Walford, E20 DF118*

I’ve told you all about my brush with dihydrocodeine addiction, and how withdrawal from the same led to the panic and agoraphobia, so when someone said to me, “I know you don’t watch soaps, but so-and-so in Eastenders is taking dihydrocodeine, and it looks like becoming a bit of a thing” my curiosity inevitably pricked.
I saw Monday’s episode, and didn’t think much of it. The character at the centre of it, Dr May Wright, (Albert Square’s current GP) is by all acounts a bit of a cow, and she periodically snarfed a couple of tablets from a prescription that she’d stolen. It seemed a bit excessive given that there’d been no previous evidence of her taking it, but that was it. At the end of Tuesday’s episode however, there was a scene where she was in her flat, pouring a glass of red wine. There was a bottle of tablets on the table, and she opened it and took some. After a vague pause, she tipped the bottle into her hand again, tapped out a few more tablets then took them. You don’t actually see how many tablets she took, but the meaning is clear – it’s more than a normal ‘dose’.
She swallows them dry, then takes a drink from the wine glass. The scene (and the episode) ends after a couple of minutes, so there’s no time to show the potential effects of taking an “over the recommended dose” amount of dihydrocodeine with red wine, but the attitude of the character is flippant, and at no time is any impression given that she has technically overdosed. The perception is that she is taking them for the sheer hell of it, and she doesn’t appear to have any qualms about it at all.
Of course, given my history, I’m bound to feel a little ‘icky’ about this. Maybe it was inevitable that I’d think the programme makers irresponsible. Maybe I worry that people will think chugging back several dihydrocodeine with wine is okay, and maybe that’s overreacting a bit. Maybe the next episode will show her in a dazed and confused state with a raging headache and massive regrets – although ‘spoiler’ websites don’t seem to indicate that will be the case. I don’t know, though. I still worry that what happened to me could happen to someone else. I know how easy it is to get addicted to opiate analgesics, and I sure as hell know the nightmare of recovering from that addiction.
Honestly, I know it’s only telly, I know the programme makers need to have a little dramatic licence to make a storyline work, and in this case, the drama is exacerbated by the suddenness of its onset. I’ve heard that programme makers ‘speed up’ the natural progression of events to keep the audience’s interest – but isn’t it a little bit stupid to name the drug then treat its use with such disdain?
Of course, the story hasn’t reached its conclusion yet. I’ll keep watching to see what happens, but I’ll bet anything she doesn’t have that hangover.
*E20 is the fictional postcode used in Eastenders, DF118 is another name for dihydrocodeine.
edit, 11th May:
Well, of course she didn’t have a hangover. The first scene she’s in, she’s doing an early morning house call and looks as fresh as a daisy. Bah.

How it hasn’t been a strain

One of the symptoms of quitting Venlafaxine/Effexor has been that my bowels have discovered regularity.
I’ve always verged on the constipated side, even before panic and anxiety took over my existence. I remember feeling awe when I found out people usually poo every day, not once a week. I remember thinking that pooing every other day was almost diarrhoea, and I guess on the occasions I did get ‘proper’ diarrhoea my ‘normal’ regularity made it a worse experience than most peoples.
The constipation hit its worst levels when I became hooked on dihydrocodeine. Codeine is a very constipating drug, and well, I was taking a hell of a lot more than I was supposed to. I remember trying to tackle this problem once by drinking insatiable amounts of water, and eating nothing but fruit and prunes all day. My bowels said, “sod this for a lark” and promptly clamped down, leaving me in a crumpled cramped mess for the next few days.
When I discovered anxiety and panic, my bowels discovered IBS. It happened quite quickly – I quit the dihydrocodeine (this is deja vu) cold turkey (because my doctor suggested to) and went through a few weeks of hell while my body craved and shrieked at me for its fix. At first, the cramps were unbearable. I remember sending my husband out to the chemist to get me a hot water bottle, which I applied to my stomach until it scalded. My bowels finally settled down into a new, sans-codeine routine. Well, I say routine. Over the last four years, I can see that it was a routine. And, if you count several weeks of constipation and a week of diarrhoea as routine, then it was one.
So, you can sympathise with my poor gut when you learn that for the last ten days (from when I started doing the every-other-day thing) I have had Regularity. It feels cleansing, in a colonoscopic way. The thing I want to know is this.
Do you count ‘every ten minutes’ as Regular?


So, week three of “Ginger-Absence” begins.
This whole situation is really getting us both down. Ginger hates the job, and I of course, am feeling lonely and bored.
At the end of the day, it is work, and we are grinning and bearing it while he looks for something better.
In other news, my right shoulder has gone into spasm, and I am in absolute and total agony. I am, however, stoned on painkillers and do not give a shit. I also have these groovy muscle relaxant tablets, which help. It does this every now and again. It’s either my right shoulder, my neck, or both. Imagine getting a charley horse that lasts for several days. Well, that’s what this feels like.
The meds make me feel all druggy and wired, and the pain on it’s own is horrible. The most annoying thing is that I can hardly move, so all the things I’d planned to do to keep myself occupied while Ginger was away have been put on one side in favour of watching Biography Channel and Big Brother’s interactive feed.
Oh, and who made my head weigh forty six tonnes in the night???


I can’t decide whether this is a rant, or just general observations. We’ll see how it goes.
I have noticed that my agora increases significantly the less I go out. Saturday was proof of that. Ginger suggested a walk, and I turned him down. I can’t be bothered. I’m scared that I will have a panic attack as big as the last one, and I can feel myself getting more and more afraid.
I see my therapist tomorrow. M is lovely, she understands me and doesn’t judge, the way others have. M is willing to help me deal with whatever is pissing me off at the time. I like this. We have a plan. I have decided to write down about my childhood, (people don’t seem to ‘get’ how important my Grandma was in my life) from the start, and continue chronologically until I deal with my demons. This has really been in fits and starts, because the last time I saw her, I ranted about Ginger a bit, and the whole redundancy thing. I gave her my “Chapter 2” to read in the meantime, so I guess we’ll be discussing that this time.
I want to go back and see my GP. I am unhappy with my meds (venlafaxine and diazepam) because the venlafaxine is not doing anything, (I tried a higher dose last year, and didn’t notice any effect except when I reduced the dose again, and felt violently sick all the time) and the diazepam is not doing what I want tit to do. This makes me sound like a proper druggie, but diazepam works slowly and stays in your system longer. If I have a PA and take say, 5mg of diazepam, I still have the panic and all it’s freaky glory, then later I feel zonked, and invariably sleep. I want something that will work quickly, and get out of my system quicker. Ie alprazolam – Xanax. I asked for Xanax by name once, and was told that it had been banned here in the UK. I have searched and searched, and cannot find any evidence to support this. Aside from anything, someone once told me that they had been on Xanax for ages, without any problems. I guess it depends on your doctor, but I HATE being lied to. Actually, on the off chance that anyone reading knows of any evidence to support alprazolam/Xanax being banned in the UK, please e-mail me.
GP’s are so anti-benzo. Yes, I can appreciate their concerns over addiction etc. but surely they can see that these meds can help people like me with severe Anxiety Disorders? Today is a public holiday, so I will call in the morning to see if I can get in. Don’t even get me started on the new appointments system…