07 November 2012

Breaking a drug habit

No, I haven't got myself addicted to illicit drugs, or even legal drugs for that matter. I don't drink alcohol, I don't smoke or inject anything, but for a while now, I've been taking ibuprofen for headache and back pain.

The problem is that instead of just taking it occasionally, I got to the stage of habitually taking 2 with breakfast and 2 with dinner, every day, as a precautionary measure because when I don't take it, the pain comes back...

Unlike codeine, which is often combined with ibuprofen to make addictive extra-strength pain relievers (which featured on the ABC 7:30 report last night), inbuprofen is not an addictive drug, but it is the part of the combined pain relievers that actually causes major medical problems if used continuously and excessively.

Ibuprofen is not supposed to be used continuously, as people addicted to codeine do, and I had been until about a week ago.

I've been aware of the potential medical problems and trying to convince myself that it's not that bad because the instructions say that 6 per day is the maximum dose, but I've only been taking 4. About a week ago, I decided that I needed to face reality and stop taking ibuprofen for a while. I'm just going to have to toughen up and get used to living with the pain.

If my sciatica becomes bad enough to be debilitating, I'll have to take it again, but only for a short period until the sciatica settles down again. That's how I originally used it, and that's how I've get to go back to using it.

That means that I'm currently adjusting to living with dull to moderate levels of pain in all sorts of places including my back, and the occasional bad headache or migraine that goes along with cutting out ibuprofen for a while.

My work productivity is shot because my concentration is shot, so I'm stressing about the work that I'm not getting done. I struggle to get out of bed at a reasonable time, but after a few days I'm actually finding that I'm more aware of being tired earlier in the evenings, which might help me to finally start getting my sleep pattern under control.

It probably comes as no surprise, then, that I didn't go out last night even though it was Melbourne Cup day. Aside from working towards my plan to go to the Kurri Kurri Nostalgia Festival next year, I have no specific plans to go out en femme soon. I need concentrate on getting myself sorted out, and if opportunities present themselves along the way, I'll try to take them.


  1. Thanks for sharing - I think this is very common for a lot of people. After a shoulder surgery a few years ago, I also became 'addicted' to pain killers, which I just had to take at night to make sure I got a decent nights sleep. It took awhile to finally break the 'habit'.
    Hope you'll feel better soon!

  2. Bugger. Was typing up a comment and then it vanished... no idea if I have inadvertently hit comment without finishing or it's just vanished into the ether.

    Don't live in pain. Don't discount the effect of chronic pain on your physical and mental health. Try panadol osteo, and take it regularly. Paracetamol is something that works most effectively if taken regularly for chronic pain, rather than only when you feel it's necessary. As one disabled by a condition causing chronic, constant pain who has tried it to find it actually quite effective (except when stuck in a hideous flare!). Never thought paracetamol would do anything by itself, but taken regularly with the slow release osteo formulation it's actually quite good.

    But seriously, don't accept the pain. Not worth it.

  3. The funny thing is that, after a few days of adjustment, the pain that I'm experiencing now is about the same as when I was taking the ibuprofen continuously, aside from slightly worse headaches that I think are related to lack of sleep.

    It makes more sense to correct the lack of sleep than to try to dull the pain!

  4. I dare say that my experience of chronic pain is probably more extreme than most, but I'm also quite familiar with the soul crushing effects of chronic pain, on top of depression it scares me. Lack of sleep certainly does cause headaches (and nausea and make it even harder to cope with existing pain problems) as does dehydration... One of those is generally easier to fix than the other!