Wednesday, August 20, 2008

On opiates and their role in society

I suffer from migraines. Those of you who are also sufferers will need no explanation of how bad things can be, while those of you who aren't... well, I'm afraid you simply can't get it. It really is beyond the comprehension of anyone who hasn't experienced it.

Today marked my first serious migraine since moving to the US. I hadn't realised until today just how effective a painkiller codeine is; in the UK, I was accustomed to treating serious migraines with a dose consisting of 1000mg of paracetamol (acetaminophen for the Statesiders reading), which was basically sugar for all it did pharmacologically, and 16mg of codeine, which was the minimum effective dose.

And I do mean minimum effective dose; what that did was reduce the intensity of the pain to merely excruciating, as opposed to the unmedicated level I experienced for the second time today (the first time being when I first suffered one of these; the fact that I NEVER experienced it again until today should be a clue as to how much it hurts), for which there can be no words. If you've been there, they aren't needed; if you haven't, you genuinely cannot understand, no matter how many words I use. Believe me when I say that even with the codeine, things still sucked.

In its way, that was a good thing. I thoroughly burned into my brain the association between taking codeine and things sucking. This made sure I wasn't even going to touch the stuff the rest of the time. Yes, opiates are addictive, but with the associations I have between codeine and pain, no junkie here!

But in the US, I can't get codeine without a prescription. And that means I have to explain to Graham just why Daddy spent about half an hour today blindfolded, in a dark room, lying on the bed whimpering, shivering, crying and twitching. If I'd been capable of tying a knot, I'd have gagged myself so I didn't even have to make the effort to keep from grinding my teeth into powder.

So if someone claims to have a migraine, but they're functional, they're either heavily medicated or they just have a headache and want sympathy. Someone who does have a migraine will be obvious; if they can walk at all, they'll be shakier than a politician's reasoning.

EDIT: and now the pain seems to have burned out, although the way I feel it may still be worse than the worst mundane headache ever gets, I can't tell. I just feel incredibly spaced out and my body seems to be operating by remote control.


  1. are you going to get a prescription? They're called Tylenol #3 around here. We hoard them because it's not easy for us to get (nobody in the family gets migraines, thank the various gods).

    I am sorry that you had to suffer like this. Please take care of yourself.

  2. Step one in that is getting health insurance...

  3. My husband gets severe migraines - worse than anyone else I've seen. He's prescribed Immitrex, and says that combined with Aleve, they work better than either individually.

    Of course, when he has a bad one, we're in the hospital with some serious drugs.

    Health insurance will help - Immitrex (and other painkillers you need) aren't cheap, sadly.


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