Connections between Pain, Opioid use, Suicide and Opioid Use Disorder.

Excellent blog by Janaburson: https://janaburson.wordpress.com/2019/01/14/complex-connections-pain-opioid-use-suicide-and-opioid-use-disorder/

The picture is the tree with berries that the robins are eating, outside my clinic window. They clear it from the top down. Deer come too and stand on their back legs to reach up for berries.

Vital signs II

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: vital. For me, vital brings up vital signs. I wrote this poem in 2006. Pain was made the fifth vital sign in 1996. I have written about it here. In June of 2016, the American Medical Association recommended dropping pain as a vital sign. The idea that we should be “free” of pain has not died yet and the latest CDC report says that the overdose death rate for women has risen a horrifying 240% from 1999 to 2017. That report is here: Drug Overdose Deaths Among Women Aged 30–64 Years — United States, 1999–2017. My poem is still relevant and we still have to change our ideas about pain.

Vital signs II

Pain
Is now a vital sign
On a scale of 1:10
What is your pain?
The nurses document
Every shift

Why isn’t joy
a vital sign?

In the hospital
we do see joy

and pain

I want feeling cared for
to be a vital sign

My initial thought
is that it isn’t
because we can’t treat it

But that isn’t true

I have been brainwashed

We can’t treat it
with drugs

We measure pain
and are told to treat it
helpful pamphlets
sponsored by the pharmaceutical companies
have articles
from experts

Pain is under treated
by primary care
in the hospital
and there are all
these helpful medicines

I find
in my practice
that much of the pain
I see
cannot be treated
with narcotics
and responds better
to my ear

To have someone
really listen
and be curious
and be present
when the person
speaks

If feeling cared for
were a vital sign
imagine

Some people
I think
have almost never felt cared for
in their lives

They might say
I feel cared for 2 on a scale of 10

And what could the nurses do?

No pills to fix the problem

But perhaps
if that question
were followed by another

Is there anything we can do
to make you feel more cared for?

I wonder
if asking the question
is all we need

I took the photograph yesterday with my cell phone. It was so gloriously sunny that the water really was turquoise and I did no photoshop changes.

the dark things in the world

When my son was about 12, a friend called and asked if he could babysit.

I froze up, silent.

He got it very quickly. “Um, we often come home really late, staying out until 3 am, so would it be ok if he stayed the night and we brought him home in the morning?”

“Yes,” I said, with relief.

What was I worrying about? Alcohol. I knew he and his wife drank far more than I approved of and the thought of them driving my son home drunk was NOT ok. I think that sometimes they took a taxi home. I hope so. I suppose they could send my son home in a taxi, but by having him stay the night, he would sleep too. Their children were five and six years younger than my son.

So I would take my son there, or they would pick him up, and he’d go to sleep when the kids did. I don’t know how late my son and the kids stayed up in that house. I do know the household reminded me of my childhood home, where the adults stayed up and partied. I did not party in high school at all. I didn’t want to. I was not interested in drinking alcohol illicitly. I could perfectly easily have drunk it at home: my parents were too tuned out by then to notice. I knew what people were like when drunk: why would I explore that with my peers? My father would break things in the house when he fell, there were burn marks in the floor from cigarettes, my parents would scream at each other at 1 am. I kept my head down and did very very well at school: I wanted out, even though it was not conscious. I loved my parents. Home was chaos and I escaped into books and schoolwork.

Parents need to think carefully about babysitting. Do they know the family? Do they need to drive their child to the house and pick them up? Once I went to babysit and the family had two enormous St. Bernards. The male growled at me. The owner said, “Don’t worry, he will attack anyone who tries to get in the house.” I was quite terrified of the dogs, and the male trailed enormous strings of drool into my lap. That night at 1 am I found Monty Python on cable and wondered if I’d wandered into another universe. We didn’t have cable, so it was surreal. I didn’t tell my parents about any of it. These were not people we knew: friends of friends.

Parents need to be careful as well to tell teens that adults can behave inappropriately and that a normally nice adult might behave badly when drunk. Many babysitting friends told me about the father of the kids they were sitting making sexual comments or putting a hand on their knee driving them home. This is not ok and teens need to be warned. They also should be warned about signs of drinking and inebriation and have taxi money or be able to call for a ride if they are not comfortable with the adult driving them home. And if the adult makes any sort of inappropriate remark or touch, they should NOT babysit there again ever. I would tell the offending adult why, though I think that would often get an angry or denial reaction.

I have various friends with 9 year olds. One parent made a comment that they don’t want their children to know anything bad about the world until they are ten. Another didn’t want their child to know what the term domestic violence meant.

I disagree. I would respond saying, “If your mother doesn’t want me to discuss that, then we will leave for her to talk to you about it later.”

How can we shelter our children with the magical childhood until ten and then send them to babysit at twelve? How can they recognize an adult is impaired or inappropriate behavior unless we talk about it? I have been asking adult smokers what age they started smoking for years: most of my older men started at age 9. The other day a woman said she’d tried cigarettes by age 7. Our children are not stupid, they hear things, they try to puzzle it out with each other: they deserve honesty from the start.

For a small child, that may mean a very simple explanation. My mother died of cancer when my daughter was two years and six months. By age four she had processed it to where she asked me “How old was grandmother Helen when she died?” I said that MY grandmother was 92 when she died, but grandmother Helen was 62. She asked, “How old are YOU?” I said, “I am forty. I hope to live as long as my grandmother, but none of us know how long we will live.” She studied me for a while and then went off.

They say that small children can’t process death. Clearly my daughter could! Maybe children can’t because we do not talk to them about it. We aren’t respectful. We try to hide all the dark things in the world, we try to keep them in a fairy tale. I feel angry on behalf of our children. To me it feels like parents lie: they will not tell their children what is going on. It’s not okay. And how can they handle the dark if no one will discuss it until they are ten?

 

Adults can be pretty weird sometimes, right? The photograph is from this year’s Kinetic Sculpture Race.

early

Driving to work yesterday, I pulled over and took this photograph. It was so beautiful in the early morning.

Yesterday evening I walked downtown after work. Our local Kiwanis is working on a memorial for all those lost at sea. I started thinking and wondering if we have a memorial for those lost to drug addiction, lost to domestic violence, for lost innocence.

This photograph is for all those losses.

 

Herd

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: herd.

I am reading Dopesick, newly out this year, by Beth Macy. I am wondering what make people try addictive substances. At what age and why? To be popular? Herd mentality?

I’ve interviewed my older smokers for years, asking what age they started. Most of them say they tried cigarettes at age 9. Nine, you say? Yes. Parents then look horrified when I say that they should start talking about drugs and alcohol and tobacco by the time their child is in third grade. Recently a woman told me that she tried cigarettes at age 7.

It’s not just talking to your kids, either. It’s modeling as well. What do you model for tobacco, for alcohol, for prescription medicines, supplements and over the counter medicines? Do you say one thing but do another?

I am 100 pages in to Dopesick. The most horrifying new information is that more people under age 50 have died from opioid overdose then died in the 1990s from HIV and AIDS. Also the failure of history: we have had morphine available over the counter until addiction swept the country. Then heroin. This round is oxycontin. And I checked the index: no mention of kratom, sold from southeast asia. It is related to the coffee plant but it works as an opioid. It has been illegal in Thailand since 1943. I think they figured out that it too is addictive a long time ago.

I was an introvert, a smart girl, a geek before there was a word. I did not party and was not invited. I went to Denmark as an exchange student. I tried a cigarette there and decided that I couldn’t afford it and it tasted awful. I drank beer there, but was careful. I did go to a party where I was offered a bowl of pills: no. I was cautious and became even more cautious when I returned to the US.

When and what did you try first? And WHY? What makes us try these addictive substances? The evidence is piling up that the younger we try them, the more chance of addiction. And certain substances addict very very quickly.

Who chooses not to be part of the herd and why?

speaking up 3

Here are speaking up and speaking up 2.

More events in my life:

I am on the metro in Washington, DC. It is not rush hour. I am reading my book.

I suddenly realize  as the metro stops, my car is empty. I am the only one in the car. One man gets on. I am hyperalert. He walks down the car and sits next to me.

The car starts up. I stare at my book.

“Hi.” he says, “What’s your name?”

I don’t answer.

“C’mon. What’s your name?”

“I am reading my book. I don’t want to talk.”

“C’mon, baby, be nice.”

I stand up, purse and book. “Excuse me.” I step by him and stand at the metro car door. I get off that car at the next stop and move to the next one with people on it. Shaking with both the threat and anger, that I have to deal with this.

2. I take a dance class in Washington, DC. I work at the National Institute of Health. I leave my car at NIH and ride the metro.

One night I get off the metro at NIH and I am riding up the escalator, with my backpack.

A man, clearly drunk, steps up on the escalator beside me, and says “Hi, baby, what’s your name?”

“LEAVE ME ALONE!” I snarl and stomp up the escalator. It is dark and there are very few people at the stop and in the lot. I am in danger from this drunk.

I am walking fast at the top, away from the escalator, when I hear running steps behind me. WHACK! He takes a swing at me and runs off. He hits my backpack and not me. I am screaming at him.

He is gone. I run to my car, get in, and sit there, hands on the wheel. Shaking. There is a part of me that wonders what I would do if he crossed the road in front of my car.

My next class is not dance. I take tae kwon do.

3. I have used my tae kwon do once so far. Where? In first year medical school.

No way, you say.

Yes, way.

We have lecture after lecture in the same hall. We usually sit in the same places. I am newly married. The guy behind me starts tickling my neck during a lecture, with a pen. I twitch a couple times and then hear muffled giggles and realize that it’s the person behind me.

I stiffen and wait until I am really ready. Breathe. The tickle comes. I snap a basic block back and forward: and have his pen.

He SCREAMS!

The whole class turns towards us. The lecturer stops, staring. I am facing forward, holding the pen down low, not moving. He has the entire room staring at him, everyone but me. He doesn’t say a word. You could hear a …. pen…. drop.

The lecturer shakes his head and continues.

I keep the pen.

Just think, he’s a doctor.

I took the photograph when we were in Wisconsin. I went to UW Madison. I like being a badger.