Sickle cell patients are not drug addicts

Omotola Dehinde

Many have asked me why people living with sickle cell are dependent on drugs.  I mean tablets and pain killers.  Apparently, they think we are addicted to various pain killers: pentazocine, naproxen, tramadol, diazepam, codeine and morphine.

This is quite serious and there is no simple answer to the question.  First of all, not all sickle cell sufferers are addicted to medicine.  When someone has a crisis, he or she will most probably take one or more of the above in order to ease the pain.  When the pain eases, some sickle cell sufferers might want to keep on taking the tablets to have ‘high’ feeling.

On a personal note, I use them as the last resort because I hate the way they make me feel.  When in so much pain, I am unable to sleep and so it feels as if I am hallucinating and, by that, I mean I am restless while in pain.

Also, after taking these strong pain killers, I am left constipated, with stomach cramps and my stomach is bloated. I then have to sleep a lot, which is difficult, in order to get the tablets out of my system and drink plenty of water.

Back to the issue of sickle cell sufferers being drug addicts. In some instances, some people are in pain constantly and take these tablets in order to keep the pain at bay and they also help them to function normally on a day to day basis, especially, if that person has a job whereby they cannot afford to take time off work. As with anything in life, if you keep doing something over and over again, it will become a habit – a good or bad one.

Now, how can a sufferer try and help himself or herself?  How can someone who is dependent on drugs come off it?  Some people think taking other opiate replacements is the answer. My solicited advice would be to taper yourself off the medication, as it might be too much to stop all at once.

Before I continue there is something important that one must do before attempting to quit pain medication. You need to be strong willed to come off this addiction. You have to want to quit. You also have to stick to it. It is not an easy route because your mind will justify it and tell you the tablets are necessary. You might think to yourself that it would be okay if you just take the tablets one more today, because you will take one less tomorrow.

When quitting pain medication it is very important to stick to the plan. Deviating from that plan will more or less delay the process and make the withdrawal last longer. For those of you who are on high doses of pain medication, it may be necessary to wean down the amount that you take before quitting can become possible. Most importantly, speak to your doctor about your dependency on pain killers.

Other things that can help are: Drink lots of water. Nothing better than to filter the body and help get rid of the junk in your body faster. The more the better! Teas without caffeine help. Tea  really does wonders and will help you to sleep as insomnia is a side effect of withdrawal.

Caffeine is a stimulant and can increase withdrawal effects as well as dehydrate you. Vitamins and natural herbs help. Anything you can do to give the rest of your body what it has been deprived of is a good idea.

Watch out for herbs or vitamins that increase metabolism as the goal is to keep the body slow and slowly let it speed back up. Food is a great idea. Food has never tasted better after quitting pain medication. I’ve heard that fruits with lots of citrus are a good idea. The last piece of advice would be to stay active.

It is easy to want to sleep all day or sit in bed when quitting pain medication. While this can make the time pass I think it is better to stay active. Go to the gym or look for some exercises that are not too strenuous,  that your body can take.

During this time, you might feel depressed or lethargic and probably the best idea would be to do something that will take your mind off the whole thing. It also helps to have people around you.  As always, don’t forget to drink plenty of water or water and lemon or ginger drink; nothing fizzy if you can help it.

  Food-wise, try and eat plenty of okra, as it is really good for you.  A few facts are: The rich fibre and mucous like content in the okra pods helps to ease digested food and constipation conditions.  The pods contain vitamin (A, B complex, C and K) as well as a high amount of anti-oxidants.

 The consumption of food rich in vitamin C helps the body to develop immunity against infections, reduced episodes of colds and cough and protects the body from harmful free radicals. The pods equally contain good minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium and manganese.

Until next time, you can contact me on [email protected] and do check out my blog on sickle cell – www.howtolivewithsicklecell.

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