Broken arm leads to narcotics decision

So I went and broke my arm.

During my Fair Week vacation, I worked on all kinds of home projects, using an ax, hack saw, reciprocating saw, circular saw, planer, messing with electricity — none of these were the culprit. Instead, my trick ankle got me. Sprained many times during youthful basketball games and hiking trips and stupid playground stunts, it gives out every couple of years and I take a stumble.

This time, it sent me sprawling down the three steps to my back patio. I reached out with my left arm, felt a crunch, rolled, and landed on my back. A big hip bruise and knee gash were nothing next to the pain from my elbow.

X-rays later showed a broken radius near the elbow. The doctors wrapped the arm in a splint, slipped it into a sling, and prescribed the narcotic hydrocodone.

And here is where I was hit with a dilemma both personal and professional. I’ve been writing the past three years about legal painkillers and their relationship with addiction, a key element in Lorain County’s opioid overdose crisis. Over and over I’ve heard coroner Stephen Evans’ voice grow exasperated as he explains how dangerous the medicine cabinet can be; he’s told me a dozen times that prescription painkillers are “heroin in pill form” that lead down a dark path.

So, with broken arm throbbing, I had a choice to make.

I did not turn down the hydrocodone (that’s usually called Vicodin, by the way) but promised my wife that we would limit the number of pills I’d be allowed to use. Over three days, I meted out four of the painkillers, phasing them out in favor of the much more pedestrian acetaminophen. The over-the-counter solution was enough by then.

I can see the appeal of the harder stuff, though. The hydrocodone felt good. It made me warm and led to peaceful sleep. It didn’t induce any stereotypical high — there were no kaleidoscopic colors, no trippy time skips, no increased sensory awareness. It just made everything feel… better.

When most people think of drug use, they imagine mind-altering, perception-bending, tie-dyed experiences. The real danger, I think, is in the slow seduction of just feeling better. Of being relaxed. Of letting go of worries.

That’s what “heroin in pill form” gives.

My remaining hydrocodone is going away — you can turn it in at police stations countywide — but my arm won’t heal for quite some time.

That’s making the news much harder. I’ve been reduced to one-handed typing, which is both slow and exhausting. Just hammering out this column has taken an infuriating amount of effort.

They say mending a broken bone is a four-to-six-week affair. Wish me luck — the next x-rays are very soon and a good prognosis and physical therapy could get me back to full speed by Halloween, I hope.

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Jason Hawk Editor Hawk Editor