My husband won’t take pain medicine. He says it interferes with his thinking–and he’s the thinking type. He’ll stay in bed with one hand over his migraine-aching head for hours, but no pain pill (or anything else) will pass his lips.
What he will do, however, is stop at the drugstore after a medical, dental, or surgical procedure to dutifully fill the prescriptions handed to him by the doctor’s staff without explanation.
Almost every time, one of the bottles contains hydrocodone. (Maybe you have one at home with the brand names Vicoden, Lortab, or Norco.) It’s an opioid, like heroin and the drug that killed Prince–fentanyl.
“What is that?” he’ll query, having forgotten the pill from the last medical event. “I don’t take that stuff! Codeine affects your mind.” It affects your bowels, too, which no doctor has ever warned him about. But, of course, those two side effects only occur if you actually take the medication rather than merely sticking it in the closet.
Hydrocodone also contains acetaminophen (Tylenol, for you brand name fans), which is not as innocent as we used to think. In, fact, in large doses and in combination with alcohol, it’s a killer. And since it’s found in a number of prescription and over-the-counter drugs (like cold meds), you are likely already taking more than you know or want.
So, a little section of our medication department is occupied by hydrocodone –one of the most addictive medically prescribed drugs. Rehab International puts it this way: “Not everyone with a hydrocodone prescription will develop a hydrocodone addiction but most will become physically dependent on the drug.”
As said above, that only happens if you ingest any of the pills, of course. We just collect them.
The only way to decrease such a collection is to drive it to the police station, which I have yet to add to my errands list. A good citizen, I’m loathe to throw the pills in the garbage or the toilet for fear of addicting the mice and fish.
What if my husband were an addict or a recovering one? Or if someone else living in or visiting our home were the same?
Maybe, if my husband has a medical procedure during Talk About Prescriptions Month, the doctor, dentist, or nurse will
1) ask what medicines he’s already taking and has in the house,
2) ask pointed questions to ascertain any history of addictions, and
3) discuss the names, purposes, and side effects of the drugs he’s expected to take after leaving the office. And how about some directions for use?
Maybe prescribers will be motivated to take the extra time after reading so many shocking news stories of regular folks, now heroin addicts, who began their deathly descent with an opioid prescription.