I pulled up 3x Thursday, and, amazingly enough, this was one of the questions for today:
How do you feel about pain meds? Do you like them? Do you condone the use of them for anything other than what they were prescribed for? Why/why not?
(I’m ignoring the other two questions.)
So, I’m forced to think about my attitude toward pain meds – which I HATE – for me. They make me feel groggy, dopey, as if I were functioning through cotton batting. I can’t think straight. It is more important to me to be able to think straight than to be pain free. Certainly, they are not for use for anything other than why they were prescribed. Almost any pain medication that is strong enough to work effectively will be addictive. I value my mind and body too much to use pain medications for anything other than minimal pain relief.
I’ve seen and worked with drug addicts. Some addicted to street drugs like heroin, cocaine and pot, others to alcohol, and still others addicted to prescription pain killers and tranquilizers. It is not a pretty sight. And it’s not a pretty life. The easiest thing to do is never get started.
I feel I can speak to this because I have two chronic conditions that cause me chronic pain. I went to a pain clinic years ago and learned some techniques to relieve pain. I also learned that when we have pain, we tend to tense the muscles in that area to “splint” it and keep it from moving. This applies to joint pain, muscle pain or pain inside. The tense muscles eventually make all the pain much more intense and it spreads. So I have developed the habit of lying down and consciously relaxing all my muscles several times a day. As time goes by and it gets late in the day, it takes a bit longer, and the pain is more intense, but just relaxation will help a lot. And I’d rather use that than pain medications.
Prayer helps, also. Some would call it “meditation,” but I don’t, because it isn’t. It is PRAYER. I use the Orthodox Prayers for the various times of the day, and I use the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”) repetitively. Not as a “mantra,” but as a PRAYER.
Other methods include distraction (I watch TV, listen to the radio, listen to music), and using a TENS unit or a Myofascial stimulation unit. I have a TENS unit, and am planning to get a MFS unit in the future. It is amazing how much it helps.
So, so far I am able to control and endure the pain I am experiencing. About 3 times a month I need to use a prescription pain medication, but that’s all.
What about when I develop more pain? Or what if I develop cancer and am in intractable pain? Under that circumstance, I would be too sick to work and so I think I would agree at least to some pain medication. When I am dying, I want to be kept comfortable – even if it shortens my life by a few hours, days or weeks. At the same time, I’d like to be clear-headed enough to make a good confession, receive Holy Unction and Holy Communion, and to make sense when I make my goodbyes to my family.
These are my values, however, and I don’t impose them on others. If someone believes he needs prescription pain medications to relieve his pain, then he should have it – if it’s appropriate. Overuse of pain medications can lead to the necessity of detoxification – which is both hard on the body and expensive. Addiction can lead to the need for treatment, which is also expensive.
People with intractable pain should receive enough medication to relieve the pain. It may not take away all of it, but at least it should be brought down to a bearable level.
I pray that all who experience chronic or acute pain will find the relief best suited to their needs.