TK PATIENT PERSPECTIVES Her message to doctors is: Take the time to know your patients. Hear their stories. Be cautious about that first prescription for opioids. with what I knew. But I didn’t know anything.” Moving away from harm Ms. May moved to Toronto from Sault Ste. Marie in 1983, in part to get away from the substance abuse scene. She knew a lot of people who were users and sellers, and wanted no part of that. May was separated from her husband, and had two children (an 8-year-old son and 5-year-old Jac) and one on the way. She wanted to raise them in a better environment. After two-and-a-half years, the two older kids went back to live with their father. They didn’t adjust to city life. Ms. May stayed with her youngest son. She worked in interior design, and later became a legal assistant. For years, Ms. May suffered from pain in her neck and shoulder blades. She had some numbness on her right side and also shooting pains. She took Tylenol, and did lots of stretching and exercises. Nothing seemed to really work. When the pain was bad, her only relief came from laying down. Ms. May learned to live with it. In 1997, the pain became worse than ever. It was affecting her walking, her driving, everything. She was finally diagnosed with a degenerative disc disease. A new doctor put her on OxyContin. “I didn’t have a clue what opioids were. I was very in- nocent. I was told this would improve my quality of life.” On OxyContin, Ms. May experienced an odd sensa- tion. “It removed me from the pain. The pain was still 34 DIALOGUE ISSUE 3, 2017 there, but it’s like you’re above it. Then you realize, oh my god I still have a few hours before the next pill.” She started to take the pills more often than recom- mended. Ms. May noticed a drop in her cognitive abil- ity. At work she couldn’t remember instructions from one moment to the next. She also found herself getting angry, even with her boss. After six weeks, Ms. May stopped taking her prescrip- tion. “The pain (relief ) was fine but the rest of my life was messed up.” She went through withdrawal, with cramping, head- aches, sweats and irritability. When she went to her doctor, he told her that it was dangerous for her to have quit cold turkey. Ms. May had had enough of opioids. Yet when Jac started on OxyContin, Ms. May was pleased to see how effective it was for her. After the fall down to the basement, Jac told her mother that the OxyContin was great. And not only for her pain. Jac had dealt with social anxiety, and after going on OxyContin that got much better. “She said it was amazing. She was feeling good. I didn’t recognize the addictive properties. I just knew that it didn’t work for me. I was over the moon for her.” When Jac went to her doctor and explained how the OxyContin was helping her social anxiety, it raised alarm bells. The doctor said that wasn’t the purpose, and cut off Jac completely. Her next fall was far more dangerous.