Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ramblings on Eating, Wishing and Abusing Pain Medication (From the train yesterday)

It would be so easy to be addicted to pain pills, especially for me, who lives for the placebo aspect of things. If I believe in my heart that something works, it works. I have proven this scientifically enough for me. In middle school, at the tail end of my belief in witches and magic, serious or un-serious as that belief may have been I took on the practice of wishing. I would wish that Mr. Cortez would have a substitute for math that day, and when I seriously wished it it would happen. Almost always, and when it didn't work, well, I obviously forgot to wish, or I hadn't been thinking it hard enough, or maybe there was a greater plan intended for Mr Cortez that day. Actually! Wait! I'm glad he's here because I actually did my homework, which would be wasted on a substitute. Thank you, mysterious un-named but definitely not God power which remembered that fact even when I was busy wishing that Mister Tight-Pants would stay home with the sniffles today.
If I believed in wishes even as a reasonably aged child, it makes perfect sense that I would believe in pain pills now, despite the overwhelming evidence that they are fake fucking sugar pills from hell. My mouth hurts. My teeth throb and ache. And vicodin, good old oxycodone is supposed to remedy that. It is supposed to kill my pain. Kill it dead and send it into the ether or wherever it is that pain goes to die its slow silent death for at least four hours from point of swallowing, give or take twenty minutes for dissolving and working its way into my blood stream and up to my face and the gaping holes where my teeth should be.
I have faith in them. It seems as though the throbbing stops as soon as the big white horse pill disappears from sensation, gets dislodged from my throat and down into my various intestines.
As a child I was told that it takes four hours for food to make its way through the body. For some reason, probably the fact that I was a child, and one prone to fancy at that, I decided that that meant that food takes four hours to make it to the stomach.
This is a very long time, it seemed to me. Four hours, to a young child is an unimaginably long time to make the extremely sort journey to my stomach. How many compartments were there to traverse in the mean time? How many DMV waiting rooms of food processing was I subjecting my sandwich to? It would take me, well, less than a second to move my whole self the distance that the food had to go. Maybe... two feet? Understandably, the food is, by necessity, a lot smaller than I am, and therefore might find the distance more daunting, but even a snail, or a small turtle, both smaller than the sandwich in question and relatively slow moving creatures could move two feet in a manner of minutes, not hours.
But apart from the matter of time that it should take to get from mouth to stomach, the part that concerned me most was, after a few minutes I feel full. And I feel full, not in my brain where the chemical signals that measure food consumption lie, but in my stomach. After a big meal my belly pooches, my pants feel a little tighter, all in the area where I have been led to believe my stomach is located. How can this be? And so I decided, as a nice, believing child should, that my stomach was lying. There was no reason to believe that the Magic School Bus or another like-minded educational television program was misinformed or perhaps that I had misunderstood it myself. No. It was easier to believe that perhaps my mouth had sent a signal to my stomach, or whatever was growing in my midsection, that food was coming. Arrival time estimated: four hours. So you'd better expand in preparation for that. Oh, and let the girl know she's full, wile you're at it.
And so I lived with the idea that my stomach was a tricky liar for many many years. And I believe that the same area of my brain that came to that conclusion, that it was my own body and not the outside information that was lying, allows me to use and love placebos, particularly ones that I honestly believe are working. Say, vicodin. So, why are my teeth still throbbing with pain? Not only did I take a vicodin at six or so, and it being seven fifteen now, it should be in full effect, but I also took an eight hundred milligram ibuprofen twenty minutes ago. Double duty pain control! It should be wiped off the map! Gone to pain purgatory until nearly ten, or, by the ibuprofen standards three in the morning. Logically and medically, I should be pain free until bed time, at which time I will be home where my shiny new bottle of vidocin is, housed in my catch-all drawer next to the antibiotics which I refuse to take and various cigarette and gummi-worm wrappers from days past.
And in my book, which I have read enough of for the day, is a nice little prescription for twenty more! But I will not fill the prescription, not now and not ever. Not even if I finish the fifteen or so pills I have at home. Because I do not want to become addicted to anything. Ever. Particularly not pain pills. No. Not particularly. If I was going to be addicted to anything, I would want it to be pain pills. Clean, easy on the systems, relatively inexpensive. Not smelly like cigarettes or illegal and expensive like coke, or dirty and liable to ruin the life like meth or heroine. In fact, if I wanted an addiction, this is what I would pick.
The only problem I have with them is quite a big one, at least in terms of making pain pills my drug of choice. I do not really notice that they make me feel good. A little giddy, a little talkative and pleased with everything, certainly, but not all that noticeably. The only time I really remember enjoying myself on vicodin more than usual was when I had an ear infection and I called my mother. I talked to her for hours and told her a lot of the things that I would ordinarily keep private, like my concerns over a birth control prescription. A prescription that she did not know I had, or knew that I had any use for, though she may have suspected. I was never very secretive about my birth control. I kept it out on my bathroom counter, most of the time in a little fabric pouch, but sometimes not, and she cleaned my bathroom every week. With a serious boyfriend around all the time it seems suspect that she never noticed or drew any conclusions.
And that night I was feeling good. I was talking and laughing and being happier than I had been in days and days of being sick. But I think that was it. It was not the vicodin making me happy directly, it was simply the fact that it wakes me up a little, and takes away my pain. And for a very tired person in a great amount of bodily pain, having a burst of energy and no more pain is a happy day! That, my friend, is an exceptional night! So it seems pointless to become addicted to the stuff. When I'm not in pain, and pretty awake, it does me no good at all, except as a placebo.
And the effect of pain medication as placebo is a great one. It is taking away my pain! It is making all my pain go away! The pain of rejection from a good looking guy, the pain of a less than perfect grade on an assignment. The pain of a lonely night because everyone else found something to do and someone to do it with and I am too lazy, or too scared or too uncreative to come up with something like that. The pain of the look that one or the other roommates gives me when they realize that I will probably be in the same place when they get back.
The idea of a pill that takes pain away, particularly a really strong one like vicodin, that is very appealing. And for a girl who likes placebos...

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