This is a brief account of my opiates induced hallucination history . Does anyone out their also hallucinate on opiate analgesics?
Sailor Doesn’t do Opiates
‘That person is talking too quickly’ were my thoughts as I sat behind myself on the stage of a theatre at which I was delivering an important conference address. It wasn’t frightening but rather interesting. I don’t remember how I got back inside myself, but I did. Nor do I have any memory of the amount of time I was watching myself. But it was interesting - how many times do we see the back of ourselves?
Yes I was hallucinating; I was having an out of body experience, a known side effect of the opioid drug Digesic.
The previous weekend, I had broken up and shifted a concrete driveway - done my back in. The work doctor knowing this paper and presentation were important had put me on a cocktail of drugs to enable me to get there. I had to take the interstate rail sleeper, so I could lie down for most of the travel - flying was verboten. In those days we still had interstate rail sleepers!
My next experience was my first round of cancer treatment - a morphine pump. When pain came - push the button and morphine was delivered. I was looking forward to the pink elephants! Shortly after coming out of theatre I had to have a CT scan, to check that the hardware they put into me was in the right place. Off the bed, onto the trolley, no back support, it was only for a short time, up in the lift, and then shunted into a waiting area with curtain drawn around me. An emergency patient needed a CT ahead of me. Fair enough, but they didn’t plug the morphine machine in and its battery was flat! After thirty minutes I was screaming. Eventually someone responded - one of the radiation therapists - who just said quietly “Sailor you are in a bad way”, then returned with five other people and a sheet and did a blanket lift from trolley onto a bed with proper back support - critical if the hardware in you is long and thin. The morphine machine was plugged in and I hit the button and I hit the button, and I hit the button. Eventually the pain blurred into nothingness and then the hallucination started.
A purple landscape, like something out of the Wild West - mesas and buttes in the middle distance. Men-like cactus, or cactus-like men, populating the arid plain. On the horizon, or where there should have been an horizon, roiling black clouds, rolling across the landscape towards me. A sense of total despair. It was something I never want to see again.
Days later I told this to a friend who suffers chronic unimaginable pain and who has been on morphine for years. He burst into tears. He had experienced the same vision and thought he was going mad.
Then came the chronic pain when the cancer recurred. My GP put me on the maximum dose of Tramal for the weekend and ordered a CT scan. I reacted badly to Tramal, throwing up constantly. I can remember sitting in the waiting room at the radiologist’s - crowded waiting room - trying to swallow contrast solution with a bucket into which the contrast bounced via my gut. I must have swallowed enough of the stuff, or they gave me different stuff intravenously - I don’t remember the intravenous stuff that leaves you feeling as if you have wet yourself. But I ended up on the table of the machine - the technicians left the room. Then as the table slid me into the tunnel there was a person holding my hand - they held my hand all through the procedure, back and forth in and out of the tunnel. It was comforting!
Two years and several procedures again I was being prepped for theatre in yet another hospital - I’ve been in five or six so far. Due for theatre at 5 pm, eventually make it into theatre at eleven. In the early hours of the morning, recovering from the anaesthetic, groggy with pain and whatever I was given to ease the pain, there it was. Someone was gently patting or rubbing my foot and ankle. Not scary, but reassuring - you are going to be OK. Interesting hallucination! I told the nurses about it in the morning and for the next could of days whenever they passed they would pat my ankle - that was nice.
So Sailor doesn’t do opiates.
What will happen when the time comes that I really need pain relief? I don’t know and I’m not looking forward to it.
We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now. Martin Luther King Jr
Cancer Council NSW would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work.We would also like to pay respect to elders past and present and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal people.