19th June 2017

TRAMADOL – The Superman Matrix Pills

TRAMADOL - The Superman Matrix Pills

Day 2 – 11 | 25th April – 4th May

Where do I start with tramadol… it certainly took me on a rollercoaster ride that’s for sure! I was on this incredibly effective pain killer for just over a week but WOW… the side effects were certainly special!

Poor Ant

I have to start with Ant McPartlin because I was sad to hear of his recent struggles and I’m personally not at all surprised he got addicted to tramadol.  I was pretty hooked and I was only on it for 9 days. It was Richard Madeley, on his Radio 2 show, who was explaining the story of Ant’s addiction and that he was now going in to rehab.  Richard himself said that he took one tramadol once but didn’t like what it did to him so never took them again…

I really feel for Ant because having chronic knee pain is horrendous and for me these were the only drugs that touched the pain, but the side effects and addictive nature can obviously be a big price to pay.  I was fortunate that my pain wasn’t too bad and didn’t last for long so I was able to get off them before they did too much damage.

I was also on antibiotics at the same time so I couldn’t mix them with alcohol but I can’t imagine what that might have been like.  My mood swings were bad enough without booze…

Having an addiction to something that you need to get you through the pain must be so hard.  Weaning off them will be a massive challenge.  I wish Ant all the best in his rehabilitation.

Hello Norwich City Pills

Two days after my accident my tight bandage dressing was cut open and blood drain tubes were ripped out of my knee wounds (extremely unpleasant experience!).  The bandage was left open for some reason and the swelling that ensued over the next 4-6 hours was unbearable.  I was already dosed up on a concoction of morphine, codeine, paracetamol and ibuprofen but it was doing nothing for the pain!  I actually emergency buzzed a doctor in the early hours as it was like torture.  He was a young junior doctor and wasn’t sure what to do with me.  I begged for more pain relief and all they had left to offer me was tramadol…

Finally, I got my hands on the Norwich City (yellow and green) pills that a couple of the other guys on my ward had been raving about.  The doctor prescribed and the nurse administered and there was no word on the side effects so I thought nothing of it.  I knocked a couple back and the rollercoaster began…

Hallucination Heaven

Within 30 minutes of taking the tramadol the pain that had been unbearable for almost 6 hours was finally subsiding, thank God!

But I was not ready for what happened next…

STARS… SHOOTING STARS… COMING RIGHT AT MY FACE… like some sort of private firework display going off in my head.  It was incredible!

I have never experimented with recreational drugs and never hallucinated before in my life.  This was out of this world.  I loved it!  Although I think the fact the fireworks came with the secondary benefit of numbness was probably what I was more happy about.

The hallucinations lasted maybe 10 or 15 minutes and I was absolutely buzzing.  Then within an hour I felt tired, the drowsiness kicked in.  I hadn’t felt tired for the 48 hours since my surgery and I was desperate for a sleep after perhaps 1-2 hours spread sporadically over the last two days.

I laid there, feeling tired but restless and certainly couldn’t sleep.  I laid still, wide eyed, looking at the ceiling all night.

I didn’t realise this at the time but found out a week later that tramadol makes you drowsy but the impact it has on your brain makes it very difficult to sleep.

After the second or third hit of the NCFC pills the hallucinations shortened and then stopped.  This was then replaced by something very different which had a much deeper impact on my head…

Seeing the Matrix

At the peak of my intake (8 x 50mg per day) I was absolutely wired!  My brain was so alert there was no chance of me sleeping.  But I felt like I was seeing the world clearer than I ever had before…

I class myself as quite an intelligent human being but tramadol made me think and feel like I was the smartest man on the planet!

I felt like I was seeing things that I could never see before and that I had suddenly become ten times more confident and articulate (something I usually struggle with).

It felt incredible, I truly felt like I was super human, maybe I was ‘the one’…

At my craziest I actually told my wife and a few close friends that I could see the matrix!  I definitely couldn’t but it felt like everything was so obvious to me.

When I lectured my good school friend Caroline about seeing the matrix I’m not sure she knew what to do or say.  I’m pretty sure at this point my wife was gesturing/mouthing behind my back something along the lines of – he’s crazy!

I might have been crazy but there was no way anyone was going to convince me that I was…

Being Superman

With this perception of incredible brain power and seeing things so clearly I had the urge to do some good in the world.  I wanted to fix things and with this sudden confidence I wanted to get some things off my chest…

I went around (well sat around) telling people I was superman and was going to change things for the better.

First on the list was my parents…

I won’t go in to too much detail here but let’s just say that I told my dad exactly what I thought of him, but I may have gone a little too far!  I started a barrage of negative feelings from the current and distant past.  I took some of this out verbally directly at him and my mum but the full barrage came one night…

Around 4am, high on tramadol I thought it would be a good idea to compose a text message to my mum telling her exactly what I thought, of dad mainly…

This took over an hour and was certainly the longest text I have ever written in my life.  Perhaps a stupid and cowardly thing to do and I told my mum that she could talk to dad about it or just show him the text, which she later did.

It’s fair to say he wasn’t pleased but within a week we had patched things up and actually we can look back and laugh at it now!

Second was work…

It’s fair to say that I was a workaholic of sorts before my accident and this continued the first few days after it had happened…

I have quite a large team of 20 or so people that I lead and manage but a wider management stakeholder network of over 100.  Most of our work communication is done via email 24/7 and I receive anything from 100 to 300 emails per day.  This is unmanageable whilst at work but sitting in a hospital bed or at home bored out of my mind I threw myself even more in to my job despite being laid up and having a scrambled brain.

With the superman matrix effects going on I thought I knew it all and wanted to tell people.  A barrage of unfiltered email ensued for a few days, including at its worst directly to our CEO… Someone I get on well with on a personal level thanks in some part to our mutual love of cycling, but we don’t regularly engage at work.

I’m not going in to the detail about those emails but it’s safe to say that a more sane and stable me would not have even thought about writing them let alone sending them to anyone and everyone!

I am fortunate that I have a very good and protective manager and close friend at work who gave me a bit of a talking to because they knew I was not well at that point and wasn’t acting like my usual self.  They almost took my work email access away from me apparently!

I took heed of their kind advice, even though at that point I didn’t think I had done anything wrong…  From day 10 on I was off email, possibly saving my job in the process!

Mr Intense starts blogging

My brain was in overdrive, I kept telling people that it usually operates at 100mph and now it was operating at 1,000mph.  I was wired for over a week and my wife kept telling me to chill out which only wound me up more!  She kept saying why don’t you just watch some TV or read, that will make you tired.

Nothing was making me tired and the last thing I wanted to do was sit and watch TV or read.  Once I had dropped work I had to find something else to fill my time and that was BLOGGING!  Once I started this from about day 8 onwards I was a full time blogger… well there were days where I was writing, planning, thinking about blogging for more than 20 hours!

My good friend and amazing webmaster, Dave, took the brunt of this because as soon as I had started it quickly took over my life and I think I tried to make it take over his, sorry Dave!  He was amazing though and was able to quickly build me a really classy and professional website and BOTS – back on the saddle was born.

In that first intense week I wrote about ten blogs and somewhere near 20,000 words, most of which was fueled by tramadol induced all-nighters.

Mr Intense starts texting

For anyone that engaged in text with me from 25th April to mid May I’m sorry!

My tramadol brain was so intense I was possibly firing at something like 15-20 texts per minute at my peak and that is no joke!  And it was 24/7, non stop…

Other than Dave, my best mate and Hong Kong expat, Buzz, who has been high flying overseas for nearly three years, took the brunt of the texting.  It helped that he was my only friend awake at my craziest time of day 1-6am.

We have kept in touch quite well (once a month) but have both been busy with demanding jobs and bringing babies in to the world.  But Buzz was still my best friend and he was about to find out how much I loved him whether he liked it or not…

Buzz took a barrage of mostly sarcastic abuse every night for at least a week.  The most entertaining of which was definitely when he was being wined and dined by KPMG at the Ritz in Hong Kong for lunch.  We had both worked for Big 4 accountants and knew the deal with entertaining clients so I enjoyed being part of their conversation via Whatsapp as Buzz ordered a £40 burger and chips… gone are the days of burger and a pint for a fiver at Wetherspoons!  Well they are for Buzz, me not so much!

The Come Down – Anxiety & Panic Attack Alert!

I came off tramadol after 9 days and I remember telling a few friends that I was scared to stop taking them because I might lose my immense brain power…

The come down was beyond words.  It was possibly the hardest day of my life, fortunately it was only one day and after a sleeping pill induced six hour sleep I was relatively normal the next day.

I had the sweats like nothing I had ever known.  I’m a sweaty man but this was something else.  My clothes were drenched within minutes, it was disgusting.

Anxiety hit me really bad when my wife was due to go out for her choir, she was leaving me with two young boys and her dad.  I get on really well with my father in law but I was in absolutely no mood to talk to anyone and particularly not small talk with my head how it was.

I was hoping and praying that the boys were going to stay quiet because if my wife left me and her dad to look after them and they were screaming I’m not sure I would have coped.

The anxiety was immense and I locked myself away in the spare bedroom.  I didn’t want to see anyone or talk to anyone.

Eventually I decided that I wanted to talk to a mental health professional but after maybe an hour of scowling the internet for a charity I liked the look of I couldn’t find a phone number that was staffed in the evenings.  I was getting very tense.

My wife was leaving for choir and she reminded me that I needed to do my own DVT injection tonight because her mum was poorly.  I told her I couldn’t do it and that her mum had to come!  I even text her myself begging for her to come.  She wouldn’t.

I got the needle ready and thought I could do it (I had only done it once myself at this point).  I put it on the desk in front of me, it was looking at me funny…

Panic attack!  Full on panic attack I think…

I was stressing and screaming and going mad.  I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t stab myself in my tummy, it was awful.  I think I threw the needle on the floor and buried my head in my hands.

My poor wife eventually plucked up the courage to come in.  She was in tears.  She said she wasn’t going to choir.  She said it didn’t matter about the injection, we were going to fracture clinic the next day and they could do it then.  She eventually calmed me down.

She then convinced me to call Andy A, my good friend from work.  I was probably on the phone for an hour with him and I have no idea what we discussed but he sorted me out.  I was able to calm down and go to bed early.  It helped that I was going to bed with my wife for the first time for 11 nights and that I had some prescribed sleeping pills to try.

Only Class C!

When I finally got over my experience of tramadol (probably a week or so after stopping) I researched it in detail and was amazed to see that it was only a class C drug.  For me it was ten times more potent with infinitely more side effects than morphine which was class A.

When I started talking to people about tramadol, once I was off them, I had all sorts of comments and reactions.  The most common being – oh yeah, they sent my gran a bit mad!

Someone referred to them as a soft version of heroin and as strong as horse tranquilisers!

After the news came out this weekend about Ant McPartlin it sounds like the class is going to be reviewed and possibly upgraded to A.  For me there is no way that people should be using these drugs unsupervised at home…

An upgrade in restriction can’t come soon enough in Northern Ireland where tramadol is apparently the biggest cause of drugs related deaths according to this article earlier in the year:


What lessons have I learned

  1. During addiction and anxiety moments you need good family and friends around to support you.
  2. Talking helps! Tell people what is happening in your head, even just putting it in to words helps but usually people can either help to calm you or often come out with some brilliant, spontaneous advice.
  3. Self diagnosis doesn’t help! Don’t use google when you are not in a fit and healthy mental state.  Maybe ask someone else to look it up for you and they will probably talk you out of even looking.
  4. Medical experts should really give better advice on drug side effects
  5. I’m not superman and I can’t see the matrix!

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