Thursday, March 11, 2010

Now I'm Scared of My Pharmacist

Writing this post made me feel naked and frightened in a way no other post has. I can discuss my breasts and vagina with no problem at all, but this I almost deleted 6 times. Maybe I should have, but I know there are others out there experiencing the same thing and we need a voice. And you need to listen to it.

I am a pain patient. I have chronic pain. Pain has consumed my life, changed me, destroyed the person I used to be. The pain is why I don't believe in hell. I wouldn't wish the last 8 years of pain on Hitler, let alone some random guy who didn't believe the right way. And that's 8 years, not eternity. Think about that for a second. I wouldn't wish this on the worst person that ever existed, but I have to live with it every second of every day.

For this pain, I take medication. Yes, it's narcotics. I'd prefer it not be narcotics, but if you're in serious pain, that's it, the pain or the narcotics. Actually, it's the pain and the narcotics, but I can live with pain at or below a 6 on the (stupidestfuckingthingever) pain scale*, so I'll take what I can get. I don't get high from the medication. That's how narcotics work. If you're getting some kind of euphoria from them, you're taking too much for the pain you're in.

I hate filling my prescription every month. I feel like the pharmacist thinks I'm addict. As it turns out, I'm probably right. This knowledge has entirely ruined my day.

A pharmacy without crackheads would be like a Big-Mac without the secret
sauce. The two go hand-in-hand like fat-chicks and spandex.

. . .

Becoming a successful “crackhead” and inflicting sadist pain upon your
pharmacist is not an easy task. However with these short yet useful tips
you shall have your pharmacist begging you to never return.

Think of a month as not 30 days, but a random number of days between 10 and
25. Most medications will have warnings that say that it must last one
month. However if YOUR month is only 13 days, it means that obviously you
can take more than what is prescribed on the bottle. This is YOUR
medication after all, so it gets to play by YOUR rules and thereby YOUR month.

Yeah? How about all the times I have gotten home and counted my pills only to find the prescription is short? Don't bother calling the pharmacy, they'll just say you can't prove it's them. Oh, and if you insist on counting the pills at the counter before leaving, they will freak.

Don't get me started on months that are 31 days long. Don't know what I mean? You obviously don't take pain medication. Suppose I fill my 30 day prescription on April 16. Now, April has 30 days, so I'm due for a refill May 16. Suppose I fill my 30 day prescription March 16. March has 31 days, so I'm due for a refill April 15, not April 16. Try explaining that to idiot pharmacy tech no. 1,351.

Generally, I refill my prescriptions 2 days in advance, although I don't pick it up until the day it is due. Why? Harrowing experience. If I wait until the day of, or the day before, and the pharmacy is out, I'm fucked. I'll have to go a day or two, or seven the one time, without medication, and if I could do that, I wouldn't be taking them in the first place. No pharmacist would freak out on me for transferring a prescription for insulin in that situation, but pain meds? I'm a drug seeking crackhead.

Don’t use proper terminology or pronunciation when referring to your
drugs. Everyone says “Soma” or “Vicodin”, but having you refer to your
medication as “SOMAS”, “VICO-DANS”, “DAN SOMAS”, or “WATSONS 389″ makes you
really stand out in the pharmacists eyes. Nothing says “I know my pain
pills” than reciting the NDC number on that bottle of Watson vicodin.

I've been taking these pills for a while now. I do have the number on the pills memorized- because I'm observant. I don't refer to them by common name on the phone, I refer to them by actual name of the substance so that people around me don't know what I'm talking about. I don't want them to know.

Develop some good stories. “My medication was lost or stolen” is so
1990’s. You need to think of some good stories to feed to your doctor and
pharmacist so they will feel sad for you. It helps if you learn to sob on
command, or come into the pharmacy loaded so they can really see how much pain
you are truly in.

Have a black cloud of bad luck encompass you always. Be the
unluckiest person on the planet. Have anything and everything happen to
your pain-pills (but not your high blood pressure pills!). Martians came
and a meteor hit your vicodin bottle! Go for the gusto! If you’re
loaded while you mumble this story it makes it more realistic (at least to you)
thereby making you tell it better! Remember, YOUR story plays by YOUR
rules, and YOUR pain-pills make YOUR rules!

Hello, moron, when people steal pills, they don't steal acid reflux medication, they steal the fun stuff. I have had pills stolen from me, once by a family member (because I don't really need them!), once by a (former) friend, once I suspect one of the many temps that pass through the office. I have since learned to keep one day's worth in my purse, not in a prescription bottle, and I hide the prescription in odd places in my bedroom. I never told the pharmacist, I just suffered until the refill was due, but yeah, it happens.

Only chumps get all 90 Soma at one time. Split that Rx up! Even
though you have $5 in your pocket, it should get you at least 3 of the 90 soma
you are allowed every month. Dont worry about such trivial things such as
money management, saving for the whole 90, or the added work your pharmacist
goes through. Remember, YOUR money plays by YOUR rules and YOUR shitty 4
tablet partial fills make YOUR rules!

Yeah, why should poor people be allowed to get their medication as they can afford it? My mom used to do this after my father left her high and dry with no health insurance and a heart condition, and a daughter with severe asthma. Not everyone makes $80,000 a year for counting things, asshat.

PAY CASH! Only chumps use insurance for their pain-pills!

40,000,000 uninsured people in the US, and this asshole is surprised he's run into a few of them?

Money management? Throw all that shit out the window. You need to piss
away your welfare check like its burning a hole in your pocket. In fact,
you have to be so bad that you have to prepay for your soma that’s due TOMORROW
or you’ll spend that $30 on something else.

I work, but yeah, I've done that. You know why poor people do that? Because poor people always need something that they've been putting off forever. So, if I have $30 in my pocket, it could end up going for something else that is desperately needed. If I've already spent the $30 on my prescription, I can't spend it on something else. Thanks for privileging all over me.

Avoid chains! Their computers are all linked up via magic so they know
how much other stores have given you! Go for the mom-and-pop shops!

Yeah, the fact that my local chain has shorted me numerous times, but the mom-and-pop has never done so has nothing to do with my choice of establishment.

Become an active part in your treatment, call the pharmacy every 10 mins to
see if the doctor OK’d the early refills. Nothing says “I take my life
seriously” than being on top of your medication refill requests. It
doesn’t matter if you don’t remember calling 10 mins ago because you were
loaded, YOU ARE TAKING CHARGE OF YOUR TREAT-.. what was I saying again? Oh,

Fax machines can break, make sure you call the doctors every 10 mins to
see if they received your early fill request from the pharmacy. Doctors
LOVE patients who are active in their treatment. Remember, YOUR name is on
your early-refill call-tag so it plays by YOUR rules!

Every month, I have to call my doctor and request the refill be faxed to the pharmacy. About 8 months of the year, this works just fine. I call at 9am, and the pharmacy has it by 6pm. Some months, the pharmacy doesn't get the fax the first time. Or the second. Sometimes not the third. I have to call multiple times to fix this because nobody else will. Asshat. Maybe I'm supposed to psychically guess whether or not the refill has finally made it to the pharmacist.

Catch fibromyalgia! That shit is the golden ticket to Watson-Wonka’s
Narcotic Factory! If you catch fibromyalgia you can get ANYTHING!
Plus pharmacists and other health care people LOVE IT when you talk about how
bad your fibromyalgia is.

FUCK YOU. Seriously, FUCK YOU.

Take up acting! Don’t limit yourself to the “OH JESUS IM IN SO MUCH PAIN”
once you hit the pharmacy doors, but also practice it as you walk through the
parking lot. Nothing says that you’re in “OH SWEET JESUS” pain like
stumbling and shuffling about in the parking lot AND in the pharmacy. If
you cannot sustain the act for long enough, make sure the sneaky pharmacy
doesn’t have cameras outside to record you acting normal only to be hit by the
“OH JESUS PAIN” stick once you cross into the store.

Wait a minute, this customer is limping the entire time the pharmacist can see him, but obviously that's because he's faking it? How much of an asshole can one person be?!

This is going to make my next trip to the pharmacy so much fun.

*Another post for another day, but trying to quantify the intensely subjective experience of full body chronic pain on a 1-10 scale is about the stupidest thing I've ever been involved in.


  1. This is so upsetting. Yes, there are addicts out there who will try to pull a fast one on their pharmacists, and sure, maybe this writer had a bad day at work or something, but the tone (not to mention the content) of this person's post is beyond uncalled for. I have a friend who's a pharmacist and I could never in my wildest dreams imagine her writing something like this. Makes me ill.

    We had a family friend with terrible neuropathy. What he went through to be able to get his legally, responsibly prescribed narcotics was just heartbreaking. Even when he came down with pancreatic cancer (which he died from) getting the pain meds was an acrobatic feat of interpersonal and FDA-sanctioned hoops to jump through.

  2. "Writing this post made me feel naked and frightened in a way no other post has. I can discuss my breasts and vagina with no problem at all, but this I almost deleted 6 times. Maybe I should have, but I know there are others out there experiencing the same thing and we need a voice. And you need to listen to it."

    I'm glad you didn't delete it. You've said absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, and given people like me a lot of perspective to see how good we have it. The most I have to put up with is a bad back, carpal tunnel and the occasional migraine. I can't imagine what you must go through every day.

    I can only hope that scientific research on the subject finds better ways to treat symptoms like yours sometime soon.

  3. Thank you for writing this.

  4. What a douchebag that moron is. I seriously hope not all (or the vast majority of) pharmacists are in any way like this. I don’t go to pharmacies for anything other than Tylenol or shavers these days, so it doesn’t exactly affect me, but still – how despicable.

    Not to mention that the majority of comments for that post are mindlessly approving of what he said. Despairing.

    This is a great post, PF. There is absolutely no reason for shame for writing or publishing it, or for feeling as you do. Some may see that sort of garbage as humorous – but they are those who are either brazenly heartless, or simply completely disconnected with the notion that actual pain patients do exist and have to live with that sort of shit. Not that I presume to know what it’s like, of course, but I can guess and empathize.

  5. Well done PF.

    What I found interesting is that in the discussion following the post a commenter called 'casual observer' brought up an interesting point:

    A great deal of pharmascists self prescribe and are in fact crack heads as well, but look down on presciption drug users as 'different', or joe bloes.

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  8. ok, sorry - i can't friggin type, too many errors - my pain is over a 9.

    but i was mostly just bitching and saying "thank you" for the post. lets try again without typos? preview is my friend!

    i take fentanyl and oxycotin - and i take 30mg of oxy 4/day - the highest dose you can get outside a hospital.
    i do not get "high". [whole reason i asked for fentanyl, anyway - you DON'T get high on a patch. you just don't. but the oxy only ONCE in almost 2 years made me high - the very first time i had it - i was switched from 5mg to 30 over night. the second dose? nothin']
    i've *had* to be in the wheelchair for the past 4 months. walking hurts so bad that my leg will spasm and i fall down. from pain.

    and some pharamists think i'm "faking"

    pain scale: i treat it as the Richter scale - a 3 hurts 10 times as much as a 2; a 7 hurts 10 times as much as a 6.
    i wish my pain was a 6. or even a 7. :(

    thank you for this post. sometimes i feel like i'm the only one who goes thru some of this shit, and it's good to be reminded that it *isn't* just me.

  9. PF, thank you. I just went through this when I got my last script for my pain med filled. I don't take a narcotic (putting that off as long as I can, because that's the point of no return), but I have taken this medication for years now. My pharamcy is in general pretty good, but sometimes they "forget" to refill it on time. One woman in particular won't even fill it until I come in and ask for it. I suppose she wants to see the whites of my eyes or some shit. You know what makes people in pain happy? Playing these games.
    Oh, and if the guy who wrote that post would like to trade me, I'd be thrilled to. There is nothing I would like in the world than to go back to being normal. Fibro isn't just pain, jackass. Sheesh!!

  10. PF, I really believe that the attitude that people in this country have toward pain sufferers is barbaric. I actually had a friend who died of cancer and who was chronically under-medicated for her pain by her oncologist in my mind while reading your post. I will never forget her literally bone-shattering suffering. Or that of two friends who died of HIV. It is simply horrible to think that people are so quick to rush to judgement. When it comes to another's perception of pain or need for its management, all I can think is there by for the grace of the quantum field go I. I hope that you, and all your readers who suffer chronic pain feel support for your situation.

    And on a personal level, I am totally with you on the issue of being shorted pills. It's awful. I take thyroid hormone and being shorted means being really cold and in a mental fog until I get my refills. My youngest is on Vyvanse and he is just not very functional without it. Arguing with pharmacists when you've been shorted is one of the most frustrating things imaginable. Especially when you or your child take pain or stimulant medication. But I've counted pills at pharmacies that have shorted us. I say, let them freak out. With friends who suffer from an array of autoimmune problems, from MS to fibromyalgia to thyroid disease, I wonder why some chronic diseases are treated by pharmacists as if the diagnosis was so spurious and a cover for a junkie. No one would dare short a diabetes patient on insulin. Evidently, that's just a better class of *addiction*, right?

  11. Well, most pharmacists (I hope) would only raise an eyebrow if you had prescriptions from several DIFFERENT doctors in a very short period of time. For example, druggies love to call the dentist on Thursday or Friday night complaining of a terrible toothache, wanting something to help them "make it until Monday morning" The really bright ones call me and every other dentist in town and get them all filled at the same pharmacy. Now I have to be careful which patients I talk to on the weekend and you have to feel like a crackhead at the pharmacy. Great!

  12. test - please ignore this comment

  13. I'm in pharmacy school and have worked in a pharmacy for 3 years and somehow fell upon your post and felt the need to respond. First, let me say I have a good idea of the blog you got that off of (angrypharmacist or one of his protege?) and everything written on it is extremely sarcastic. It is obviously not meant to be taken seriously by a person with real chronic pain. Believe me, when working in the pharmacy it's pretty easy to distinguish who the addict is and who isn't. Have no fear, if you are not an addict, I can almost guarantee you your pharmacist does not think you are an addict. This blog post is really directed at an addict. You may have had these things happen to you from time to time, but what differentiates you from an addict is these problems are constant with an addict.

    I really do not want this blog entry to make you hate your pharmacist or make you feel like they look down on you.
    Ok, that is all, have a good day!

  14. Britta;

    first - thank you, for saying anything at all.

    but, second - you don't know. you are still at the "bright and shiny" stage.
    i get all my meds except the fentanyl at the college's pharmacy [and am afraid of what's going to happen when i lose access to it in June :( ]
    i get the fentanyl at a regular pharmacy. i've been getting it at the same pharmacy for 26 or 27 months. and it's...
    example: last year, i took the Rx in 3 days early - and, i did so, and *pointed out the fill date* for the specific reason that the pharmacy has to ORDER the patches, and it takes them 3 or 4 days to do so. my Rx should be filled out on approx the 25th of the month, and i am not allowed to refill it until 30 days after it was last DISPENSED.
    so, i had taken my Rx in on the 25th of January, only to not get it until the 28th. in Febuary, i took it in on the 28th, didn't get it until March 2nd. March 31st, i took it in and asked for it to be filled on April 2nd.

    the pharmasist called me SEVEN TIMES in those couple of days to question me closely about why i was "trying to get meds early". each and every freaking time i explained, to the SAME MAN, why i had taken it 3 days early, and why it was actually a goddamned hardship. every fucking month, i went through withdrawl for at LEAST 2 days, and i was trying to fix that, by taking the Rx [which was DATED the 25th of March] in ahead of time so that it could be ordered and i could pick it up without having to go through withdrawl.

    and the pharamacist kept calling me and harrassing me. i went in to pick it up on April 2nd - to find that the pharmacist had NOT ordered it yet, because it hadn't been 30 days since they last DISPENSED, and he decided that i was somehow trying to "scam" them.

    at this point, i can't pick up my fentanyl until the 12th day of the month.

    are ALL pharmacists like that? of course not. but... it's not all good and rosy. it's hard to see the difference between a person who *needs* vicodin and the person who "just" likes it - because the person who NEEDS it is the one whose going to really suffer withdrawl and be afraid of it being late, and THOSE are the main behaviors that are "signs of addiction". the very fact that we *NEED* those medications makes many medical people treat us as if were ARE criminals. :(


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