When we think of drug addictions we often tend to think of the stereotypes fed to us by film and television – class A drug addicts who have been dealt a bad hand in life shooting up in seedy dark locations. What we don’t tend to automatically think of, is working educated women becoming hooked on painkillers prescribed for illness.
Cathryn Kemp is one of such addicts, who after being prescribed powerful opiate drugs to manage her severe chronic pain gradually descended into a full blown addict – who at her most dependent was taking around 50 painkillers per day.
Before Cathryn was prescribed painkillers, she had regularly been in and out of hospital over a four-year period hooked up to a morphine drip to help manage the intense pain caused by pancreatitis, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome – all of which left her body in almost continual spasm.
Cathryns constant mental and physical battle with pain left her contemplating taking her own life, and it was only in 2007 when she received a prescription for fentanyl that she believed there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
Fentanyl is a powerful drug, 100 times stronger than heroin. After Cathryn was discharged from hospital on one occasion, she was told to take a dose of eight lozenges a day of 200mcg of fentanyl. After taking this dose for almost a year, one day Cathryn decided that taking just one extra lozenge in a bid to try and make the pain subside would surely not do her any harm?
At the time Cathryn’s relationship with her boyfriend, who was also her carer, was currently breaking down, and during a moment of weakness she felt that she needed that extra lozenge. Over the next couple of months Cathryn had raised her dose to 11 lozenges, and by the end of the year the number had increased to 30 a day.
As time went on Cathryn was aware she was becoming dependent but was powerless to stop it. Her doctor became aware of the problem and tried Cathryn on various other treatment methods but to no avail.
At the end of 2009, realising that there was nothing else he could do to help her, Cathryn’s GP cut off her medication entirely. At this point, she was taking around 45-50 lozenges per day just to keep her withdrawal symptoms at bay – becoming convinced that there were demons living in her ceiling and struggling to even walk.
It was only when her constant stream of medication ceased that Cathryn finally accepted she was an addict, booking herself into rehab with money she had to acquire through the sale of her home and through borrowing additional funds.
Cathryn is now drug free, preferring to stay away even from paracetomol for a cold if she can. She still suffers from chronic pain but choses to deal with it in other ways – breathing exercises and tai chi – anything but painkillers.
When we stroll into the doctors with a problem, we often assume that it will be resolved with a simple prescription and a course of medication – never do we expect or anticipate for it to be the beginning of a far more serious issue.
If you have been prescribed medication and believe that you could be becoming dependent upon it, visit your GP and let them know as soon as possible so that the appropriate steps can be taken to ensure the problem develops no further.
In cases such as these you may also find that hypnotherapy could be of use. Often it is our mind-set that prevents us from taking the actions we wish to, and hypnosis can help to break these down so that new and more positive behaviour patterns can be established. For further information about how hypnotherapy can help with addictions, please visit our fact-sheet.
- Cathryn’s new book Painkiller Addict is published by Piatkus. Visit painkiller-addict.com for further information.
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