Monday, September 24, 2012

Medication and addiction

I don’t remember a lot of the details of this story.
I remember that the doctor prescribed the medication in the fall of 1986, when I was in graduate school in Ohio.
I first saw the doctor who took me off the medication during the winter of 1989. I know this only because I dated a book that he recommended to me Feb. 20, 1989.
In between, the details aren’t so clear.

I started having bouts of diarrhea in 1986. I could not predict when they would hit me. It seemed not to matter what I ate or didn’t eat. The bouts hit hard and suddenly.
When I decided to take a trip with classmates to New England that would involve about a 14-hour drive, I panicked. What if I got diarrhea on the van and couldn’t make it to a bathroom? I would have to use public bathrooms. What if they weren’t clean?
My obsessive-compulsive disorder had me obsessing over the possibilities.
Finally, I went to student health on campus and a doctor prescribed a drug for me. It worked.
During the trip, I wanted to insure that I wouldn’t have any diarrhea. So I took extra pills. I figured if one would help, more would help more. And I didn’t have any stomach problems on the trip.

I continued to take the medication, and if I was facing a situation where I wanted to be sure not to have to worry about having diarrhea, I took extras.
The pills made me sleepy and dopey, but the side effects were worth it to me not to have to face a potentially embarrassing episode and not to have to worry about it.

At some point, I discovered when I tried to get the medication refilled at student health that I was making the request too soon. In other words, I finished up a prescription before I should have.
The pharmacist expressed concern, I remember, but I revealed nothing to her.
I didn’t reveal that I took more of the medication than I needed. I didn’t reveal to her that I panicked inside when she told me I couldn’t get the medication refilled.
I didn’t want to be without the drug.

I don’t remember how I ended up in the office of the medical director. Isn’t that something, that I don’t remember those details?
I suspect I can’t remember because the medication was blurring my thinking. And I wanted to put the whole episode out of my mind when it was over.
I was in talk therapy at the time with a psychologist on campus. It would be another year before she referred me to a psychiatrist, but perhaps she referred me to the medical doctor for my depression.

Regardless of how I ended up there, I found myself telling the medical director about my depression without sharing any details about it.
I also didn’t share with him my dependence on the medication.

I didn’t even admit to myself that I was addicted to the medication. I told myself I needed it to keep from having diarrhea, and that if I stopped taking it, all my problems would start again.

The medical director told me that he didn’t want to prescribe anything for depression until he knew whether or not I was depressed. The medication could be depressing me, he said. And there was another medication that would help my stomach problems without presenting the same dangers.
He worked out a plan for me to wean myself off the medication and start the new one.
He also talked to me about the importance of exercise and introduced the idea of meditation to me.
And he told me to come back in six weeks.

I didn’t wean myself off the medication. I took it in extra doses until it was all gone. I had no refills left, just the new medication for my stomach.

I didn’t sleep well or much at all in the weeks leading up to my next appointment with the medical director. When I remember that time, I picture myself figuratively “walking on the ceiling.” I couldn’t relax. I never felt sleepy. I felt like I was on high alert all the time.
My body was reacting to the removal of a depressive medication that I had taken for over two years.
My depression didn’t lift. The doping of my physical system and my mind lifted, but the clinical depression remained.

When I went back to see the medical director, we didn’t talk about addiction, and he didn’t prescribe anything for my depression.
But with his encouragement, I did begin to think about starting a running routine, which I eventually did later that year. And I tried meditation for the first time, based on the book The Relaxation Response, by Herbert Benson, MD, with Miriam Z. Clipper.

  I have a different relationship with and a respect for medication today. I don’t want to have another story in my life missing so many details.

30 comments:

  1. This is very helpful story, your experience will teach people to take care better.Thanks!

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    1. Thank you. I hope my experience can help others.

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  2. That sounds like a really scary experience Tina.

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    1. It was, Krystal Lynn. I don't want to go through it again.

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  3. Wow, Tina, thanks for being so honest! Seeing different sides of you is nice, I think sometimes we all tend to write how we are now and seeing all sides makes me love ya even more!! ;)

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  4. Your story shows us how easy it is to become dependent on certain medications, though of course nobody plans it that way. I think all our experiences shape who we are today. As I've said before, my 23 year old son Dan won't even drink beer because he never wants to be "out of control" again, the way he was when he was overly medicated. Your sharing is sure to help others.

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    1. Thank you, Janet, I hope so. I'm sorry Dan went through such a difficult time with medication.

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  5. Wow, they really fell short asking you about all of it. Of course we know so much more about it now-a-days.

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    1. Jodi, I was not forthcoming with information, and they weren't direct. It just wasn't talked about. It probably would be handled differently today.

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  6. Scary story. I'm glad you made it through okay.

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  7. Thank you for this story Tina, makes me feel less stupid.
    In Africa, I had headaches as a side effect and took over the counter medication with codeine in it for them. When I asked my psychiatrist how many I could take with the medication he was prescribing, he said "as many as you need", not realising I had bad headaches nearly every day. I ended up taking 18 or 20 tablets a day and was seriously addicted to them. I had a horrible time stopping with them. And all that just because of a misunderstanding.

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    1. Klaaske, I am so sorry you went through that. You are not stupid. None of us are perfect. And as you say, your situation grew out of a misunderstanding.

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  8. Having to worry about a diarrhea episode would be so difficult to deal with. How easy it would be for any of us to rationalize the "more is better" idea in order to function in life. This must have been so difficult and to not have anyone to talk to about it makes it all the worse. I'm glad you were able to get help eventually. I have parts of my life that are like that are "missing" too. I never want to repeat that.

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    1. Grace, thank you. Looking back on it, I don't remember discussing it with anyone, even the psychologist I was seeing. I guess I was in denial, and ashamed, too.

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  9. Having IBS - I can totally appreciate the anxiety over stomach issues that you had. It's good you were able to get help.

    I don't roast the seaweed myself - you can buy it that way.

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  10. Dear one appreciate your honesty and I am so glad help was available. Hugs.

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  11. Thanks for sharing. I tend to just hear people being judgmental about addictions, not knowing or understanding what went into it. It is sad that your OCD symptoms combined with the other problem and you ended up with a third. I'm glad you have better help now. And I think I'll take a look at that book you referenced on meditation. I want to work more on that.

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  12. Now that I looked on Amazon - would you recommend a newer book by him, or the original? Thanks, Abigail

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    1. Abigail, Way back when, I bought "The Relaxation Response" and "Beyond the Relaxation Response" at the same time. I can't find my "The Relaxation Response," but I have the other one (dated Feb. 20, 1989). I haven't read anything newer. But in checking his bio online, I discovered that he did a 25th anniversary edition of "The Relaxation Response" in 2000--updated and expanded. He also came out with "Relaxation Revolution" in 2010. Probably they all have to do with mind/body work. The original will teach a simple (not easy, but simple) form of meditation. "Beyond" includes what he called "the faith factor." Either of those would still be helpful, I think, because I doubt if his basic method has changed. And I sometimes still work on it.

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  13. Tina, I'm sure that was not an easy story to share, but it is a powerful one, so thank you. It's easy to have certain impressions about addiction, but I think it is very easy to fall into addiction and I really believe "there but for the grace of God go I." I think it is even easier to fall into addiction if you have a medical condition (diarrhea, physical pain, anxiety, depression, you name it) that is not being treated enough, or if the patient is not receiving enough relief from the symptoms.

    Great post.

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    1. Thank you for your encouraging comment, Sunny!

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  14. It's an amazing thing you do, opening yourself up to others so that they feel comfortable opening up too. Just wonderful!

    This story hits close to home. Not in the details but in the general idea.

    I'm so thankful, in your case, you have found a new respect for medication. It's such a scary place to be...dependence that is. I'd not wish it on anyone.

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    1. Thanks, Melanie. I wouldn't wish it on anyone, either.

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  15. This story gave me a jolt. I get compulsive about medication sometimes and I need to watch that.

    If I get a headache, I'll take extra Advil because I have that idea that if two help, 3 will really help.

    I'm sorry you went through all that!

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  16. I am really bad in taking my medication. This is scary!

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