Monday, May 7, 2012

All those drugs

When you are diagnosed with cancer, they start handing out prescriptions like they are candy bars. Take this to prevent infection, take this one for pain for the next five days, take this one for stress, and they they keep adding more and more. Precancer, you can live the life of Riley. Post cancer, you have to adopt the weekly pill box that you religiously fill each Saturday and when you travel your tooth brush and passport are no longer the most important things to bring.

Currently I take five medications daily - including the one I am weaning off that has been replaced by a pain patch (which works much better). These include post thyroid cancer replacement meds, post breast cancer hormonal meds, anti inflammatories for my back, pain pills for my back, and an anti depressant to help me cope with the lovely state of my health. Then I have two 'just-in-case' prescriptions plus a different pain patch. In addition I have a little stash of a varying number of bottles and pills that I tried or took for a while and no longer use.

Of these, I know at least three of them have what I call 'street value' meaning I could find  someone to sell them for me on the side if I was inclined to break the law and contribute to the drug problem in this country. Instead at least once a year I take my unneeded medications to the drug collections at community events for proper disposal. I will not flush medication down the toilet because that causes other problems with drugs in the water supply.

I will not give them to anyone else. I know people who routinely share their medications with friends and relatives. This is illegal to start. There was a time as a teenager when I was in a remote portion of Maine and developed an abscessed wisdom tooth and was a four hour bus ride, followed by another three hour drive from home where my mother gave me a couple of her pain pills. But that clearly was an exception to the rule.

I have one friend who talks about getting medications from her sister and her sister in law from prescriptions they get and either don't use often or don't have a problem getting them refilled. I think they see it as 'well she wasn't using it so she gave it to me'. Probably these drugs are not going to fall into the wrong hands and leave this little circle but it is still illegal and I haven't quite figured out why they do it. Another time I was on a retreat with a bunch of women and one of them started asking everyone for an ativan so she could sleep. Um, I did not speak up but someone did give her one, to my dismay.

My policy is my doctors gave me my drugs and they are not for anyone else's use. Sorry. If there were undue circumstances where I had pain pills and there were injured people far from medical care, I might share, but they would have to be dire circumstances.

Health insurance companies are getting more and more on the bandwagon to help prevent the availability of prescription drugs on the street. Blue Cross of MA has just announced a program where prescriptions will be filled for certain pain pills for 15 days and refilled for another 15 days without prompting a review. Unless they are for cancer patients or others with terminal illnesses.

They hope not to bury the medical profession in more paperwork but they also realize there are too many patients who refill unneeded pain medications and they end up on the street.  There is a real problem with pain killer abuse in this country. I have two goals here: not to contribute to that problem and to make sure I don't end up with any unwanted dependencies either. I try to eliminate as many prescriptions in my life as possible. Popping a pill isn't an answer.My doctors have offered others for various ailments and I decline.

I would be happiest if I could be so healthy that I had no prescriptions.

1 comment:

Robyn said...

My best friend was diagnosed with stage 4 liver and colon cancer three weeks ago. She is now taking 5 different kinds of chemo. I have been searching for positive stories and support for her. Thank you for sharing your story and blog. I came across a book called, "It's Just Hair: 20 Essential Life Lessons" by Judith L. Pearson. It is a non-fiction self-help book for women battling breast cancer or anyone facing a challenge in life that is written in a humorous, inspirational and encouraging tone. There are twenty lessons that are under five pages each that teach courage, humor, patience, acceptance, stress management and more. It was a very inspirational book to read!

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