OK, fair warning - this is a bit of a rant.
You know, I've never been a big fan of the so-called "War on Drugs." It's just always seemed a tad bit absurd to me that you can walk into a store and buy an assault weapon - the only purpose of which is to kill a lot of people really quickly. But you can't buy marijuana, because you might hurt yourself with it. (Except that you soon will be able to buy dope here in Colorado - hooray for my state! But that's another story.)
Somehow I always thought that it was my government's job to protect me from other people, not from myself, and that people do bear some modicum of responsibility for what they choose to do to their own bodies. Oh silly me...
I just think that criminalizing the substances does very little to keep them out of the hands of people who want them, and in many cases fear of prosecution delays or prevents people from seeking the help that they need to overcome these sorts of problems.
It just seems that by in large the "war" against these drugs does much more harm to the general population - especially to innocent bystanders - than the drugs themselves do. But never has this "war on drugs" hit home like it did over the past few weeks.
You see... cats can't tolerate most painkillers. In fact, the only ones that they can really handle are opiates, more commonly referred to as narcotics.
So here I have poor little Sputnik with his bladder tumor. Now it's unclear how much actual pain he is in, but he's clearly experiencing irritation when he urinates, and the painkillers help to keep him from getting into a cycle of urination-irritation-urination until he's straining to pee and further complicating the whole situation.
Anyhow, the pain killer of choice for cats is something called buprenorphine. It's basically synthetic morphine, and it's delivered in a liquid form that is absorbed through the skin inside the mouth. Coincidentally, humans can use this very same liquid intravenously, and hence, it is a controlled substance, and REALLY expensive.
The cost really didn't bother me, because I have pet insurance which is paying for 80% of the cost of his care - but getting the prescription filled was a complete and total nightmare! Seriously, I could only get a few day's worth at a time and every time I'd call the vet to refill it, there was a major problem. Either they didn't have any in stock, or it was on the way but not there yet, yadda, yadda, yadda.
I was starting to understand the panic that an addict must go through when they're not sure where their next fix is coming from! So since it's looking like this is gonna be more of a "long term" situation (ever hopeful - we really have no idea how long his "term" may be - but since he hasn't worsened appreciably over the past month or two there is room for optimism.) Anyhow, it seemed like we should try to find a better alternative for pain relief.
Soooo, we attempted one of the few other choices out there - another opiate called Tramadol. For reasons that are unclear to me, this drug is not a controlled substance, hence it's cheap and (more importantly) easy to get. Suffice it to say, the experiment did NOT go well. Apparently Tramadol can cause "dysphoria" in cats - all I can say is that the drug would be more aptly named.... "Trauma"-dol!
Seriously, we tried for 2 days, and by the end of it, I had to isolate poor Sputty to one cement floored room in the basement with 4 litter boxes - where he basically ran around in a drug induced panic peeing constantly for about 24 hours.
IT. WAS. HORRIBLE.
After that little adventure, I called the vet back and basically pleaded with him to find a way to make the buprenorphine more available. Turned out all they had to do was fill out some extra paperwork and tomorrow I get to go pick up a 3 week supply. Thank Fucking God!
Plus, he's back on his amitriptyline (an anti-depressant which had to be discontinued during this little experiment because it doesn't play nice with Tramadol) and he's doing much, MUCH better.
It all just makes me sad and angry. I mean really... why should my poor little cat have to suffer just to try to prevent some junkie from getting his hands on this medicine - which, BTW is generally only used as a method to get OFF of heroine or other more problematic drugs?!?!
And don't EVEN get me started on the countless other victims of this ridiculous "war." There are the obvious ones, like the people caught in the crossfire of gang violence (which is fueled by illegal drug trafficking).
But then there are the less obvious ones like my friend who was very nearly infected with hepatitis by some hospital intern who was stealing drugs to fuel her habit because that was the only way to get them.
Or another friend whose brother was in hospice care dying of AIDS - he was near the end, so my friend brought him some marijuana brownies, and suddenly his brother started doing much better... at least until the nurse found out about it and threatened to press charges against my friend. He stopped bringing the brownies and his brother went sharply downhill and died within a few days. Because, you know, it would be terrible if a terminally ill patient actually got some pleasure in his dying days.
I guess that's the part that really gets to me... the whole idea that somehow this "war on drugs" is some sort of a moral crusade. Apparently in the eyes of this crazy society, preventing a consenting adult from getting an unauthorized high is a cause so noble, moral and important that it's worth incarcerating a significant percentage of our population, or turning our streets into virtual war zones, or creating currency to fuel gang violence, or perpetuating virtual civil war in Mexico & Central America, or making it ridiculously difficult for people with a legitimate need for certain drugs to actually get them!
OK... rant over. Seriously though, I'd love to hear what your thoughts are on this whole topic.