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Feeling fatigued and run-down. Constant aches, restlessness and back pain. Could it be because you TAKE TOO MANY PAIN PILLS?

Impossible, you say. I only took four today -- no different from my normal routine. In any case, I am not a drug addict. I only take what my doctor has prescribed. The pills really don't do much -- two of them are just like swallowing a couple of jelly beans. I have been taking them for years. Am I constipated, you ask? Certainly not, since I had a good bowel movement in 2003. In any case, if I get a bit distended and crampy in the stomach, I just take an extra one and the symptoms go away.

I have never smoked a cigarette, and barely a drink of alcohol in my life. In fact, I almost never needed medical care until after my back operation a few years ago when my doctor started giving me narcotic pain medication.

But nowadays the pills don't work. I hurt all the time -- especially around mid-afternoon before my next-to last pain pill, when I struggle out of a chair to walk to the mailbox and get my disability check. It's not an easy task since I have gained 50 pounds over the last few years I have been on the pills. Frankly, I don't get much exercise. I am so tired these days. It is a relief to make it back to the chair where I can doze in front of the television after taking my afternoon pill. Drug addicts can't control how much they take, but I am always careful to take my medication right on schedule. It's a good thing I get plenty of sleep in the afternoon since I don't always rest well at night -- fitful and sometimes waking up confused and gasping for air. My memory isn't what it used to be. I suppose I have become a bit depressed.

I am a tough person. I don't complain. I have a very high tolerance for pain, but I am always suffering -- especially if I am late getting my medicine. My doctor has prescribed the very strongest pills, but they barely seem to work any more. My children never visit, and I get few phone calls or visits. Truthfully there are days when I wonder why I am alive at all. But perhaps I am one of the lucky ones -- almost 20 thousand Americans die each year overdosing on prescription opiates like Oxycodone and Methadone.

Thank goodness I have such a good doctor. Life would hardly be worth living without one.

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