USA TODAY NETWORK – TENNESSEE
Editor’s note: This story discusses suicidal thoughts and depression. If you or a loved one are at risk, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is at 1-800-273-8255.
For 20 years, Leslie Kirby relied on opioids to manage pain caused by her six autoimmune diseases. Each month, she swallowed 120 pain pills, downed muscle relaxers, and relied on lidocaine patches to ease the pain that plagued her.
But even with her crowded medicine cabinet, her pain was difficult to manage. She’d wake up daily in tears as soon as she became conscious, the pain a constant presence.
“I was on the brink of for real losing it,” she said. “I was just in so much pain.”
The pills barely relieved her agony, and she lived in a fog caused by the drugs. Her memory became so poor that her family feared she was developing early-onset dementia, following in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother who had the disease.
The idea of pain-free living consumed her, so the 48-year-old retired hairstylist began to research alternatives in hopes of finding something — anything — that could restore her life, from marijuana to ayahuasca. While watching Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia on VICE, she discovered ketamine.
Ketamine, commonly used in operating rooms as an anesthetic for humans and animals, became a controlled substance in 1999 amid a rise in its abuse of it. But research shows that the reformed party drug can help with some chronic or treatment-resistant conditions, from pain to depression to opioid dependency.
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