I took oxycodone for over 10 years. I also took tramadol for several years. Both drugs are steeply wrapped in the headline-grabbing opioid epidemic our nation is in. I have a hereditary blood condition that can stress my liver. My hematologist swore me off of anything with Tylenol in it because of this. In order to honor the wishes of the hematologist, my neurologist prescribed oxycodone for migraine headaches. For over a decade, I took the drug as prescribed. Then, a few years ago I developed stenosis of the spine, arthritis, and a herniated disc. The doctor treating my back prescribed tramadol.

Sometime last year I went for a regular appointment and I was asked to pee in a cup. I was told because of the opioid epidemic, they were required to make sure I had the prescribed medicine in my system. If I didn’t, then it would be assumed I was either sharing or selling my medicine that was now in such high demand. I passed the test, but when the insurance company refused to pay it, the lab company sent me the bill for $300 dollars! I was informed as long as I took the prescribed medicine, I could expect additional random tests at my expense to prove I was taking it like I was told.

Here I am, a man in my late 50’s, with a 10-year history of being a model patient, wrapped up in an epidemic that requires me to see my doctor three times more frequently than what was previously required, and considers me guilty of misusing my medicine until I prove my innocence.

I still get migraines, and my back condition hasn’t changed, but earlier this year I stopped taking oxycodone and tramadol. They both provided me with relief, and I never felt any inclination to take one when I didn’t need it. But the current climate that exists for me to continue taking these drugs is unacceptable. I’ll be damn if I’m going to be treated this way!

Last week, my little dog “Grace” winced and squealed in pain trying to climb the stairs. I took her to the Vet and she was diagnosed with early onset arthritis causing hip pain and decreased mobility. The Vet prescribed tramadol, the same drug my back doctor prescribed for me. I had to show the pharmacy my license and sign forms proving I’m Grace’s owner and will administer the medicine as prescribed.

When I take her back, I wonder who they’ll ask to pee in the bottle, me or my dog?