The Beginning - Codeine Addiction

By knightsmith · Apr 29, 2012 · ·
  1. knightsmith
    Medication: Codeine Phosphate 15mg
    Reason: Severe Migraine

    It was the late 90s, I was just coming out of my teens, niaeve and ready to take on the world. Little did I know, the world was about to take on me....

    I was a computer programmer back then, it was a hobby, a dream to have at least one or two software titles displayed on a PC magazine or two, which I actually managed. What PC? and software, Personal Computer World, PC Answers were just a few, to have featured my freeware.

    The job market back then, was almost as desperate as todays times. There was nothing to do, so I kept to my hobby. Any social links I had, dwindled. I'd get headaches regulary, and nothing could touch them. I was prescribed many medications. One seemed to make a difference.

    Take 1 - 2 tablets every 4-6 hours, do not take more than 8 in 24 hours.

    After months of agony, I started creeping up the dosage, finding this to be an effective way of managing the pain. This didn't seem to be wrong, or irresponsible at the time. I kept doing this gradually, until I was pulling a months prescription out of the doctors every week, well 6 days to be precise! and not 1 doctor woke up to it, it was years until someone finally noticed.

    I was called in to face the doctor, it was review time. She told me that I should take paracetamol with the codeine. I nodded, went about my business.

    Months prescriptions still flying out the surgeory every 6 days.

    2nd doctors review

    I noticed you've been relying on the tablets more, you know, you can get addicted to these so be careful (holy shit! what? addicted? narcotics? wtf are those????)

    Putting on a brave face, and acting casual I left, feeling a little, bedazzled. Did she just tell me that the tablets I get from her were addictive? narcotics? drugs? what the hell......naaaah i'm not an addict.

    another year passes, and I end up back in the doctors for another review. After reviewing my case files, she cancelled the repeat prescriptions, on the grounds that it was suspected that I was addicted to the medication. This note was placed on my file.

    What my doctor prescribed for me that day, was cold turkey. I just didn't know it. She offered no help, no leaflets, no information. She cancelled the codeine, without tapers, without anything. Was I supposed to all of a sudden confide in her? when I didn't even know what the hell was going on myself? she was the doctor, I was just the poor sap who was about to get a taste of addiction at its worst.

    The headaches got worse, and there was no pain relief. Paracetamol, ibuprofen, loads taken, no relief. After talking to a pharmacist, in the worst of withdrawals, I was introduced to Nurofen Plus, 12.8mg codeine, which was "almost" as strong as the prescription codeine I had been getting, the difference being that there was ibuprofen in the medication which serves as a second pain relief drug, and a hinderance to anyone wanting to use them recreationally.

    For some reason the pharmacist didn't recognize withdrawal symptons. Not his fault, he wasn't a gp. He recommended the OTC medication, and I took it. I kept going back for more until he started refusing to serve me.

    I felt so embarrased, so humiliate as I stood at the counter with my cash in my hand. A line full of people, and he says, I cannot serve you those sir. I am sorry, please see your doctor.

    I went to another pharmacy, after a month, the same happened there, so I found another pharmacy, until I had to catch a bus, just to get to a pharmacy I could be served at.

    I burned all my pharmaceutical chances, I didn't have a rotar, I had a fear of being lost, so I couldn;t get any further outside my county. I hired a taxi driver, who'd take me to pharmacies, one day wedecided, hell he doesn't need to pick me up anymore, he drives by many pharmacies as he drives peoplefor a living, he doesn't have to waste fuel picking me up, he gets his fare, I get my nurofen plus, win win situation yea? it worked, for a few years.

    The first wakeup call was one night when I woke up. I just could not determine what was wrong with me. It was like a state of restlessness, with anxiety mixed in. In the end, I called a doctor, and an ambulance picked me up. This was the start of a series of panic attacks.

    A few years passed, I was still taking 60 nurofen plus tablets per day without using any harm reduction like CWE as it was an unheard of thing back then. My body began to fail, and eventually I admitted I was an addict. A doctor gave me a few tablets of codeine to help with the withdrawals, which was nice of him, for some reason when I discharged myself, I went to my own doctor, and I saw a totally new doctor. I told the doctor of my addiction, of the few codeines I got at hospital, he thought it was very irresponsible behaviour, BUT he then prescribed me THE SAME codeine, with a stern warning. "If you don't attend that substance misuse apppintment, you will never get a prescription from this surgeory again!".

    One time after a few weeks had passed, he asked if I was still taking the nurofen plus. For some reason I said no, but then, out of nowhere, I said YES, he turned to me, and told me, if you continue to take these tablets YOU WILL DIE. I had never heard this in such a clinical term before. The fear, the terror, the shock, neutralized me on the spot. This doctor, is the reason i'm still breathing today.

    When I got to rehab, I was assessed, and then prescribed subutex which didn't work out. They tried to get me on to methadone, I would not accept it, I said its for druggies!. After hearing about it none-stop, I decided to give it a try, and it gave me back my life, well some of it. I wasn't a slave to the pharmacy clock no more. No more watching for 5pm, thinking "The pharmacies are closed now". I was continueously watching the clock for that.

    I've been doing ok since, but then, came the legal highs age.

    If you would like to use my experience in a study/essay/or anything related to educating others in drug addiction, you have my permission to copy and use my experience. If you need any questions answering, or anything expanding upon, please let me know.

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  1. DHCdiva
    This is how so many people find themselves addicted. It's all too easy. You write so honestly and I hope you continue this Blog so that others can read your continuing story and take comfort, courage and hope from it.

    Many pats on back to you. You should feel proud. This is a big achievement.

  2. knightsmith
    I've told this story a few times, usually to each new pharmacist that does my prescription each week, it seems to get easier each time I tell the story, its not like I did anything wrong, the only reason I took so much time to get it put down over here, was because if it was worth doing, it was worth doing properly. Hope you're doing ok DHCdiva :)
  3. Calliope
    Found it. Codeine addiction was one of my first -- they're OTC here. Once they got serious about record keeping and sharing it got harder to keep up though, so that had to stop. I can relate to the embarassing 'I can't fill that for you mam' experience. self-prescribed buprenorphinE worked great for me then for a while, but that brings another whole worlD of paranoia and risk that couldn't last.
    Good for you to get off the opes. I'm still on and off, depending on my docs caution or generosity or what have you.
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