I have never been afraid of drugs, and I have always used them whenever I feel the need. (Excedrin etc.) Now before we get too far into this discussion, let me elaborate just a bit. This is not about illicit drugs, I will leave that up to Steppenwolf and the pundits. I am talking about over-the-counter or prescription drugs. My motto is "if drugs can help me hurt less or get better, then they are my friend." By the same token, I think the fewer drugs you take the better off you are. That flies in the face of the entirely too many drug commercials you see on TV these days. Those commercials would have you believe that happiness and fullness of life is only one pill away. In fact, it seems the entire medical industry is in the business of pushing pills. And no one it seems is better it than hospitals.
When I was finally discharged from rehab six months following my injury, I was on about 11 drugs. After coming home, I started researching some of these drugs. What I found disturbed me because I didn't think I needed to be on them, so I began a gradual process of eliminating as many as I could. Some were eliminated after consulting with my doctor, but some I just stopped because I thought there was just no reason to take them. For the next year and a half I remained drug-free, with the exception of one medication to help reduce severe muscle spasms, and one low grade antibiotic that my urologist said would help prevent UTIs. After changing urologists, I stopped taking the low grade antibiotic, which hadn’t changed the incidence rate of the infections. When the oral anti-spasmodic drug proved ineffective, I had an operation to implant a baclofen pump that would continuously provide needed medicine to my spinal cord. For the next four or so years, that remained the only drug I took, with the exception of antibiotics prescribed periodically for UTIs. Then I made the mistake of going to the hospital four times in the span of about seven months.
The first of these four times produced no ill effect in terms of drug use, but during the second they hooked me on warfarin. I don't know if you have ever been on this drug, but it is a real pain in the fingertip – even though I can't feel them! It is a blood thinner, and you constantly have to have your blood tested to ensure everything is in equilibrium. I was determined to get off this nuisance drug, so I sought the advice of a hematologist relative to the blood clots in my legs. After multiple consultations and research on his part, he concluded I no longer needed to be on this ball and chain of a drug. During successive hospitalizations however, that did not stop nurses from wanting to start me on a Coumadin regimen, which is a blood thinner that is followed up with warfarin after your release. I refused the regimen on the advice of my hematologist, but I was amazed how ready they were to inject me without telling me what they were doing or what the drug was for.
During this time period, my urologist had me start taking Myrbetriq for bladder pain, but after a short while I qui, t because it was not solving the problem. While all this was going on, an esophageal disease which began prior to my injury, and which was unrelated to my spinal cord injury, begin to get much more severe in terms of both swallowing and reflux into my lungs. My gastrointestinal doctor started me with Omeprazole to combat the symptoms, and when that didn't work, he kept prescribing more potent drugs. When swallowing a single bite became a fifteen minute battle, I submitted to Heller Myotomy surgery, which hopefully will take care of the problem once and for all. At least it eliminated the need for anti-reflux drugs. If that weren't enough, my physical medicine specialist (who also oversees management of my implanted baclofen pump) recommended I start a regimen of gabapentin to combat the sudden onset of nerve pain. I had gone six years without any nerve pain, and all of a sudden it began in earnest! It is a strange sensation, but in essence it feels like someone is brazing parts of your anatomy with a torch. Like I said in the beginning, if drugs can eliminate pain they are my friend, and this one was my new BFF! Today, over 12 years after a severe spinal cord injury, I am glad to say I am only on two ongoing medications.
The point of this article is that you have to be ever vigilant, and be your own best advocate when it comes to what medicines to take. Less is better, but don't be afraid to take what's necessary. Just be sure that it is!
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