Tuesday, March 31, 2015

In the Drug Wars, People With Disabilities Are Often Collateral Damage

"Oh, you want heavy narcotics strong enough to kill an elephant? Okay! But first let's make sure you aren't using anything harmful like marijuana."

This is what I go through every eight weeks and that's when things are going well. When my body is in the middle of a lupus flare-up or some infection or another creeps in as a result of being immuno-compromised, I have to go every four weeks. I've been living this routine for the past five years, ever since I asked my oncologists to help me find a way to start taking less medicine. It's a bit of a pain (no pun intended) to be tied to this schedule. However, if it was just that straightforward, I wouldn't complain. Unfortunately, it's not.

You see they also tell you to drink lots of water before you come, because they won't give you a prescription for your meds unless you provide a sample for the urinalysis. Of course, if you DO drink lots of water, the hydrocodone may not show up in the test. If you don't have a "reasonable" amount of hydrocodone showing up on your test, it can be assumed that it's because you're not actually taking the medication and must be selling it on the streets. So the doctor may or may not decide to keep issuing the medication. If you have more than what they think is "reasonable", then they may question you about whether you're taking it as prescribed. The result of this is that, even though I don't use any illegal drugs, I still never know whether or not I'm going to run into a problem.

Today, I had to wake up before the crack of dawn just to get to the appointment on time because the doctor's office is an hour and a half away. So, I had to take my morning dose of narcotics earlier than usual. It's the only way that I can get dressed without being in an excruciating amount of pain. By the time that I got to the appointment and sat there for an hour past when they were supposed to see me, I'd had quite a lot to drink. So, I figured that was a good thing because I wouldn't have much trouble providing them with what they need for the test.

Unfortunately, since I've worked to decrease my dose to just the bare minimum that I can take and still function, the sample I gave them was so diluted that they couldn't really detect any hydrocodone in it. As a result, I had to sit there and plead my case and get grilled about what time I got up, what time I took my meds, what time I usually take it, what I ate and drank this morning, and how far the trip is from here to there. Thankfully, I was able to satisfy them enough to get my prescriptions refilled.

This is how they treat a person they know has a painful bone cancer in her chest and a completely separate, comorbid, progressive, and incurable disease that also caused undeniable damage and pain to the body. I shudder to think about how this would have gone if I was someone with a condition that isn't easily detectable and verified by several specialists in several branches of medicine.