I promised some of my readers that I would look at the sunny side of the world and not focus exclusively on global negativity. This is a difficult thing to do given the plethora of dangers facing America and people throughout the world, including a war in the Ukraine and a continuing threat from viruses.
So, forgive me. I have something on my mind and when this occurs, I must write. The topic is pain, all types of pain that humans must deal with every day.
Humans spend an inordinate amount of time trying to alleviate pain. Pain comes in all shapes and sizes. It can be physical, a toothache or a back spasm. It could be emotional, romantic, mental or stress related. When pains assail us, we usually react by trying to deal with it using aspirin (for headaches), prescribed drugs (for injuries) and so on.
There are hundreds of medicines available to alleviate pain. We expect our doctors to tell us which remedies are best for what ails us and to ensure that medications do not have side effects or react with each other. As we get older, pains grow in severity, and sometimes our efforts to rid them forces us to use stronger habit-forming drugs.
The most obvious drug that has created a worldwide disaster is oxycodone. The movie “Dopesick” is a real-life dramatization about how a pharmaceutical company fraudulently earned billions selling a drug that eliminated pain and was not supposed to be habit-forming.
The company’s salespeople convinced doctors to prescribe the medication for many types of maladies. They included injuries that occurred on the job and all kinds of physical pain resulting from sports, accidents and just old age. The world wanted a magic bullet to fight against pain, and they got it. Unfortunately, the drug was highly addictive, even as the maker said it wasn’t, and stopping the use of oxycodone is a monumental effort that results in horrible withdrawal issues.
This essay is about some of the trials I have had with pain, many of which were affiliated to sports activities. I’ve attempted to “lighten up” the episodes elucidated below, but I can assure you they were traumatic. The morale of the story is that we all will have episodes of pain, and we must be diligent about which medication we take to fend it off.
For my whole life, I have dealt with pain. This was not a problem because I was fairly good about it accepting my burden. As you might know, I was an avid athlete as a child and into adulthood. Athletes who play sports such as football, rugby, long distance running and skiing often have injuries.
I vividly remember suffering from childhood diseases and maladies including measles, German measles mumps and chicken pox. These were vicious attacks on my body that most kids in the 50s and 60s had to deal with. I depended upon my doctors to alleviate the pain affiliated with these sicknesses.
While in high school playing football, I injured my knee when I was blocked below the waist. I went to see a doctor who specialized in high school sports injuries. All the good players wanted to see him when they were hurt. He guaranteed to have you ready for next weeks’ game. A lot of people thought the doc was a quack. I could care less, so long as I healed quickly and experienced less pain. The doc was a bit crazed as he raced in and out of examination rooms. I had to see him three times a week for my injury.
His most insane quirk was a required injection every time you went to his office. He loved injecting football studs who were frightened of needles. Nobody had any idea what the hell this guy was injecting into us. For those big linemen, who were hired assassins and scared sh–less about injections, he would sneak up on them while they were being treated with electric shock machines and inject them. Then he would proceed to use the needles as darts throwing them into the wall.
I had to shave my leg from the groin down to my ankle because it needed to be taped for me to play. TMI, I was pretty hairy in those days, so shaving was an ordeal, and my hair grew back quickly. In fact, the first time I shaved my leg, with my parents hovering over me, I cut myself along my shin, and it bled profusely. My mom started screaming, and dad threw a fit.
The next ordeal was taking the tape off a day or two later. My teammates would gather around to witness the “celebratory ripping of the tape.” It was done in one fell swoop by one of my sadistic teammates. I screamed every time.
This is a funny memory, but I must say that I suffered from excruciating physical pain along with the pain of sitting out a game. I welcomed the meds that eased my discomfort. It was a trap that I did not fall into.
A second memory was when I was an active runner and participated in marathons. I ran in seven races over a decade. Training for these torturous events occurred over the entire year. I ran a lot of miles each day before work and a lot more on the weekends. I was not a greyhound by any means, at 200 pounds. My marathon times were on either side of four hours. Not too shabby for a big guy. Right?
But what you should realize is that I suffered like a dog from pounding away on the streets and the road around Central Park. For ten years, I could not touch either of my Achilles tendons. They were perpetually swollen and angry. I could not put my feet on my desk for fear that the tendons might touch the edge. I never took any meds to alleviate the pain. I gutted it out even though it affected how I walked and how I slept.
And then there were the races themselves. My first one was a New York Marathon. I was smoking cigarettes at the time and decided to run in the race on a lark. I didn’t have running shorts, so I cut a pair of long pants. My sneakers were worn down, but I used them anyway. I was the worst dressed runner in a crowd of 20,000. I was about to have a rude awakening that included plenty of soreness and fatigue. Why do people run marathons anyhow?
I barely made it through the five boroughs and was a happy camper when the race was over. The only problem is that I had to walk from the family gathering area on the east side of Central Park which was about 3/4 of a mile from my apartment. Trust me, I didn’t need to be on my feet one more second. I couldn’t wait to lay down. On the way home, every step was tremendously painful. The soles of my feet were screaming. I never took a pill to ease my discomfit.
When I got home my wife filled a tub and I crawled into it, literally. I could not get out by myself, so my wife dragged me into the bedroom and put me to sleep. I began to bleed out of my nose. She screamed, and I was horrified. It was no big deal.
For several days, I was unable to walk downstairs facing forward. I had to turn around and walk backwards. My quads were so tight I could barely stand it.
In my last marathon, I lost weight and was in the best shape of my life. I was determined to post my best time in the New York race. Little did I know that the weather that day would be my downfall.
When the race started, I felt like a million bucks making my way through the hundreds of slower runners. The Verrazano Bridge was the starting point. I prepared by relieving myself at the longest urinal in the world. TMI again. The conditions seem perfect for a great run.
I got off to a fast start running with great confidence. All was well until I reached the halfway point in Brooklyn just before the 59th St Bridge. My halfway time was 10 or 15 minutes better than usual, but suddenly I felt exhausted and overheated. Then it dawned on me. The temperature was in the low 70s, and I was not taking enough water to offset the heat. I increased my liquid intake and started to feel bloated. Great, I had 13 miles to go and I felt like crap.
The ensuing 13 miles were the most painful of all my previous marathons. I posted my worst time and suffered terribly. By the way, there is a “wall” in long distance running. The temperature got the best of me. The aches and pains that I felt were unbelievable. Needless to say, that was the end of my marathon career.
I concluded that I was hurting my body from running so much every day. Little did I know that the damage I was doing to my legs and back, along with contact experiences from football and rugby, would affect me getting out of bed when I reached 70 years old.
I was interested in the oxycodone movie. It was amazing to me that so many people we’re falling into a trap while dealing with their aches and pains. And it was incredible that a company would lie to the public about the efficacy of their product. The documentary was an eye opener for me. It indicated that millions of honest working, average Americans who had high levels of pain from working and living took opioids to relieve their sore bodies. They were not habitual drug addicts, but rather, normal people who were looking for relief.
It became clear that I should be empathetic towards the people portrayed in the movie and not be critical of their efforts to relieve their bodies of pain. Prior to watching the movie, I was very critical of doctors who prescribed opioids without considering the side effects and the addictive nature of the drugs.
I’ve had my fair share of surgical procedures and have always been very careful with the pain relievers given to me by doctors. In fact, I was probably overly cautious which caused me to suffer unnecessarily. But I think it was worth it not to take any risks relating to drug addiction from pain medication.
The opioid crisis is not over. People of all ages are seeking to find relief from those pains that afflict them and ruin their day every day. Ironically, the company that developed oxycodone had the right idea. Pain in and of itself is a medical condition that needs to be taken care of so that people can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. In pain it’s impossible to enjoy your life as you should be able to.
I hope that more attention is given to this serious situation. Incidentally, it seems like there are many new holistic remedies that have no narcotics in them that are being marketed to people in the US. This may be a good sign.
Note: Oxycodone has a duration of action of three to six hours. These drugs are used for treatment of moderate to severe pain. They are highly addictive, usually taken by mouth and their effects begin in 15 minutes. The side effects of opioids are euphoria, Constipation, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.