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PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2017 8:42 pm 
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Hi everyone,

First, many thanks to the creator, moderators and members on this forum.
After reading for a few days, I finally decided to register.

I've been using pain meds for 20+ years, at first for legit pain, and slowly to feel "my best normal self". At 1st, I'd take an extra dose to stay awake and focus, to enhance my mental performance for an exam in Grad school, right before teaching, in the evening to reward myself for having worked hard etc.
At the same time, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. After 3 years of remission, the depression returned with a vengeance, and slowly robbed me of my life. By now, I've tried all treatments, except for ECT (Electroshock Therapy): all classes of anti-depressants all the way to MAOIs, anti-anxiety meds, augmentation therapy, misc types of talk therapy, alternative medicines, neurofeedback therapy....

As I moved around the World, I adapted to whichever pain meds I could access more or less legally, which wasn't too hard given that I was prescribed my "regular" meds by psychiatrists (and some of those meds are controlled substances, so it was never much of a stretch to add "pain management" to the list).
So, of course, I never thought of myself as an addict, since I wasn't injecting, snorting, stealing etc, and wasn't buying the drugs on the street. More often than not I had a legit script, or used OTC pain meds. After all, I don't even enjoy feeling high, except for mild euphoria, I never abused my anxiety meds, or alcohol, or any substance which makes me feel "out of control" (except for experimenting in my teen years)..... but the facts are I'm an addict!

On July 12th 2017, my drug of choice, Codeine, stopped being OTC overnight in France.
I had never tracked my consumption, but it had reached 3 boxes each day: 1200 mg of codeine and 14400 mg of acetaminophen (paracetamol) a day. Yes, that's a lethal dose, but I did not care, and neither did the pharmacists who happily sold me as many boxes as I wanted.

Panicked, and in total withdrawal, shaking and crying, I visited a random doctor. She was compassionate, listened, wrote me a renewable script, and we agreed on a taper down approach. For one month, even though I stuck to the tapering plan, I counted the hours, even the minutes, my entire world revolved around those codeine pills. Deep inside I knew I was lying to myself: deep down, the thought of never touching opiates again was simply unbearable.
On my 3rd visit, I saw a different family doc, who immediately and accurately labelled me an addict, and put me on Subutex.
I was scared, and still am, because of everything I had read about how addictive buprenorphine is.
I never told anyone about my addiction.
The determining factor was when I read promising clinical studies on using low doses of buprenorphine for Treatment Resistant Depression. My 1st dose (2mg) was like a rebirth: many side effects, headaches, bowel movements, sleeplessness etc BUT my mental pain was totally gone, for the 1t time in YEARS, and, I was even able to feel something resembling joy. I haven't touched codeine since, and for now - fingers crossed - the urge to take opiates is very manageable.
Today's my 10th day codeine free, I'm on 2.4 mg of buprenorphine (no naloxone, I'm not certain why)

After having read several stories, I realize how fortunate I am since I didn't have to wait or struggle to find a doc who would prescribe buprenorphine: one visit to a general practitioner, one visit to the pharmacist, less than 10$ copay, and I was all set for a month, at least wrt the "drug substitution aspect" of things. Because it's only the beginning on my journey. To maintenance? To total sobriety without buprenorphine? To hope? To managing my depression and improving my quality of life? To rebecoming a productive member of society? For now, I have more questions than answers.

I am grateful to have found this forum, because social isolation is part of the problem.
I hope this community can help me find answers to my questions, and that I can contribute and reciprocate.
My apologies for the long post.
Best wishes,
- Jane


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 02, 2017 8:08 am 
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Hello Jane! Welcome.

I'm grateful u shared ur story with us. As addicts, we can all relate to each other and we know those feelings of hopelessness. It's an awful feeling of wanting more and more and obsessing about it all day and night. Even when I was feeling good and not sick, I'd start worrying about my next fix. So it became so bad that I was never content, even after scoring and feeling good. I obsessed 24/7. Buprenorphine has taken that obsession away and now I can finally work on my recovery.

Yes u will become physically dependent on buprenorphine, but dependent doesn't mean addicted to it. I try to think of it as like a diabetic needing insulin every day. It's something we need for our health and mind in order to get recovery. So try to think of it like that if u can.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2017 1:10 am 
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Dear Jane! Welcome to our forum! You would often receive more replies here, but this is Labor Day weekend, which makes it a three day weekend. Sometimes we have less traffic over Labor Day Weekend and other holidays.

Thank you for providing so many details regarding how you came to be here. Your story has similarities to many of us. One question I am left with is, have you had your liver enzymes checked? Has there been any damage to your liver from all of the paracetamol? I hope that everything checks out just fine, by the way! It's amazing how many of us are relatively healthy despite the potential damage we did to ourselves.

What hit me about your post the most is that abrupt, rude, withdrawal that you went through when France stopped selling codeine over the counter. There aren't many of us who don't know what that feels like. The depression and panic that goes along with it is terrifying.

You are definitely not the first person who has reported that buprenorphine has benefitted their hard-to-treat depression. We have a member named Raudy that reports the same alleviation of symptoms. Others have mentioned this too, but Raudy is the only one I'm remembering by name.

I hope that the buprenorphine continues to help your addiction and your depression. Some find that a higher dose is necessary to take away their cravings, but you should definitely stick to your dose if you continue to notice that the obsession to use is gone.

Again, welcome! We are happy to have you here!

Amy

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 04, 2017 8:29 pm 
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Hi Jane,
Welcome to the forum and thanks for sharing your story. I can identify with parts of your story, and your path to addiction is very similar to others on the forum ( in terms of starting for pain, increasing use, felling great, etc). I remember thinking during active addiction how great it would be to live in Europe and be able to buy Codeine products OTC (even though I thought that the quantity of codeine was fairly small). I didn't know that had changed-has it changed in most places or just France?
Of course now I can see that having OTC access even to a small amount of opiates would be a disaster.

Even though withdrawal was hell, you are really lucky that they stopped selling them. It helped you get onto Suboxone, and think of how hard it would be to kick the habit, or continue to stay stopped when you knew you could legally purchase them at a pharmacy without a script. Its like how hard it is to stop smoking when you can just go buy a pack of cigarettes any time you want.

I'm also one of those people that struggles with treatment resistant depression. I have antidepressants that half work, and a mood stabilizer (Lamictal) that works the best of any medication for me. The only thing that has really made me feel normal were opiates, thus self medication, thus addiction, leading to me taking Suboxone. I've been on Suboxone for 6 months and I would say that my depression is in remission for the first time in as long as I can remember. It has been that effective for me, without the addiction, and other issues that full agonists present. I am far from perfect, but it has been as helpful as a drug can be.

I don't want you to think that your experience will be just like mine. Some people notice no benefit to mood, and some report noticing an initial lift that kind of fades away. But, just the fact that you can live life without the angst of "how am I going to get my codeine" can be enough to make you happy, and for good reason. It's a huge weight off of your shoulders. I'm really happy that you have found buprenorphine and hope that you continue to make progress in your recovery. Best,
Tragicom

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2017 9:11 pm 
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Jennifer, Amy, and Tragicom,

Many thanks for your warm welcome!
Oops, I had forgotten about Labor day week end : )

Jennifer, your analogy with diabetes is helpful, esp as I'm considering the best way to break the news to a few relatives and friends. Plus, you're right: I'm also dependent on anti-depressants, but I'm not addicted to them; I just know from experience that not taking them as prescribed leads me to being unhealthy.

Amy, many thanks for asking: I'll double-check at my next doctor's visit, but so far all routine blood tests incl liver enzymes were normal; Probably one of the reasons doctors never noticed my codeine abuse. True, a bit of a miracle, helped by the fact that I rarely drink alcohol bc it makes me depressed.
The French decree was brutal: pharmacists and doctors weren't even told about it beforehand, to prevent ppl from stockpiling. Even though I must agree that OTC codeine, esp with so much acetaminophen is a bad idea, I wonder how many users like me fell through the crack & are still struggling since few family doctors are adequately prepared & since addictology consults likely prioritized Heroin users (many used codeine OTC as DIY substitution). Basically, the timing of the decree, when most doctors are on vacation was terrible imho. And yes, I wouldn't wish the panic and dread I felt to my worst enemy.
I look fwd to meeting Raudy!


Tragicom, nice to meet you. I've lived in the US too, and back then I either shipped my OTC pills from France, or I ordered stronger ones online for a decade or so (very pricey, but it limited my intake of acetaminophen). Even though I took Vicodin for 2+ yrs, I was lucky to never try Oxy & stronger opiates.
Answer to your question: France allowed up to 25mg of codeine/pill OTC. Germany and all Nordic countries banned OTC codeine years ago, so did most of Eastern Europe. Codeine was always illegal in Greece (even illegal for doctors to Rx it). The Netherlands has one cough syrup, with a content so low that it amounts to spending 10 euros/day for the equiv of 2 Tylenol #3s Spain and Portugal being the last 2 permissive countries in Europe afaik.
The very fact that I know that from the top of my head speaks volumes wrt the importance this molecule has occupied in my mind.... And yes, knowing that all you have to do is go to the pharmacy to get your fix for 3$/box sure doesn't help when you're trying to quit. Also, I'm quite certain that if I had seen most other doctors, they'd have minimized the problem (ie "it's only codeine"), and then either would've prescribed a tapering plan (1st doctor I saw did that, since my regular doc was on vacation), or nothing at all, or actual codeine w/o the Tylenol. None of it would've addressed the problem.

Oh, I know exactly how "half working antidepressants" feel, and how hard it is to do basic things like taking a shower, cooking a meal, going out for a walk or picking up the phone when severely depressed. My worst symptoms are anhedonia (lack of pleasure), and zero drive/motivation.
The antidepressant that works best for me is Mirtazapine (brand: Remeron), I'm also on Cymbalta and clonazepam, going to see a new psychiatrist end of Sept.
I am EXTREMELY happy for you to hear that Suboxone sent you into remission!!!
Yes, I know the effect may be diff for me, but merely meeting someone in remission from TRD gives me more hope than anything, bc I don't know yet if it'll have that effect on me, but at least I know remission actually exists, and that if it turns out that buprenorphine 'only' tackles the addiction for me, well, then I must try and try again until something works for the depression! Meanwhile, it'll hopefully help others the same way it helps you, fingers crossed.
Plus, now you know that you can visit most of Europe while on subuxone, without being tempted by OTC pain meds, and actually enjoy it & life in general : )

Best wishes,
- Jane


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