She’s 70 years old, a widow, and an opioid user who understands the lure of heroin.
She tries to describe the pain that led doctors to prescribe oxycodone: A burning in her legs and back. A twisting, squeezing, tingling and numbness. It’s like a headache throughout the body.
She has spinal stenosis, arthritis, a degenerated disc and other ailments. The chronic pain began about 20 years ago, and the drugs to relieve it came shortly after. With the meds, she can clean house and take care of herself. Without them, the pain is debilitating.
The woman asked that her name not be used for fear that someone might try to steal the powerful drugs she needs.
The doses of oxycodone come every eight hours, but the pain doesn’t wait that long, she says.
"After six hours, the pain comes in really strong, and then your disposition isn’t very nice," she said. "You don’t feel good, so you’re not – you know, you’re grumpy, and it affects the family. It even affects my little pet, because I don’t feel like taking him out for a walk."
The temptation is to take the drug before eight hours pass. Sometimes you have to, she said. But not often, because the medicine won’t last the month when a new prescription starts.
And there are withdrawal symptoms.
Yes, she is addicted, she said, though a doctor told her it’s not addiction if the medicine is needed.
"I don’t take that as a proper definition," she said. "If I need it and I don’t have it, I’m addicted to it. That’s how I feel."
So she lives with the pain, which intensifies a couple of hours before the next dose, and she endures the 30 minutes it takes to kick in. And she thinks of those who find themselves suddenly without relief, like when her pain doctor’s license was recently suspended.
Her thoughts have turned to heroin, the drug many seek when the pain pills stop.
"But because of my belief, I say no, that’s wrong. I can’t do that," she said. "But I could see a person where they’re so desperate to be rid of the pain that they would go to that. I really do. Because pain is not a nice thing to live through."