Behind ‘White Pain’

White Pain

White pain is made from the pill packaging that remains after one man’s lifetime of taking painkillers. It starts with the medications he took as a child, paracetamol for earache, toothache and sore throats. When he was twelve he got mumps and needed several days of analgesia for pain in his swollen face. As he grows into early adulthood he takes occasional aspirin, paracetamol or ibuprofen after footballing injuries and for hangovers. He falls off his bike and breaks an arm so needs to take eight paracetamol a day for two weeks the pain is so bad.

In his thirties he has very little trouble, just occasional headaches and one bout of tonsillitis. However, in his forties he needs many more pills as he starts to suffer from recurrent low back pain. For two or three weeks at a time he needs large numbers of both paracetamol and ibuprofen taking up to eleven tablets a day. In the UK back pain is the most common cause of time off work.

After several months of particularly bad pain he suffers from depression and is teated with seroxat. Chronic pain can make you depressed but also when you are feeling depressed it is harder to tolerate pain.

As he moves into his sixth decade he has a painful bout of shingles. The rash lasts for three weeks and is very painful so treated with coproxamol. After this he continues to have pain in the nerve that was affected by the shingles. This is called post herpetic neuralgia and it lasts for six months. The pain of neuralgia does not respond to ordinary pain killers. Instead he tries gabapentine for a month but is more successfully treated with amitryptyline, taking one tablet a day for six months until the pain naturally subsides.

White Pain detail

From sixty-five he starts to get the beginning of arthritis in his hands and knees. Slowly he takes more and more analgesia such as co-codamol and kapake until eventually in his mid seventies he needs to take four or more tablets every single day.

After his wife dies unexpectedly at sixty-nine he suffers from a second bout of depression, treated with the anti-depressant efexor.

He is diagnosed with cancer of the prostate when he is 78. At the time of diagnosis the cancer has spread to his bones and these secondary deposits are very painful. Initially he takes the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac for this bone pain but with treatment for the cancer the pain subsides. It returns later as the cancer spreads and in the last year of his life he takes both diclofenac and the strong opiate drug tramadol. Finally in the last three days of his life when he can no-longer take tablets by mouth he is given diamorphine (heroin) as a continuous infusion under the skin to keep him pain free and comfortable until he dies.

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