Meet Nichola, 22, from Knutsford. As a student Nichola was prescribed a form of codeine to relieve her debilitating migraines. However, she soon began to crave the effects of codeine and began using it routinely. This is Nichola’s account of how she overcame her addiction to prescription drugs with help from a professional drug rehab centre.
I can vividly remember the first time I took codeine. I’d been cramming ten hours straight for a uni exam when this splitting headache hit me. It completely knocked me for six. Every time I moved it would make the pain intensify, to the point of feeling sick. My doctor said it was classic migraine symptoms and prescribed Co-codamol.
I took some tablets, desperate for the pain to go away, and the drugs gave me pretty much instant relief. They made me incredibly calm and mellow, and the pressure I was feeling melted away. I took the full course and my migraines disappeared.
I did however find myself regularly going back to the doctors with the slightest sign of a headache or pain, knowing that if I could have some codeine it would remove any pain I was experiencing. After the course of tablets had finished it would leave me with a nagging craving for more painkillers.
I knew that Co-codamol contained codeine but at that stage I didn’t realise it was an opiate and just how addictive that meant it could be.
My doctor had warned me of these effects but I hadn’t really listened.
I knew that if I kept going back to the doctors that it might look suspicious, so I would raid my best friend’s medicine draw in search of any painkillers. She’d been diagnosed with a rare spinal condition and was taking some pretty heavy duty painkillers. I felt awful for taking her medication but I figured a few pills here or there wouldn’t hurt.
I knew things had to change when one day she barged into my room, in a lot of pain and blaming me for her medication running out. I tried to deny it and blame another of our flatmates. I felt so ashamed. I’d wanted to stop but every time I did I’d felt horrendous; muscle cramps and spasms, anxious and sweating uncontrollably. So I’d taken them all.
I stayed up late that night and surfed the internet for answers. It was then that I found Port of Call. I pored over their pages about prescription drug abuse and addiction to painkillers and recognised myself in what I read. I left a call back request for the morning, finally fell asleep, and forgot about it. The very next morning I was woken by my ringing phone. It was Port of Call.
It was such an enormous relief to voice my problems out loud. Their adviser listened patiently as the words tumbled out and then explained what my options were. They obviously really knew their stuff and it put my mind to rest that they were taking control and weren’t judging me at all. I decided to follow their advice about getting help in rehab and they were able to book me in to a local private clinic straight away.
I have to be honest, for me the detox stage was the worst part because the withdrawal symptoms hit me hard. There’s no way I could have gone through that without all the doctors and nurses looking after me at the time. To my surprise, what I really enjoyed was the counselling sessions – especially in a group. It became my favourite part of the day, and I found that I really enjoyed encouraging others to talk about their issues.
Coming through my addiction to prescription drugs was one of the hardest things I think I’ll ever have to do. But I did it. All thanks to Port of Call and the amazing care they were able to find for me. I actually dropped out of uni. It was all too much. But you know what? It worked out for the best. I went to college, did my accountancy exams, and now I’ve got a steady job and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.
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Disclaimer: Names and certain details have been changed to protect the identity of case study participants.
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