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My elderly mother is addicted to opioids. It used to be alcohol for the first half of my life and then she moved on to just pills. She is severely depressed and says the pain pills help her. She’s played every classic trick you could think of to get the medicine...from doctors, dentists, online, taking our meds and so on. Problem is...they make her sleep all day...she falls...she has horrific hygiene and is a hoarder and so much more.


She lives with my sibling who actually picked up her medicine today (pretending to be helpful) and discovered the doctor prescribed Norco. We have tried to tell kaiser so many times that she has a problem, but she tricked another doctor into giving it to her. Unbelievable. My sibling kept the meds and hid them. My mom is screaming bloody murder and has threatened to hurt herself. She’s calm now, but constantly talks about it being the end of her life.


When she goes into a fit, there is no reasoning. We’ve been to the doc with her where I outright said there was an addiction problem...problem is, I’m guessing the doc didn’t write it down. My mom finds new docs and praises those who gives her meds. No wonder she likes the new one.


Really just venting. I don’t know what to do. I was tempted today to just let her have the meds. I hate that her last years are like this. She used to be able to hide it better, but now that she’s less able to care for herself, the meds don’t metabolize the same and really affect her personality.


Sad.

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I'm maybe going to be the only person on here who is "kind of" in mom's corner.

Have you ever suffered from chronic pain? Like, every waking (and sleeping) moment is pain filled and misery? And you've done everything that the drs tell you to do, you've HAD the back surgery or whatever, done the rehab PT--and the pain is a constant...well, that's my life. 2 major back surgeries from a congenital condition made much worse by carrying 5 huge babies and then having a busy and active life.I'm lucky in that I don't have rods or pins in my back. But I WILL NEVER have another back surgery.

I have been on some kind of opioid for about 6 years. I have a "contract" with my dr, I cannot get them from another doc and I can never have more than prescribed. Hard thing is, I really have to be SO CAREFUL not to have a 'bad month' in which, heaven forbid, I need 5 one day or even 6, and then I wind up short one month---I go "cold turkey" for a few days and the pain (and accompanying withdrawal is hell). Then I refill my scrip and life goes on.

The "war on opioids has been an epic fail. EPIC. Drug abusers (like the OP's mom) is still able to get her meds, every neighborhood street dealer is doing a GREAT business--and you know what? The new "laws" drives doctors absolutely nuts. They are held under such scrutiny. They cannot treat their chronic pain patients appropriately---as much as they may want to, they are hamstrung.

That's the problem with the one size fits all law---the truly needy chronic pain sufferers feel like crap--and like criminals for going in the office each month to simply pick up a new scrip. People who truly abuse are lying, cheating, fighting--and STILL getting all the meds they want. Who is winning????? Certainly not the patients.

The OP's mom has a problem. She needs to be dealt with LOVINGLY and not with harsh judgment. She can be evaluated and dealt with. Cold turkey w/d of her meds are going to make her sick, sick, sick. AND impossible to deal with.

Someone in the family needs to step up and get her to a chronic pain clinic. Most PCP's cannot really judge chronic pain.

How much is she taking in a day? And how much of what? IF she's taking 10 Norco, that's too much. If she's taking 4, that's probably OK. But YOU don't make the call about her pain. She needs to be able to come to terms with the problem w/o screaming and belittling.

I HATE that I need opioids to be "OK". This is my life. My kids know and they are not happy about it, but as THEY age, and begin to have some chronic pain issues, they are beginning to get it. I also take antidepressants and *gasp* benzos. All well controlled by drs, but still, I feel like crying sometimes when I fill my scrip for Tylenol #3---b/c I know I am "addicted". This is NOT the way I planned to be at age 62. Nobody PLANS to NEED drugs to function in life!

BTW, I have NEVER fallen down or had fits b/c of the meds. I don't even get remotely "high". I just feel a sigh of relief and go about my busy day.

The last thing someone needs is to be judged---You guys need to all be on the same page re: mom and her drug use. Please don't be harsh. You don't walk in her body, you don't feel her pain. And DO NOT expect that she should be 100% drug free in her old age.

I struggle b/c I feel personally that I want to be stronger and not have this pain. But my body is such that have MANY arthritic joints, bone spurs all over that sometimes require surgical removal---and bone pain is unbelievable.

I used to be pretty judgy, and then Karma got me. I know my doc is great now about helping me along--but he'd young and pretty soon he will be jaded & scared and probably turf me to a pain clinic, which for me is patently ridiculous.

Just my opinion. But then, I have NEVER taken pain pills to get "high".
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Kathrynseton Aug 31, 2018
I totally feel all you just said, esp bc i am 38 and in a similar situation. I am on disability, have all kinds of education and cannot use it to properly pursue my passion of teaching all bc of chronic illness. I dont have anything to add to what you said in regards to the OP's question, but I just want to point out that you are not addicted to your meds. Addiction is a psychological pathology where someone is taking the meds for something other than originally prescribed for, and continuing to do so despite it having a destructive effect on one's life. From all you said, this is not you. The more accurate description is that your body is physically dependent, and tolerant to the effects. This unfortunately happens to anyone on long term opioids and are thus not indicative of addiction. When you go up on your meds, you know you cant stay there, so you said you endure the mild withrawal to return to normal dosage bc you want to be sure the meds continue to work well for you. I do the same thing. When i an in the hospital and am pumped full of meds, i usually suffer minor withrawal symptoms upon coming home and have to wait it out for a couple days. Addicts would never make that choice. I just wanted to emphasize that bc the labels we use, esp for ourselves, have consequences. I dont know how many times Ive had discussions with doctors about the definition about addiction versus those of dependence and tolerances bc they used them interchangeably as if they were synonymous. Make sure that when you talk to drs, or even family in friends inclined to pass judgment, you use the correct terminology. It affects not just how you are treated, but also other chronic pain suffers that will come along next. That said, i am very sorry that you are suffering. Chronic pain and illness arent for sissies, thats for sure, LOL!😂
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hmmm, this is disturbing to me. If I make it to her age, my daughters better not take my pain meds away! Good God, unless you have lived with pain, you have no idea how depressing life can be. Even if she is taking them to feel good mentally, who really cares at this age. I hope I can find a doctor to give pain meds to me. Let her be and give her back her meds. Place her in assisted living, if need be, but IMHO she is old and why would you want her to be unhappy at this point in her life? Just my opinion. don't mean to offend. Good luck.
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Kathrynseton Aug 28, 2018
Unfortunately she already is unhappy. The meds aren't making her happy or giving her a better QOL from the sounds of it. I would never dream of advising to simply ignore her pain or take her meds away cold turkey. I'm a chronic pain pt too so I have all the empathy in the world for fellow sufferers. There is obviously a lot of fear-mongering out there, but that being said there IS INDEED a small minority that become psychologically addicted to their meds. The OP has mentioned a great number of warning signs that this is the case with her mom unfortunately. The meds themselves are posing a clear danger from the sounds of it, which is not a situation you want to see. Talking to the right professionals and getting to the bottom of her pain and all available treatment options while addressing her addiction issues are critical to giving her a good quality of life for the time she has left. She will almost certainly have more time if her pain and addiction (and any attendant psych issues) can be addressed!
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If someone took away my pain meds and made me withdraw cold turkey, I’d be talking about killing myself too, believe me! That’s because it would feel like I was dying. Only a Doctor should supervise withdrawal, you can’t take this into your own hands and make this decision against your mother and her doctor. I’m sure you thought you were helping, but withholding her meds made things much much worse for her. She needs to be back on them now.
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Kathrynseton Aug 28, 2018
I agree that having her go through non-medically supervised withdrawal is not a good idea. It is potentially dangerous, mentally and physically. If you go the suboxone route, as I said she will likely be hospitalized to ensure her safety. And that will not be full blown withdrawal either. It should be quite manageable.
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If you dont know why her doctor is prescribing her the pain medication then you shouldn't "take them away". Obviously her doctor prescribed tem for a reason. It's not your decision unless you have medical POA, or she is in some way mentally incapable of making her own decisions. You said it has been a year since she has received any pain medication. To me, that doesnt sound like an addiction problem. I would suggest asking your mom if she would allow you to accompany her to her next doctors appointment. Find out what is going in for yourself. Stop guessing. I'd be furious if someone withheld my medication because they thought they had the right to. I dont mean to sound harsh but your mom has rights too.
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You can call her doc and tell them she is using them to get meds. Tell them she gets them online, and from other docs if that is the case. They need to know her history with alcohol and meds too.

How do you know she is not in pain? If your sister is driving her to doc appts/picking up meds, then she would know how many doctors she is going to. I doubt a doc would prescribe her Norco if he/she didnt think she needed them.

You can't decide to hide medicine from someone!!!! The withdrawal could be dangerous! That is why she was screaming. People can't go off pain meds cold turkey. You are not a doctor and have no right to do that. It is one thing if you just gave her the normal dose on the label, and not give her however many pills she demanded.

You can always call her doc and tell them she is abusing the drugs by taking too many at one time. Going through a month of meds in 3 days for example. Plan with the doc to get her into a rehab.
They can also evaluate her mental health too. She is a danger to herself for saying she is going to kill herself. Get her to the hospital and have her admitted. You can do this because she was threatening suicide.
Good luck
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Opioid addiction is a terrible thing. Your mother cannot just stop taking the medication without both wanting to and being in a treatment facility. Withdrawal symptoms are real and terrible to go through.

I had a family member who was addicted to heroin, he was motivated to kick it and spent months in a facility. Unfortunately the lure of the drugs was too great and he overdosed within a year of getting clean. I know others who have managed to kick the habit, but it is not an easy road.

Drug addiction is not a lack of will power, nor is it a moral failing, but it is incredibly hard on the families' of addicts. You may find that an organization like Narc Anon can help you deal with the situation.

Sorry no offer of help, just an understanding of how difficult the situation can be.
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I am very new here, so I do not want to overstep the mark, but your post really resonated with me...I can only share from my family's experience: Addicts are crafty. Perhaps whatever issues she did not deal with successfully underlie all the addictions- I understand that is usually the case. There are some agencies who offer services geared toward the elderly- but again, if she is unwilling to avail herself of it, you will not get far.
The only other thing I would like to say is that I hope you take care of yourself and your needs. The toll on caretakers can be tremendous...
I sincerely hope things improve for you all.
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There does not seem to be a workable solution. You state she is at the end of her life. Perhaps you should just let go and let her have them so her remaining time is more peaceful and YOU get a respite from her. Some things you can't fix.
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Sarak50,
My heart goes out to you and your sister. Also, to your mom who is suffering.
Everyone freaks out when
opioids are mentioned.
Thanks to the government.!!
You say ur mom has Alz/Dem and is 88 years old.
What is her diagnosis for being prescribed norco?
Does she have a physically chronic pain issue?
If so, the medication given
in correct dosage daily would
relieve her pain and also help her depression. Depression comes from many things, just being 88, knowing half your life is over, is depressing!
You can't do the daily things you used to be able to do and that includes doing things you loved. Add terrible chronic pain when you don't have even 5 minutes of relief and anyone would be severely depressed.
Perhaps you can look on the prescription bottle and see what the directions say about how to take...how many and at what times.
I would also get the Doctors name and number and make an appointment with him asap to discuss ALL that is happening with your mom.
If that doctor can't help your mom's situation he can
refer you to Specialists or the proper place-person to go to right away.
In the meantime it might be best for you or your sister to give the medication to your mom as the doctor prescribed. Meaning...don't give the bottle to your mom..
you guys give her the meds.
Opiod withdrawal without
medical help or tapering down first is unbelievably
painful, dangerous and cruel...esp at your mom's age.
It's surprising to me that she can continually get Norco frm different doctors. Most people
have to sign a contract to only get those meds from that doctor. There is a government site online that all doctors have to look at before even prescribing that type of medication to make sure no one is getting this medication elsewhere.
Also a Urine drug test is mandatory every 3 or 6 months.
Hope this helps ...it is never easy....Hugs to you all and prayers
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This whole discussion has hit a nerve with me:

2 years ago we wouldn't even be DISCUSSING this. Until the government stepped in and said "Hey, here's a 'problem' we can screw up even more, let's make it night unto impossible for people to get opiates! Wow! We'll solve America's drug problem in one swoop of a pen! (Do you think your Congressman can't get a scrip for whatever the heck he wants/needs whenever?? C'mon, there's one law for them and one for us.)

2 of my kids are Drs. We've discussed this ad nauseum. They have stated over and over that this was the poorest thought out and implemented law ever (re: medical intervention). They say they CANNOT give their patients the quality of life they'd want to. They're routinely screened.

It has NOT helped teenage drug abuse. It has made "legit" pain sufferers miserable b/c they are literally counting their pills and cutting them in half or quarters to make them last the whole month. AND often times, in agonizing pain while doing this...all b/c our great gov't felt like this was something that would "work".

I've lost 2 friends to suicide b/c they could not get meds for their intractable chronic pain and just gave up. How is THAT helpful???

When I was going through pre-back surgery issues, I could barely walk...then I had to have a root canal that took 3 visits to "make right"....and so I was on 4 Norco...for a year or more. ONCE I got an "extra" scrip from the endodontist and next thing I know, I am getting a call from somebody at a gov't agency telling me I'm on a "watch list". WTH?????? For getting scrips from "multiple sources". (2)

Scared me to death. I cried and cried and believe you me, ending my life seemed preferable to the PAIN.

At your mom's age---criminy--are you going to put on her headstone "Clean & sober for 102 days!" No you are not.

She needs compassion. Maybe she has a problem, not my call. Just I cannot figure out how she can get enough to "abuse". Drs check your profile. Pharmacies are interchangeable with info---I doubt she has the capability to search the internet for the one or two Indian "pharmacies" that might or might not send you drugs.

Ok, off the soapbox.

And yes, I do know quite a few people who must take opioids to function each day. It's something NOBODY talks about. The shame is incredible.
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Kathrynseton Aug 28, 2018
As a chronic pain patient, I completely agree with you that the opioid epidemic has been blown way out of proportion. Less than 5 percent of long term opioid patients receiving a Rx for legitimate pain become addicted, but that is not the story being told. That said, there ARE still people who have a legitimate problem, and this elderly mother in question IS clearly one of those people. When opioids are interfering a person's ability to function rather than helping them function better, they are doctor shopping, etc, the meds are being taken for something OTHER than pain. Therefore this isn't the place to talk about the plight of pain patients. This woman is falLing, etc and likely will die an earlier death if it continues. She clearly isn't happy either. She is an addict. I would get her to an addiction specialist that prescribes suboxone. It will help her pain if she has it (as long as it isn't terribly severe), and she can't overdose. If she takes other opioids they will simply have no effect. She will be more lucid and will thus be safer and able to be more active. As she is elderly she will likely need to be hospitalized for the transition from her old meds, but I think in the end it could greatly improve her quality of life. If that isn't feasible than an addiction specialist may have other options. I might also consider taking her to a physical medicine and rehab dr to see about other options for managing her pain, such as spinal injections. They help my elderly MIL a lot and have reduced her need for opioids...always a good thing! But an addiction spec. is the kind of doctor she really needs. I would also advise the OP that she or another family member needs to be with Mom at every Dr appt to ensure all are on the same page. Best of luck...I will pray for you and your mom!
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