I’m not in the habit of foisting personal information on you folks, but I’m afraid you will need some background in order to understand the situation. Please bear with me.
When I was about seven or thereabouts, I realized that there was no time during which I did not have a headache. These were not acutely painful, but they were constant, low-to-medium (with occasional leaps into excrutiating) pain that was always with me. It was at that time that I began the series of tests that has continued to some degree my entire life (I am 48). Nothing has ever shown up except some tiny scarring on my brain that could indicate migraine (although it could also indicate stroke, but I’ve never had any other symptoms and I take forever to clot). I long ago came to the conclusion that my headaches were a combination of sinus and tension headaches, with occasional real migraine or really nasty sinus headaches.
When I was 17, my doctor gave me Darvocet N 100. Although I have tried many other meds since then, Darvocet has been the most constant and frequent because it has had no side effects (not even pleasant ones) for me, and has been fairly effective. Muscle relaxants have no effect whatsoever on me, N-Saids (anti-inflammatories such as Ibuprofen or Naprocyn) have no effect on me except for things like toothache, and long term use of an NSaid actually did kidney damage (I was very lucky - my kidneys returned to normal functioning after I stopped taking the NSaid for several months). Tylenol by itself has no effect on me. The various migraine-specific meds have no effect on me. Anti-depressants have no effect on me (are we seeing a pattern here?). I have a very high resistance to drugs of pretty much any kind, and seem to have always had. The only meds that have helped me have been narcotics - Darvocet (Propoxyphene), Lorcet (Hydrocodone) and Codeine (I’m not wild about Codeine, as it makes me feel a bit loggy).
For many years I was able to get prescriptions without too much difficulty - I’m a respectable middle-aged woman who obviously isn’t selling them on the street, and the docs were able to do blood work regularly to ensure that the acetaminophen wasn’t harming my liver or kidneys. Since my dose wasn’t increasing, they weren’t terribly concerned about addiction, especially since, when I have stopped taking it, I don’t have any ill effects except the headaches. (These continue over many months, btw, so that eliminates the idea of the headaches being a boomerang effect from the drugs. And I wasn’t taking drugs at the age of seven!)
But these days it’s different. If you look at the list of controlled substances in the US, you can see that they tend to have one thing in common: they have the potential to have pleasant side effects for some people. Apparently this is a terrible thing. In any case, my GP is now afraid to prescribe it for me, despite the fact that he personally would have no problem in letting me have it. The neurologist I was going to for some years, and who was handling my prescriptions, went financially belly-up and disappeared off the face of the earth.
I went to Jefferson, a well-known headache-specializing pain center in Philadelphia. Their idea of a solution was to put me on some kind of IV for three days to “get me off” the Darvocet, after which they would try a variety of medicines to address the headaches. Bottom line was, I could spend a whole hell of a lot of money in order to have a 50% chance of ending up as well off as I am with the Darvocet. Given my experience with non-narcotic meds thus far, this “solution” didn’t tempt me.
I’ve talked to other doctors, and basically gotten the same story from most of them - they agree that continuing with the low-level narcotic, as long as my dosage doesn’t increase and I am monitored to see that the acetaminophen isn’t hurting me, is fine, but they are afraid to prescribe it for fear of getting the AMA and/or the government down their throats. Then there are the few who won’t prescribe a narcotic for almost anything; this appears to me to be a religious attitude, in the sense that it is based on a belief system rather than any facts. These same doctors would be happy to give me unlimited NSaids despite the fact that they have injured me in the past, have no problem with the fact that I am taking, for example, thyroid medicine that I will take for the rest of my life. They are apparently indifferent to the fact that it is the acetaminophen in the Darvocet that poses the greatest physical risk, and I can get that in unlimited quantities in any drug store. They don’t care that my dosage hasn’t increased in thirty years. No, it’s a narcotic, and therefore is bad.
Basically, I’m being “protected” to the point that life is almost not worth living. I don’t know why the US is like this, but as I understand it, it is practically alone in its attitudes towards such drugs.
For now, I am getting meds over the internet. It’s a lousy solution because it costs WAY too much, and because, since it is an American source, the doc is still unable to prescribe the quantity I need (I have received enough for two/day, when I need 3-4/day - this is hydrocodone rather than propoxyphene, because the doc was concerned about kidney damage, and for some reason, hydrocodone wears off faster for me than propoxyphene does). I tried a European source, but the package, which they claimed to have shipped, never arrived - they did refund my money, bless their hearts.
I’m beginning to think my only solution is to move to a different country. I am a senior level Oracle (PL/SQL) programmer, so I have some degree of marketable skill. I don’t really want to leave this area, as I have elderly family, but I’m beginning to think I don’t have much choice if life is to remain bearable.
So, my questions are:
Is there any way I can get some kind of waiver that would allow me to get the meds I need prescribed in the US?
Are the regs on low-level prescription narcotics more liberal in Canada, the UK, or other English speaking nations of which you are aware?
I don’t speak Dutch, but I’ve never met someone from the Netherlands who didn’t speak English. Could an English-only speaking person emigrate to the Netherlands and get a job?
How hard is it to immigrate to such countries?
Do they need Oracle programmers? Do you know of any head-hunting sites?
Obviously none of this would be happening in the immediate future (I’d need to sell two houses, for one thing!), but I’m quite serious about considering it. I don’t really know what else to do. I’ve considered trying to find a doctor just over the Canadian border (assuming they are more liberal there) and visiting, say, quarterly, but I don’t even know how I’d go about finding one who could help. It’s a funny thing, but if you call a doctor and ask if s/he is willing to prescribe narcotics, they tend to raise their eyebrows a tad. Go figure.
Can anyone here provide answers and/or advice? Please, no dietary supplements, massage therapy, chiropractic, accupuncture, etc. First of all, I’ve tried most of 'em. And second of all, I am highly skeptical about “alternative medicine.” Let’s just not go there, OK? I don’t have the energy to argue.