My story starts in the late 1970’s, when I started suffering from pain in my leg. As time went on I ignored the pain and hoped it would eventually go away. I tried to get relief from almost every source one can think of: chiropractic, acupuncture, Rolfing, massage therapy, physical therapy and any other I could find. I refused to turn to drugs.
That all changed in 2005, when the pain got so bad I could no longer function normally. I caved in and decided to explore the opiate route. I had no idea where that road would eventually lead. I will say that narcotics have their place, just not in the treatment of chronic pain.
I began taking morphine and eventually found myself on 400+mg per day. Still, the pain was there… I just didn’t care anymore. I was a zombie. I took narcotics of varying types for 9 years and finally decided to get off them. I was lucky because although I did become dependent on them, I was never a typical addict wanting to get high. I just wanted relief. After nine years I’d had enough. I checked myself into detox and haven’t looked back.
Let’s look at some of the lasting side effects of narcotic use, at least for me. I am told that it will take 1 to 3 years for my body to rid itself of the damage that isn’t permanent. Because narcotics dry the mouth of the essential fluids needed to keep teeth healthy, I lost my teeth. My entire GI tract has lost almost all its ability to function. Narcotics stop the motility of your intestines. Take them long enough and you will spend the rest of your life on laxatives. Trust me, I know. I also suffer from nervous disorders. Narcotics affect the Central Nervous System and can lead to involuntary twitching and spasms.
Another huge potential side effect is immunosuppression. In 2014 I was diagnosed with Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. While I can’t directly relate that to narcotic use, it would seem a likely culprit. A few of the other things I have found that have effected me are reduced energy and drive, reduced fertility, reduced libido, and testosterone depletion. I’ve experienced all of these things. Further, I have been told by a doctor that as the narcotics leave my system over the next couple of years, the pain I do have will be much more intense as a result of pain receptors being compromised over the years.
When I had cancer in 2014 I used cannabis to help with the nausea. But it came with an interesting side effect: it was helping with my pain. It didn’t just mask the pain like the narcotics did. It took it away and I became functional again.
I will never be the same person I was or could have been. Narcotic use will continue to haunt me throughout life with nerve damage, intestinal issues, cognitive issues, and even joint and muscular issues. But I am quite lucky, all things considered. I didn’t die. How many others will not be so lucky before we learn there are better treatments?