This was going to be a Facebook post – but really, I felt it was more appropriate to share with a larger reader base. The topic of taking pain medication after weight loss surgery is the buzz today thanks to a great article [ Weight-Loss Surgery May Add to Painkiller Dependence, Study Says ]
Prior to my RNY in October of 2010 I was diagnosed with chronic back pain and muscle spasms as well as chronic stress and anxiety and I was on a mixture of pain killers, muscle relaxers and anti-anxiety medications. ( Vicodin, Soma and Ativan )
Let me interject a moment and say that I believe that often times the pitfalls we have the most experience with and are armed with the most education about, are often the ones we can avoid because we suspect that they might be coming.
I was very lucky to have had some exposure to the Online WLS Community before my surgery and I knew that I was very likely going to be the type of person that ended up with cross over addictions since I am indeed an addict. My addiction was food, but in my teens, it was other unhealthy substances, emotions and actions; because as an addict I can pretty much get addicted to anything that gives me a good feeling. Thankfully I was able to prepare myself for fighting the temptation to allow myself things I felt could lead to dangerous places if I allowed my doing them to get out of hand.
That doesn’t mean I am not addicted to anything, I am. I’m addicted to the adrenalin rush I get when I exercise, to the emotional rush I get out of helping others. I’m addicted to video games and have to only allow myself to play them in moderation or I can suck entire weeks out of my life devoted to playing them. These are just a couple of the more healthy behaviors I allow myself in order to make certain I stay on a path of wellness.
I come from a family with a long line of addicts. I’ve been around heroin, meth, prescription drugs and sex addicts since I was four years old. I promised never to be THAT person and I have no doubt that keeping that promise to myself has been a fundamental part of my continuing to be able to find healthy addiction alternatives.
I can honestly say that I am probably an exception to the rule here – I tend to be a little … different? But education and preparation and communication have gone a long way in this journey for me. I have not had a script for painkillers or muscle relaxers since my RNY other than after Body Contouring and Reconstructive Plastics Surgery [ WLS Plastics from the Patient Perspective ] which was hundreds of times more painful than my Gastric Bypass was.The article brings out a very prevalent point of truth though;
“Narcotics may not be absorbed the same way after a gastric bypass as they are before a gastric bypass,” said Sabowitz, who practices in San Antonio, Texas, and serves as an adjunct assistant professor of medicine for the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. “Maybe one reason narcotic use increased is because people were getting less narcotics [in their system].”
I am not a doctor, but based on personal experience I would agree completely with this statement. Medication tolerance issues and not getting enough delivered to your system can be a prevalent problem. I’ve had two different plastic surgeons and in both cases their staff had “Concerns” about the type and amount of narcotics I seemed to need to be comfortable and I could see signs that they suspected drug seeking behavior. My actual doctors never displayed those reservations however, because we had discussed it openly ahead of time and obviously here I am not quite three months out of surgery taking no pain medication… I was off pain medication by week 6-8 post op.
There are so many things we are not warned about going into weight loss surgery, especially when it comes to the emotional aspects of the journey, and let’s be honest, often times it is the emotional aspect that leads us to addictions.
I invite you to take a little personal inventory Slender Seekers, are you exhibiting addictive behaviors? If so perhaps it’s time to reach out and get help before these unhealthy behaviors become problematic for you. If you’re not great! But if you are the type of person that has past addictions and you know a transfer addiction could be a risk, maybe it’s time to do a little “Me-Work” ( That is what I call homework I do for self-improvement ) and create a preventative list of things you realize you MIGHT be easily drawn too.
If we prepare for the obstacles ahead of us on our journey buy recognizing when there could be a problem, we are more likely to make emotionally and physically healthy decisions when those obstacles arise. An obstacle like understanding that we may be predisposed to an addiction to prescription medication is what I would consider a High Risk Situation, and overcoming a high risk situation can be a big challenge if you are not prepared and you don’t have a plan of action and a good support system in place just in case it happens.
I think when it comes the Wellness part of our weight loss journey, we have to understand that investing a little time in early preparation helps us live up to that old adage, “It’s better to be safe than sorry.” There is a page in my WLS Wellness Journal titled “Risks I won’t take”, it is an exercise I do when I feel like I might be facing some very big upcoming obstacles and I want to develop a strategy for how I might handle it physically and emotionally. I’ll share it here just in case you want to develop your own “In Case of Emergency Plan.”
Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies and Motivational Speaker studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer.