I am 58 years old and was diagnosed with osteoarthritis at age 24. Within the past 15 years I have developed fibromyalgia, tendonitis (in 3 areas) knee problems (needing surgical repair - not replacement) and MANY other ailments too numerous to mention. I have been under the care of a rheumatologist for these problems since 1999. The pain increased to the point where I had to quit my job. After trying many other pain relievers, we found that Vicodin is the ONLY medication that relieves my pain. I usually have to take 3 pills a day just to be able to function without severe and almost unbearable pain.
Due to an extremely sensitive stomach, I cannot take anything with aspirin. As I am sure you know, most doctors are afraid to give Vicodin for long periods due to the addictive potential of this drug. As I said, I have been taking this medication since 1999. There are days I take the 3 pills; many days I don't take any pills and there are the rare times, due to EXTREME pain, I take a maximum of 6 Vicodin a day - 2 pills 3 times a day. Seldom does that occur. I also take Flexeril, 10mg. one to two times a day.
My husband is a Board Certified Psychiatrist and he knows how most doctors feel about managing pain with medication. We have been married 36 years and he knows I am not an addictive personality. He agrees the Vicodin use is fine since it removes my pain. I take 5.5 mg sometimes and 7.5 mgs other times when the pain is so bad I just want to go to bed.
I have recently discussed the use of Lyrica for my fibromyalgia pain with my rheumatologist. He feels since the Vicodin has been working for my pain for over 10 years, he doesn't see the point of starting a new medication with potential side affects. It is very frustrating to me, but I have had to change medications many times with my rheumatologist since I got at least one of two of the side effects of different medications for fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. I am also allergic to cortisone injections. The only side effect I get from Vicodin, as with any prescription pain medication, is constipation, which is easily managed. I often get side effects with other medications for different ailments, so I must be vigilant about the medicines I take.
However, my internist, whom I have just started with 10 months ago, has told me she thinks I should start taking either Lyrica or Cymbalta. She is not a great proponent of pain medication. So I am a bit confused as how to proceed with my treatment.
I show no signs of depression and my husband agrees with my rheumatologist that the Vicodin should be continued since it has shown to work all the time. Since my husband has been a psychiatrist for over 40 years, I think he is an expert in determining if someone is depressed. He does not think Cymbalta would be appropriate for me since its primary use is for depression, with secondary help for fibromyalgia.
Three of my girlfriends have gained weight while on Lyrica and have had other side effects too. Since I am already overweight, I am afraid to try this medication. I am not saying this medication isn't effective for many patients. I guess I am just a believer in the old adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." So if Vicodin is working, why change the meds?
MY 2 QUESTIONS: Do you have any scientific data, reference or resource material on the subject of long term use of Vicodin and how it might affect other organs? I do have blood work done every 3 months to check liver function, but is there anything else that the doctors should be looking for with the use of Vicodin on a daily basis?
I look forward to your response.