Fibromyalgia and Narcotics

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is an invisible illness characterized by symtpms such as widespread pain, fatigue, irritible bowel syndrome, sleep disturbances, mood swings, slow congnitive functioning and stiffness...to name a few.


For me it all started with the chronic back and neck pain that I have experienced for as long as I can remember. When I started working full time after I graduated from high school the pain began to get worse. I was working as a cashier and I assumed that the pain was due to standing on concrete for eight hours at a time. I ignored it just as I had ignored my other chronic pain throughout my life.


It wasn’t long before an eight hour shift meant I couldn’t walk when I got home because of pain in my feet and legs. My neck pain was so bad that I would lay in bed crying, unable to nod or turn my head. No amount of over-the-counter medication affected my pain. Finally I gave in to the pain and visited a doctor.


My doctor told me that prescribing narcotics to a twenty-year-old who had a tattoo on her neck made her uncomfortable. She allowed me 4 Tylenol 3 pills a week, so I worked less and less until I had to quit my job and find one that was less physically demanding.


I switched jobs, and eventually doctors as my pain continued to worsen. My days were spent getting in and out of the shower and changing positions because everything hurt. I have had insomnia my entire life and now the pain stopped me from getting any sleep at all.


When a doctor finally diagnosed me with fibromyalgia I had quit working entirely and spiralled so deeply into depression that I began to feel that life would be an unending black vacuum of pain.


The diagnosis, however, was wonderful. I knew my pain was real and a quick search of the internet told me that thousands were living with it. I was not alone, but the diagnosis, and the prescriptions that came with it, brought a new problem.

Many people take T3's to manage their pain.

Fibromyalgia and Narcotics

The new problem was called narcotics. I had already been taking Tylenol 3 which has 30mg of codeine for about four months. But at 4 pills a week they were having even less of an effect on my mind than they were on my pain. With a doctor that believed me, and didn’t use my tattoos or my age as reasons not to allow me to manage the pain I was allowed as much Tylenol as I needed. As much as I needed ranged from one to twelve pills a day.


At first I was doing everything I could to avoid taking the pills. I could feel the affect they had on my mind. It was like someone had filled my brain with fog machines and made me wander through it with blinders on trying to figure out where I had left my keys or what I had planned to do that day. With my memory failing and my inability to keep up a conversation because I kept forgetting what I was talking about I decided that narcotics weren’t for me and stopped taking them without telling my doctor.


The week that followed was enough to get me straight back on them no matter what the side effects. I couldn’t get out of bed most days, and when I did manage to get out of bed I couldn’t even consider doing the yoga that used to keep my stiffness at bay. The depression returned, along with bad eating habits and terrible thoughts. Finally, at the urging of my husband I renewed my prescription and returned to the world. Albeit, a little flaky.


I then found myself stuck in a complete catch-22. The narcotics certainly don’t take the pain away, I had come to terms with the fact that the nerve pain that characterizes my diagnosis is here to stay, but they allowed me to do some things. I could write, do the dishes, take walks and spend time with my family and friends. Although all of these things take considerably more brain power and physical effort than they ever have before. Without the pills, as I’ve already said, I was useless.


So, really what was the problem? I would just take some low doses of codeine and I could live my life. Well, I hd two major concerns. The first was the fact that while I was certainly not addicted I was reliant on codeine to live my life. I was as much at it’s mercy as I was at the mercy of my pain. When I took it, though I was able to be more productive it was as though I was walking through a fog. I had to start journaling because I couldn't remember what I had done the day before, my house was full of post-it notes because I could never remember to feed the cat and all my friends knew that if we had plans they would need to call me the day before and remind me, otherwise I very likely wouldn't show up.


My second concern was that I am young, and had been married for a year and half. In that time my husband and I had discussed starting a family. Something that would have happened a lot sooner had I not become sick. Taking the medication I was on while pregnant would be a huge risk, and taking it while I breast feeding was not an option. However, carrying around a thirty extra pounds and later caring for a newborn seem like impossible feats without the benefit of medication. There are many alternative options to manage fibromyalgia, most of which cost money I didn't have. All the ones that are within my budget I was pursuing as aggressively as I could.


I believe that this is a problem that many of the thousands of people with fibromyalgia face. To be trapped between pain, and confusion is a rather unpleasant place to be. I can hardly imagine how much worse it would be if my pain had gone undiagnosed as so many thousands of others have experienced. I also have the great luck of having family and friends that believe and support me, also not something that everyone with this illness can say.


If you have a friend or family member who has fibromyalgia please believe and support them. If you have a patient or an acquaintance who is experiencing pain please treat them and allow them to manage that pain. Fibromyalgia is a real, destructive illness. People who are seeking medication for it are doing so because they need it, and if many of them are like me they hate having to turn to drugs. This is an illness than cannot be handled alone, please don’t make people try.

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Comments 18 comments

ar.colton profile image

ar.colton 4 years ago from Vancouver, B.C. Author

I think we should continue this convesation by email. I messaged you.


aleciajeanne profile image

aleciajeanne 4 years ago from Paso Robles,CA

Oh yes I know all about that! lol... Why dont you check out my fms hubs, I just connected two to my "how to ease fibromyalgia symptoms" but the one about the treatments is the one you should check out...i recently bought some magnesium cause i heard it helps with fms pain, then found out it helps with pain and fatigue, its helped me a lot..ive tried almost everything...a huge factor of fms is your mind set, before I take my pills I say to myself "yay, this is going to help take my pain away".. think positive :)


ar.colton profile image

ar.colton 4 years ago from Vancouver, B.C. Author

I'm currently recovering from childbirth and learning to balance FMS and parenting. It's a whole new world! Hopefully I'll glean pearls of wisdom enoughto fill a few hubs on the topic! Thanks for asking.


aleciajeanne profile image

aleciajeanne 4 years ago from Paso Robles,CA

Yeah I have learned that over the past couple years, I found out I had a sinus infection,which caused bacterial bronchitis,and then had to withdrawal from my norco's, Then got better...Then started withdrawing from my neurontin and tramadol...but im better now, yay...how are you feeling?


ar.colton profile image

ar.colton 4 years ago from Vancouver, B.C. Author

Alecia, sometimes you just have to let go of the things you think you should be doing and allow the flare of symptoms to pass. I pop in and out of hubpages and my other online job multiple times a year. When my pain, fatigue or fog get in the way I go on hiatus and let my body rest with as little guilt as I can manage. For me it's better than trying to push through and ending up worse for it.

Thanks for stopping by, I hope the fog clears soon!


aleciajeanne profile image

aleciajeanne 4 years ago from Paso Robles,CA

Great job on this hub, I wrote one about FMS also.It's been kinda hard to write lately cause of the stupid brain fog, its killing me! and i swear i have either severe chronic fatigue or mild narcolepsy. haha


ar.colton profile image

ar.colton 4 years ago from Vancouver, B.C. Author

Thanks for stopping by Rasta1. Tylenol 3 is a very mild painkiller when used infrequently but any narcotics can have negative effects like memory loss and hyperalgesia if used to often and at too high doses.


rasta1 profile image

rasta1 4 years ago from Jamaica

Did not know that Tylenol is that strong.you know what you are doing and I am motivated by you.


ar.colton profile image

ar.colton 5 years ago from Vancouver, B.C. Author

After my most recent comment here my pain increased a great deal. I have tried a number of alternative meds but have found that despite my hesitance I must submit to the maxim: Better living through chemistry.

Fortunately I rarely have to resort to narcotics today. I am blessed with a caring and attentive medical provider.

And still work daily on stress-control. It's so true Ursula, it's vital.


UrsulaRose 5 years ago

After years of consuming chemical-based medicine I sought out alternative treatments and am so glad that I did.

Controlling STRESS is an absolute must (easier said than done I know, especially when trying to make ends meet on one income).


ar.colton profile image

ar.colton 5 years ago from Vancouver, B.C. Author

Jessica,

I wish there was a way I could personally contact you. I was diagnosed at 19 and believe me I know how you feel! Like I said I was denied medication too because of the way I looked. But today I take no medication at all and my life is more than bearable, it's actually pretty good. Please contact me on my profile page. I will help you in any way that I can. It sounds impossible now but your life can get better!


Jessica  5 years ago

I was just diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Before my doctors thought it was nerve dmamge from a car accident I was in years ago. They have been pumping me up with pain killers for years. I stopped and unfortunately turned to drugs. I checked myself into a rehab canter and have been clean for 3 years now. My pain has come back to the point where I have wanted to end my life because I am only 25 and don't know how I am going to live with this for the rest of my life. My doctors know I have been through rehab and have now cut me off of all narcotics because they think I am just in relapse mode. I am so frustrated with life and I just wish I could find the help I need because all 10 of my perscriptions are not working! I have called my doctor numerous times trying to find a solution and she is never available. So they send me to the er and just give me more narcotics which help but then my doctor tells me no. I'm so over all of this! I don't know how to cope with it anymore. Thank you all for listening to my venting but it is time for me to go to bed so I have one less excuse for my pain.


ar.colton profile image

ar.colton 6 years ago from Vancouver, B.C. Author

Thank you very much gramarye.

I appreciate the sentiment but I always make sure that the people close to me know that regardless of what I'm going through everyone's aches and pains are valid.

Being in pain is difficult whether it's all the time, or just after a rough day at work or a tough work out.

And thank you very much for the compliments.


gramarye profile image

gramarye 6 years ago from Adelaide - Australia

You are a powerful writer. This has made me very aware of the difficult situation you are in, and I respect your decisions and bravery. I will stop complaining about my little aches and pains after reading this. Keep up the writing - you are good!


ar.colton profile image

ar.colton 6 years ago from Vancouver, B.C. Author

Edna, I know how you feel. Though I have been having this pain for only a few years. I too look healthy, and am, aside from FM, though I am only 21.

For many people with FM narcotics don't have any effect on their pain, or very little, as you have experienced. I have found that family practise doctors tend to be reluctant with treatment simply because they are not familiar with FM.

I suggest you see a rheumatologist (you may need a referral) as most diagnosis seem to be done my them. Good luck, and don't give up. Pain is terrible, but it doesn't completely blight the beauty of life.


Edna whitaker 6 years ago

Every note I read about fibro and all the sympton, Ihave. The only wayI can start the day is with a narcotic. It takes 1Hr. to take effect.My Dr. Is very reluctant to fill my script. I'm 72 but look like a healthy 50's Yr old. My Dr. moved And I had To change to this one. I went on disabilty in 1993. I would not take any meds, Except for the pain. I tried taking half a pill, but that didn't help. I feel like going to this Dr. Is a waste of time.I have no other choice. Don't Want To live, if all it is is pain.


ar.colton profile image

ar.colton 6 years ago from Vancouver, B.C. Author

It's horrible when people don't realize the difference between those of us who need medication and those who seek it for recreational purposes. Unfortunately that is a very common misuderstanding but the fact that it is occurring at such a level that doctors are being shut down is very disconcerting. Even more unfortunate is the fact there are unlikely to be enough people to make a huge difference as far as fighting it goes. Thought there is always a chance! I don't know if you are fighting this but if you have the energy it seems worth it.

I didn't know what RSD was before now but I've looked it up and it certainly does sound similar aside from the swelling. I keep trying to remind myself to use my illness as an oppurtunity for growth, if it can make me a better person, maybe it's worth it.

Finally, thank you very much for your compliments on my writing. I am a fiction writer and try everyday to improve my style and voice which I always think of as my weak points. Your comments are very flattering!


kims3003 6 years ago

Wow! For such a young person and to be able to write your thoughts and feelings in the style you do - is most impressive. I suffer from RSD which is quite similar to fibromyalgia. Early on I went through the same kind of struggles you did. It took me 8 years to receive a diagnosis. To this day, I still fight for my medication every month due to the fact of Arizona's DEA being a witch hunt of doctors who treat pain. Yes, there are some doctors who do not go by the book which they by all means should, but there are also some very good doctors who treat pain. Unfortunately,the DEA here seem to be shutting down even the good ones. Anyone who resides in Arizona and has anything to do with pain management understands fully what I am talking about. I am happy you have the supporting doctor, family and friends as this helps a great deal. You sound to be a level-headed person with a lot of intelligence. You are fully aware of what you are faced with and are thinking it out step-by-step. Sometimes we can't help the fact of needing something to help with pain. Like your doing, and myself also, it is always best to try to take the least amount of medication that will give you some relief. I actually say often - that it is the medication that gave me my life back so I could live and do some of the things I had always done. You have a nice writing style by the way and a very well written piece.

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