Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Morphine - Kind of a Disappointment

You can imagine how excited I was as the nurse held up the full syringe of morphine, doing the little tap-tap on the tip to produce that dribble from the needle, preparing to inject the whole, sweet draught directly into my feverish bloodstream.

Yes, the part of me that was still thinking clearly had only one word in mind: awesome.

The backstory is that I've been suffering from a gradually worsening case of tonsillitis. I had started a course of penicillin, but the doc was afraid the bug was too nasty and switched me to a more powerful antibiotic called Augmentin. But the drug didn't help. I had fever, chronic headache, fatigue, dizziness whenever I stood, a hacking cough and a killer sore throat. To say nothing of the tongue thrush, sour stomach, the shakes, and diarrhea with the consistency of chocolate in those kit kat commercials where they show how they make the kit kat.

I was in bad shape. I was rapidly using up my sick days, and the antibiotics weren't working. Last saturday night, the fever and headache got so bad that I thought I might as well go to the emergency room before I was no longer capable of doing so.

One very reassuring thing about the emergency room is that you can immediately see 5 other people that are worse off than you. "Well at least I'm not that guy." you can say to yourself. I found myself, after a bit of a wait, on a gurney on one of the main thoroughfares of the hospital. The doctor would see me shortly. I immediately conked out into a semi-stupor. When the doctor arrived and I had given him a rasping version of the story, he said he was going to stabilize me with an enormous IV dose of antibiotics, and a shot of morphine for the pain.

And now, readers, is when I perked up. Morphine. Not advil. Not Bufferin. Not even codine, which a doctor in England had given me once. Morphine. The real shit. The most powerful pain killing opiate ever devised by man and science. A narcotic with unrivaled potency. And when I say there was a full syringe of it, I'm talking about a fat, old-time syringe.

I'd never been high before. Tried pot a few times but never felt much. Booze just makes me sleepy. I was ready for a trip. An experience. As the nurse prepped my IV there in the corridor, I envisioned a white stallion trotting up alongside my gurney. He would whinny and snort and motion for me to get on. Feeling nothing but euphoria, I would climb on his strong back, gripping his mane in my fingers - and he would take off at a gallop, down the long, long hallway. Together we'd ride, right out of the hospital, and up into the sky, up up and away, the wind in my face - my hospital gown flapping freely in the rear - and we'd take to the clouds, never looking back.

That, at least, was the plan. Though in a lot of pain and with a sickening fever, I still had a giddy optimism about me as the nurse now was ready to apply the morphine shot to the newly inserted IV. This was it. I had my passport. I was ready to trip. As the morphine entered my body I waited calmly for the first few bars of Jimi Hendrix playing the national anthem. I figured that's how it would start. Then... a warming sensation in the belly. Here we go.... I waited....

And nothing. Zip. Nada. The "morphine", if that's really what it was, very quickly took the edge off the headache and the sore throat. Not "killed" the sore throat and headache. No. It just took the edge off. So I still had a bit of a sore throat and a headache. After a friggin SHOT OF MORPHINE. And the trip? Where was the trip? I was sober, man. I could have struck up a conversation about the flagging Las Vegas housing market. I had no buzz.

Morphine! Morphine for God's sakes! Isn't this what they give soldiers on the battlefield when they've had a leg blown off? Wasn't there that scene in Saving Private Ryan when the one dude (the medic) has had his stomach blown open and he's dying, and they jab him with a morphine dose? Remember that scene? That was just a tiny dose of morphine, and the guy instantly goes passive. I had a huge syringe of morphine! And I had no mood altering experience, and I still had a headache! How's that for luck!

Well, the fever's down now. It's a few days later. The tonsils are feeling better. The sore throat is gone. Still a little feverish. Still fatigued. But on the mend. What have I learned from this experience? I've learned that morphine just isn't all that great. It's essentially no different than tylenol PM. Unless the hospital was pulling some placebo shit with me and didn't actually give me the real thing. Which maybe is possible. I'll have to look at the bill.


Chris said...

Although it was IV, and it was a seemingly large amount of morphine, it probably was not so. The amount of liquid generally remains the same, but the concentration of the drug in the liquid changes.

The reason you hardly felt anything is he gave you a small (2mg probably) dose to see how you handled the drug. Seeing as your pain was taken care of, they didn't up the dose to a level to make you truly "comfortable." In someone who isn't tolerant to opioids, that would be about 10mg IV. The warmth was only a little taste.

Also, morphine is much weaker than some of the other opioids, such as methadone, fentanyl, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, heroin, etc. Although it is the strongest naturally occurring pain killer, 14-Methoxymetopon is the strongest created. It is 2000 times more potent than morphine if given systemically, and 1,000,000 times more potent if given directly into the spine.

Rowsdower said...

So it was watered down bar-morphine huh? Makes sense.

This happened almost a year ago now. Want an update? Guess what - it was mono the whole time. I had mono. And 3 different doctors misdiagnosed it. They all said it was a bacterial infection and put me on progressively stronger forms of antibiotics. The antibiotics had my digestive system at Defcon 1 at all times, and all that on top of the mono, which is no fun time even without the mis-prescribed drugs.

It was really no fun. And I never would have even gotten a mono test if I hadn't insisted on it after the ER visit.

And do doctors ever apologize for making the wrong call? Do they offer to pick up the tab on the Augmentin, which I didn't need? Nope.