I lived with chronic pain, and it was awful. According to The National Center for Health Statistics, 76.5 million Americans suffer from chronic pain (see the article, “Living with Pain”, published in Time Magazine). In most cases, there is no easy cure for this pain, so people do their best to manage it with medication. Unfortunately, pain medications have also become popular drugs of abuse.
A friend of mine runs one of the largest drugs of abuse testing labs in the country. I had lunch with him a few days before my surgery, and he said one of the fastest growing areas in the industry is testing for pain medication abuse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 48 million people, ages 12 and older, have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons. Given how horrible I felt while taking pain medication in the hospital, that statistic is scary.
My nurses told me that before I left the hospital, they had to make sure I was managing my pain with medication. Hip resurfacing surgery is invasive, so there is no way to avoid taking pain drugs afterwards. As I explained in my Welcome Aboard Hip v2.0! post, the pain medication in the hospital made me light headed and nauseous. When I sat up, I would feel pressure running from my temples to the front of my forehead. When I tried to walk, I would become dizzy. I was never worried about falling down, which could be disastrous for a newly resurfaced hip, but I was worried about how I would manage these symptoms when I got home. Fortunately, Dr. Vail’s assistant switched my pain medication to Vicodin. For whatever reason, Vicodin relieved my pain, but without all of the ugly side effects. But Vicodin is a narcotic and is addictive – I wanted to stop taking it as soon as possible. It took me three weeks, but I am now Vicodin free and I feel great. Today, I didn’t even take Tylenol.
My friend’s company primarily tests for illicit drugs for justice and corrections customers. His business will continue to be successful without testing for new drugs. Based on my experience in the hospital, I hope that testing for pain medication abuse ceases to be a growing market.