Pain pills are a hot button issue right now. It is almost impossible to read any blog, website, or magazine about current events that doesn’t mention the “epidemic” of prescription pain medicine abuse. Even here at CreakyJoints, the articles and posts that have something to do with narcotic medications seem to always get the most comment. It’s easy to see why—these are troubling times for those who suffer from chronic pain and promise to become increasingly troubling as time goes on. What’s especially tragic is that so many people who are dead set against narcotic painkillers don’t even understand these medications.
Let me give you an example.
The other day I found myself at an event where I had occasion to meet new people. At my age, this isn’t something that happens all the time, and I enjoy hearing new stories and viewpoints, so I welcome these opportunities when they arise. So, as I was mingling and talking, I saw someone who obviously had a lot to say. Seeing as how these people are always entertaining, I wandered over. I was not disappointed and the show began almost immediately. We immediately got on the subject of pain meds, and this person began to explain to me the different narcotics and their dangers. Instead of informing this person that I am sometimes jokingly referred to as an ‘amateur pharmacist’ due to my extensive knowledge of medication, I decided to play dumb just to see exactly what this narcotic naysayer really knew. The lack of correct information shocked me.
His began with a diatribe against Percocet. He was apparently disturbed because the “Oxycodiene” in the drug was too addictive. The rest of the conversation that followed was more like a “Who’s on first” Abbott and Costello routine than a discussion about narcotics.
I said, “Well, Percocet is actually acetaminophen and Oxycodone.”
He said, “Yeah, Codeine, I’ve had that before and it messed me up.”
I said, “No, that’s Codeine, Percocet has Oxycodone as the active ingredient.”
He said, “Oxy-cotton? Well, that stuff is just too powerful to be on the market. It’s ten times more addictive than Oxycodeine.”
At this point there was so many things wrong with what he had just uttered that I couldn’t decide where to begin. I was like a smart kid in a stupid person candy store, and I wanted to gorge myself. After I gathered my thoughts for a minute, I replied.
“Percocet actually contains Oxycodone, which is the same ingredient in Oxycontin, or as you call it, Oxy-cotton. Codeine is another pain medicine entirely, and although many narcotics do derive from Codeine, in this case there is no such thing as Oxycodeine, at least to my knowledge.”
After I laid this knowledge on the guy, he looked at me and for a second or two, I thought his head might actually explode. Just as that was about to happen, though, he shook it off, and continued his ill-informed rant.
He said, “Well, I know someone who took Oxy-cotton once and then they were hooked and had to go to rehab. It’s as bad as heroin, they say, and people crush it up and snort it and inject it when they can’t get off from taking it as a pill anymore.”
I replied, “Actually they changed the formula for Oxycontin [once again correcting his mispronunciation], and you can no longer crush it to powder. It just turns into something similar to a stale marshmallow now. It has actually been that way for years.”
Even though i had just disproved his ridiculous argument, without skipping a beat, he switched things up and decided to go with the newest narcotic to cause controversy. According to him, it was called “Zohardo,” and it was “made up of a brand new drug that was even more powerful than Oxy-cotton,” (again mispronouncing the name of the drug). So, I took upon myself to correct him.
I said, “If you are talking about Zohydro, it’s actually just hydrocodone, the same active ingredient in Vicodin, and it has been around for a while. Some people respond to oxy-based narcotics better, and some respond to hydro-based narcotics better. Until Zohydro, the latter group had no choice but to also take acetaminophen with their hydrocodone, or as you know it, Vicodin.”
I was fully confident that this ridiculous man had no idea what I had just said, but to his credit, he nodded his head and agreed with me, not worrying at all about the fact that I just contradicted everything he had said before.
As you can probably imagine the conversation went on like this for a few more minutes, and might have continued for longer than that had I been able to stomach more. I had to end the torture, though, because this person was obviously not concerned at all about the facts of the case, he just wanted to yammer on about “narcotics” and “Oxy-cotton,” so he could sound knowledgeable about something he knew absolutely nothing about.
The most terrifying part of the conversation, though, was that some of the people listening to this blowhard blather about “Zohardo,” were also nodding their heads in agreement, as if what he was saying made sense to them, on a deep and abiding level. It was disturbing, and part of the reason our society has such a fear of oxycontin and other narcotics.
I saw firsthand how easy it is for misinformation about pain medicines to be disseminated. Even thought I was standing there actively correcting this person, it was as if I hadn’t said anything at all. The awful truth is that misinformation is feeding the war on prescription drugs and hurting real people and real lives. People like me, who won’t have a quality of life worth living if narcotics are banned.