Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Vicodin Experience

Yesterday I had oral surgery, nothing major just some abscessed teeth pulled. Of course I was making a mountain out of a mole tooth and expected it to be hellish, but they were straight pulls. As with my previous experience with these awesome oral surgeons they gave me a prescription for Vicodin for pain...to take as needed.

It isn't that I have no pain tolerance, in fact I think with my health problems I actually have a pretty high pain threshold, but there are certain kinds of pain that 'do me in' severe jaw and head pain is one of them. Sadly even the most simple dental procedure leaves my jaw aching for days and anything major causes it to swell up and lock down. Blame it on a combination of a very small mouth and TMJ disorder (yay joint and connective tissue!) So I take the Vicodin...as recommended at first, but then I switch things up a bit because I have to. Instead of the every 4 hours I went to every 6 because the side effects are not fun and I am tiny.

This blog is about my Vicodin experience, not as an opiate popping drug trip but a study of the strange and very predicable cycle my body goes through when I am on the medication. I am writing this for three reasons, 1. Documentation! 2. I become amazingly articulate and creative when I take it. 3. I don't remember the effect it has on me later. In all seriousness in a week you could ask me for a detailed response on what Vicodin does to me and I would say 'I don't remember except the pain stopped' and I want to be able to go back and read this if I take the pills again.

The Vicodin cycle as I call it has several phases, starting about 10-15 minutes after I take it (sometimes longer if I have a huge meal on my stomach) the first phase, I shall name it Trial by Fire starts with an almost immediate decrease in pain, not just the pain in my mouth but all the pain...even pain that I didn't really cared or realized I had (why does my back suddenly feel so good?) which will stay with me up until the end. Next is a warm sensation that starts in my abdomen and flows out through my limbs, similar to the sensation you get after taking a shot Brandy on a fairly empty stomach. After that is the sensation of stretching, and this one will be hard to describe...have you ever walked in your sleep but been aware enough to remember the situation when you wake up like a dream but you do not feel your normal height, instead you feel significantly taller like your body has been stretched. It does not (thankfully) cause vertigo but it is disorienting, especially when my legs do not seem to work right and I list right or left (like I know some maneuvers) Around this same time my face and head starts to burn, like I am wearing a ring of fire around my head and I get some pretty nasty hot flashes. I have a tendency to not move much during the Trial of Fire, which luckily only lasts about 45 minutes to an hour.

The next phase is called the Muse. After the burning ring is extinguished and the feeling of being too tall vanishes my brain seems to explode in a burst of wonder. Colors seem brighter, sensations more intense, instead of my nervous and usually flustered speech (except when talking with my mother or Ben) is fluid and self assured, I feel inspired to create or debate on end about some intense philosophical subject that I would usually be too timid to debate. I have what seems like boundless energy but not the nervous fidgeting I would get from downing a soda or all the other unpleasantness I feel from caffeine. I can honestly say I feel wonderful, the way I imagine I would always be if I didn't have Lupus or social anxiety/agoraphobia. This lasts about two hours.

The next phase is very adequately called the Slumping. It is what I do, my thought process slows down, everything gets dull, my speech slurs a bit, and I have a tendency to doze a bit. As to be expected since this is the end of the Vicodin's life span I start to feel pain again. I am not really sure if everything is slowing down or it seems so blah because the bliss I felt earlier has left. I also have a sensation of floating if I am left alone and do not doze...meaning if no one is talking to me or I am not moving I feel like I could just drift off into the sky. It is an odd but not entirely unpleasant sensation. This stage lasts about an hour.

The next and final phase is called Hell, because I really do not know what else to call it. Maybe the Choice? It is at this point when I need choose whether or not I need another dose of pain killers or if the pain is mild enough to avoid medicating. If I need to take more then this part more or less gets skipped, if they are not necessary then the next few hours make my previous few hours almost not worth it. It starts off with nausea and hot and cold flashes, my heart rate speeds up and then the muscle spasms. They start as just little spasms here and there in my legs and then turn into uncontrollable full body convulsions. Imagine being really cold and shivering uncontrollably mixed with the heart pounding nausea of being terrified and that is what I feel when the Vicodin is wearing off. If I am particularly unlucky I have those sensations mixed with unbelievable chest and stomach pain or end up vomiting. The vomiting has only happened once and the chest/stomach pain also only happened once. The pain was so severe that if I could have cried out or moved off the bathroom floor where I was laying I would have gotten Ben to take me to the hospital because I honestly thought I was having a heart attack. I do not know why my body reacts so violently to the Vicodin wearing off, it is a mystery to me.

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