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“That drug is [expletive],” muttered my usually genteel personal doctor this morning, as he wrote me a new prescription for the opioid narcotic Tussionex to ease the hacking cough that has wreaked havoc in my lungs and life for the last week. I had explained my confusion of that name for the non-narcotic Tessalon the Med Check nurse practitioner had prescribed five days before. My diagnosis was a bronchial virus and only its symptoms are treatable. That Saturday morning, desperate for more cough relief and sleep than provided by over-the-counter Mucinex, I had suggested Tussionex to the NP. I recalled the great effect that a drug close to that name had had on my cough symptoms several years ago. She wrote me up for Tessalon and suggested I keep dosing with Mucinex and add cough drops to my regimen. This morning, seven days, four bottles of cough syrup, and a hundred cough drops later, I dosed myself with Tussionex. I slept for four blissful hours. I awoke wanting answers.
Just after midnight, two days ago, I was wrenched from sleep to cough. Awaking to that violent urge, I could not at first even inhale enough air to cough! This was out of control. I dressed and drove to the ER. I was prodded and X-rayed and the physician assistant said there was nothing more they could do. Keep taking the Tessalon, Mucinex, and cough drops. Add in an Albuterol inhaler. Drink lots of fluids. The attending nurse mentioned Tessalon’s cough suppressant effects were hit-or-miss in her experience. I replied that I thought I had taken something called Tussionex before. She did not reply. She did not say that might be just what I needed.
Rising a few minutes ago from my hours-long nap, I searched and found that my delayed relief was likely due to a 2014 drug reclassification that made Tussionex and other hydrocodone-containing drugs more difficult to prescribe. Perhaps difficult even to mention.
In August 2014, the DEA reclassified hydrocodone up to a Schedule II drug from a Schedule III. Hydrocodone-combination drugs are one of the most prescribed drug categories – a wonder drug for pain management. However, citing increasing drug abuse and poisoning with such drugs, the DEA changed its classification. Briefly aside, it is a bit ironic that marijuana, a Schedule Class I drug most places, has been prescribed to treat pain, and is now off the Schedule and legal in several states for casual, non-medicinal use.
“Drug overdoses caused more deaths in 2011 than traffic fatalities,” parroted Forbes and other publications in 2014, while also pausing to consider hydrocodone’s positive benefits. Good copy that, and a great storyline, DEA. It was based on a CDC comparison study showing 20 years of steadily declining traffic deaths and rising fatal poisonings. Yet, a recent CDC finding indicates death due to opioids to be a smallish portion of drug poisonings overall.
A side-effect of Tussionex is drowsiness, and I feel like a nap. I have coughed only five times in the three hours it took to research and write this. Without Tussionex, I would have been coughing continuously for that time, could not have written anything, and would be ruing life in general.
I want to thank my doctor for his personal care despite his now higher profile within the DEA. I’m looking forward to accessing and reading Professor Stephen Ziegler’s oft-cited scholarly article, “Pain and the Politics of Hydrocodone.” Thanks to Tussionex for helping me write this. A caring friend wondered if there might be a homeopathic cure I could have sought. Hmm, Cannabis oil can cure cancer … There’s internet hits on cough benefits … Who knows if hydrocodone will even be available next time? Who knows how much longer general practitioners will be able to personally care for their patients?
Recommendation: Best cough drops? Fishermen’s Friend, by far.
Get your flu shot (it’s an untreatable virus, too)!