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About More Voices

Every month More Voices invites readers to contribute short nonfiction prose pieces of 40 to 400 words on a healthcare theme.

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In 2008, I had the first of five surgeries on my jaw; I had the last one on December 13, 2017. To deal with the pain from the surgeries and from the prosthetic device implanted in my head, I initially relied upon Tylenol. That medication, however, soon proved useless; it did nothing to alleviate the intense pain I was enduring. But I could not take Alleve or related drugs due to the effect those medications had on my stomach. My primary care physician, who had prescribed Vicodin to my father for his spinal stenosis, gave me a prescription for the same drug. And so began my addiction--albeit a controlled one.

I try to limit my Vicodin intake to one and a half to two pills a day. At one point, however, I confess to having taken three to four pills a day. This worried me, because I saw how dependent my dad had become on the drug--but he was at least a decade older than I was when he first began using it.  

I start each day with half a pill--to get the pain from inadvertently sleeping on my "bad" side under control. I end the day with half a pill to allow me to fall asleep in some comfort. What I take during the day depends upon my pain level, but I never leave home without a few Vicodin in my purse.

My addiction to this drug profoundly worries me. I worry about its impact on my liver. I worry what will happen if I suddenly do not have access to the pill. I worry how many more pills I may need when I become older than my current age of seventy and more unable to handle the pain than I am now.  

Sometimes I try to minimize my Vicodin addiction by placing it in the same category as my other addictions--the need to read, the need to gorge on dark chocolate M&Ms, and the need to ride my stationary exercise bike throughout the day. However, I cannot fool myself. Except for the chocolate, my other addictions are harmless; the Vicodin one is not.

I have spent a life saying "no" to recreational drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes, but now I find myself saying "yes" to Vicodin. And this worries me.

Ronna Edelstein
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania