Recently, I read a study about chronic pain sufferers, including migraine sufferers, overusing over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen. I didn’t need a three year long study to tell me that.
Society thinks most chronic pain sufferers are drug seekers. So, most of us do not get prescribed medications that might actually relieve our pain. I know at least one clinic in my hometown has a notation in my chart that I’m a drug seeking patient.
The problem with that is, I’m not. I actually do not like the effects of narcotics. It reminds me of having vertigo. I take meds to stop vertigo, why would I willingly abuse medications that cause similar effects?
Unfortunately, when I have a migraine, I’d shoot heroin if someone told me it would help (and it was safe). Triptans work best for me, but I have trouble taking triptans anymore. I’ve over used them through the years because of chronic migraines (which is a form of chronic pain) and have developed some heart problems as a result. Preventive treatment has yet to work for my migraines, but I’m still searching for the right one.
I have trouble taking ibuprofen and naproxen. I’m starting to have trouble with aspirin too. It all makes my stomach hurt. I can still take acetaminophen, but I take a lot of it and eventually, it’s going to become a problem as well. What will I do when I reach that point? I don’t really know. I try to think that far ahead, but then my head starts to pound and I start popping pills and all those thoughts about my future become a blur.
However, I know I’m guilty of overusing over-the-counter drugs simply because I don’t always have enough migraine meds to last a month. Or sometimes, I just get tired of popping the tablets for migraines because I feel like they aren’t going to work any better than an Excedrin, so why waste the prescription. Worse, my migraine meds right now are Fioricet (non-codeine, non-caffeine – my blood pressure actually lowers with certain types of migraines which is why the vaso-constrictors worked so well) which means I’m taking a barbiturate and acetaminophen. I do try not to exceed the daily dosage restrictions, but there are times I just lose count of how many I’ve taken or how long I’ve been taking them or how long it has been since my last dose.
When I have a migraine, time is not my friend. Clocks might as well be in Aramaic. I can’t add or subtract time even with a digital clock (this is how I overdosed on codeine as a teenager when my former doctor was convinced that migraines were just a result of puberty and would only prescribe Tylenol 3 for them). So, I know that once in a while, I have to fail miserably at following the dosing instructions.
It is terribly unlikely I’m alone in that overuse of OTC meds and I didn’t need a study to point it out to me. Maybe the problem isn’t really us though, maybe it’s the thinking of the medical community. Once or twice a month, I have a migraine that just will not go away. There is nothing I can do for it to make it better (for the record; things like exercise, pushing through it, and physical exertion make migraines worse… Not sure you have a migraine? Do some jumping jacks. If it didn’t get worse, it’s a headache, not a migraine). But now one of the urgent care centers considers me a drug seeker, so they will not do anything but give me anti-nausea medicine and tell me to take a nap. I get insomnia with migraines. Forget the narcotics, give me a sedative and make me sleep for the next 18 hours or so. That would probably help. The last time I went, they gave me Phenergan and 800mg ibuprofen tablets after I told them that ibuprofen makes my stomach hurt so badly, I cry and curl up in the fetal position. Yeah, that’s exactly what I want with a migraine. I filled the Phenergan, I didn’t bother with the ibuprofen.
I guess I really need to work on becoming a Jedi so I can control my brain with my brain (meditation also does not help a migraine and can make it much worse, because the focus becomes consumed by the head throbbing, which creates anxiety, which increases the heart rate, which worsens the migraine, which causes a migraine sufferer to focus even more on the pain, etc, etc, etc)