small issue, know that I’m not talking about having “moderate discomfort” from a lack of the medication. I’m talking about movie trope levels of withdrawal … think Trainspotting without the hallucinations. I also didn’t make a personal choice to stop taking them cold turkey. I, along with about 20,000 other people in a 60-mile radius were medically buttfucked by a very small group of dirty doctors. I didn’t even know that was possible, but evidently, it’s totally a thing.
How It Starts
In order to understand why this is an issue at all, you need to know a typical story of how these sorts of addictions come about. Because this isn’t an issue of rock stars taking pills to escape the real world. It isn’t sports figures taking them to get through a game, because tens of millions of dollars are on the line if they don’t. We’re talking about regular people who need medication in order to function. This isn’t about Amanda Bynes … it’s about your mom.
“Enough small talk. You holdin’?”
In my case, it’s inheriting the opposite of super powers around age 15. Every male on one side of my family enters their freshman year of high school built like a normal teenager. Then, over the course of a single year, we all shoot up to the height of NBA power forwards, while still only weighing around 135 pounds. We look like human-sized versions of praying mantises with severe meth addictions. That amount of growth over that short of a time period destroys our knees and backs because the bones grow much faster than the rest of our meat-shells.
Ten years after that, now that our bones have gotten used to the transformation, we all gain about a hundred pounds just as rapidly. Mostly in the dick region. So now our backs and knees have the added stress of dealing with all of this extra weight, and the result is chronic pain for which there is no real cure. Statistically speaking, 65 percent of you reading this know exactly what I’m talking about.
Surgery doesn’t help. One of my uncles has had five back surgeries, and he still has the same problems. My dad had two, and another on his neck. Same problem. Outside of becoming Wolverine, you’re just fucked. So your only option is “take one of these pills every five hours.” Do that for several months, and suddenly, they become a regular part of your body’s chemistry. Take them away without any warning, and you might as well be setting yourself on fire.
“I’ll be out in a minute! Just … um … combing my hair!”
That’s where I was just a few days ago. I had been prescribed a pain reliever called Tramadol. It’s a mild opioid that’s just a step above taking a handful of ibuprofen, but I had been on them for about a year. If you ever get solicited by a drug dealer and need to get rid of him fast, just tell him you’re looking for Tramadol, and watch him stumble away in uncontrollable laughter. It’s considered the O’Doul’s of the drug world.
So how does all of that lead to me lying in a fetal position, in a pool of sweat, shaking so bad I couldn’t hold my own phone? Enter these fuckheads …
Greedy Doctors Fucked Absolutely Everyone
Last week, I was running low on my medication, so I called in for a refill like normal, which was basically met with, “Hahaha! How about instead of us refilling that, you go fuck yourself?” No warning. No weaning off of them. They were just yanked out from underneath me on a dime. I didn’t argue because I’m not a doctor. And if I were a doctor, I’d totally be House and have a much cooler Vicodin addiction while staring at Cuddy’s ass.
Then, suddenly, a realization hit me. My wife had been having problems getting her own medications filled for several weeks. Same with my mother-in-law. Wait, they didn’t think we were abusing or selling these things, did they? A normal bottle says to take up to eight of those a day, and none of us ever took more than two. Our prescriptions lasted four times longer than what was recommended, and that should be reflected in their system, right?
“I’m sorry, sir, but the system says you’re a piece of druggie shit.”
Then through random bullshit banter with neighbors, gas station attendants, and grocery store cashiers, we found out that pretty much everyone in town was having the same problem. My mother, who lives an hour away, ran into the same thing, and she’s full-on disabled. What the shitting fuck?
That’s when people started bringing up the news stories that I hadn’t realized were a thing because I never pay attention to anything that isn’t Cracked, Guitar Hero Live, or very specifically timed, paused screens on House.
It turned out that four doctors and several nurses had been busted over the last year for selling drugs on the side. Because as well all know, doctors get paid next to nothing, and they desperately need the money. There had been several police raids on a handful of clinics across the area, and each time, people thought, “Well, that’s pretty crazy, but it’s an isolated incident.” Then, a month later, it would happen again. And again … each time at a different, unaffiliated clinic.
It’s not just a small-town rumor. I saw the stories and read the police reports. The only reason I’m not linking to them here is because I don’t want crazy assholes triangulating where I live and shooting my house with paintballs filled with human shit.
I live among much hay.
Now you’re probably thinking what I did at the time: Once those doctors were arrested, that should have taken care of the problem, right? Well, the thing is …
It Created A Paranoia In The Medical Community
Every doctor who hadn’t been busted, whether or not they were illegally selling drugs themselves, got paranoid and stopped prescribing drugs like pain killers and sleeping pills. It became clear that those raids weren’t just a local law enforcement going crazy; it was a widespread effort that was putting doctors and nurses under a microscope. And it was working.
To be honest, I can’t really blame the doctors for cutting out those prescriptions. If I did that for a living and I saw even the slightest chance that my clinic would be raided and that I could possibly do prison time, you wouldn’t even be able to get a goddamn Flintstone Vitamin out of me. I also can’t blame the police for doing the raids. My state has a massive prescription-pill problem, and rather than fill our jails with thousands of dipshit abusers, it makes more sense to go after their suppliers. And, evidently, the people they arrested were doing a God’s nutsack worth of supplying.
So if we can’t get our medication from our current doctors, why not just go to another one? Well, that’s where that chain reaction of paranoia really kicks in. See, I live in a network of small towns that are all a 30-minute drive from one another. Most of these towns are so small that there are no doctors there in the first place. Mine is large enough to have a whopping two. This problem extends out at least an hour’s drive in every direction that we’ve found so far. And according to my mother (again, who lives an hour away), it extends much farther than that.
Mom tends to exaggerate, so you have to take that with a grain of salt.
So searching for a doctor who will prescribe what you need ends up creating a huge clusterfuck. You call the doctor’s office in the next town over, in hopes that they have an opening for new patients. If they do, you drive 30 minutes to that office, register to see the doctor, and hope that she’ll give you what you need. If she doesn’t, you go to the next town, another 30 minutes from there, and repeat the process. Each time, you’re getting charged for the visit, and if you’re using insurance, you’re now red-flagged as being either insane or a drug abuser, because you keep hopping from doctor to doctor. If you don’t use insurance, you’re paying out of pocket for both the gas and the visit. You could easily drop a couple hundred dollars just trying to find one doctor who hasn’t been scared into a blown-out colon.
So let’s say that you do find another doctor and that doctor does prescribe you magic pills that dick-slap your pain right in its stupid suckhole. Congratulations, you just got flagged in a state database for getting multiple prescriptions from different doctors. That system is set up in 37 states, and once you get flagged in it, one or both of your doctors will boot your ass out. That’s not speculation. That happened to my wife. At this point, it would actually be easier to buy the pills illegally from some jackoff street pusher, probably with a stupid nickname like Pookie or Ray-Ray.
Which brings us to the really crazy part …
It Creates Towns Full Of Crazy Assholes
It took about a day for the withdrawal to really kick in. But when it did it was bad. I’m talking Lifetime Movie levels of bad (is Lifetime still a thing?). I spent a horrifying amount of time shaking in the fetal position on my couch, sweating through my clothes and fighting back the near-constant fear that I was legitimately going to die. More than once I wished I would. I got one hour of sleep each night for three nights straight.
You know that tired, cliche image of someone curled up in the corner while they detox? This one:
Nobody puts Baby in a corner.
That’s actually a real thing that happens, but it’s not because they’re depressed and scared. It’s because when you’re in this type of withdrawal, it’s common to get extreme pain in your legs and back. If you try to lay down and sleep, it isn’t happening because you can only get comfortable for about 10 seconds before your body freaks out and screams at you to move positions. So that Trainspotting scene that I mentioned earlier? That insane flopping he does while in bed is right on the money. Many people find that the only semi-comfortable position is sitting straight up. And the only way you can sleep while sitting straight up is if you have a couple of bracers there to keep you from falling over. Hence, the corner of a room works perfectly. I made due with the corner of my couch, but if that hadn’t worked, I would have been reenacting a Hollywood detox trope in a fucking heartbeat.
Now, obviously not every single person in town is on pain medication. But for the ones who are, they were going through varying degrees of the same bullshit. I’ve since found out that I’m an extreme case — most people just have body aches, sweating, and insomnia. But it also means that many people in my town were functional enough to go shopping, run errands, go to work … and they were not happy while doing it. It created a town full of angry, exhausted, pain-ridden dickheads.
“The sun, it angers us! Destroy it immediately!”
I really feel sorry for anyone who worked in customer service this week. I think that if I owned a business here in town, and I heard about all of this insanity, I’d give my employees permission to bring a taser to work. I’d hash out a deal with the police to allow us a one week window where any use of them would be considered a mercy taser, because we’d not let up on the button until that poor bastard blacked out. And if I knew that was a thing that could happen, I would have done that to myself, because …
Your Original Pain Comes Back Tenfold
The majority of people getting these pills through a doctor aren’t doing it because they want to get high. They’re doing it because they’re in fucking pain and over-the-counter stuff isn’t doing the job. If it wouldn’t shut down my liver, I’d fill a bowl with ibuprofen right now, pour some milk on that shit and eat it like Froot Loops.
And then I’m washing it down with NyQuil.
When you take away the medication, the withdrawal is just the first nightmare. For most people, recovering from that takes a week or two (though some medical sites say it can last months). What you’re absolutely not prepared for is the return of the pain that you’ve been treating in the first place. I’ve had relief from mine for the past year because of Tramadol, so I forgot how bad it could get. Once that medication is gone, the pain not only returns but is so much worse than it was before, because your body has gotten used to not feeling it. It’s like anal sex. If you take it slow, once you get going, you can sort of live with it. But you don’t just jam it in there without warning.
Right now, I’m on Day 5 of withdrawal. I’m slowly getting more used to the giant medical dick in my ass, but it still hurts like hell. And because of the combination of withdrawal-induced insomnia and the return of my original condition, my sleep schedule is ass-backwards. After the third day, I just collapsed and slept for 10 hours, finally waking up at midnight. But you can’t help it because going that long without sleep is crazy dangerous, so if someone suffering through this falls asleep, you goddamn well let them do it. Even if they’re propped up in the corner of the room like a bad piece of performance art.
The really hard part is that once all of this winds down and I return to being just a normal human with an abnormal back, what happens then? I’ve been dealing with this issue for 25 years. It’s not like I haven’t looked into other options for treatment. If they prescribe me the pills again, do I jump back on that train? Or do I say fuck that and go buy one of those sweet canes with a hidden sword in it to help me walk and also chop ninjas? Because right now, all I can think is, “I’d rather die than go through this ever again” … but in a year, I’ll be thinking, “I don’t give a dick if I have to start shooting heroin, I can’t take this pain anymore.”
I don’t know which is which, so I’m just going to slam them all.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to start shooting heroin. I’ve seen The Basketball Diaries, and I don’t want to end up like that. Slobbering and Oscarless. I’m just pissed off and venting because none of this was necessary. Because a handful of people couldn’t make a fucking doctor’s salary support their lifestyles. Ugh. I’m going to go put on a dramatic soundtrack and ball up in the corner of my living room.