A WOMAN who started taking painkillers for a bad back lost her job and saw friendship wane after becoming 'flat out on a cocktail of drugs'.

Mother-of-two Janet Honour, from Bishop Auckland, worked as a headteacher's PA when her GP prescribed ibuprofen and paracetamol for back pain.

The pain became so excruciating she could not walk and she later discovered the fluid had disappeared between some of the discs in her back.

The dosage and strength of her medication increased and over time she took Tramadol, Gabapentin, Pregabalin, Amitriptyline and Morphine.

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She said: "I would hallucinate and have such vivid nightmares that I would wake up screaming. It was so severe my husband thought there must have been a burglar in our room.

"I would sleep for 14 hours, and not get up until midday. I couldn’t ‘get going’ I just felt exhausted and couldn’t keep my eyes open. I was utterly sluggish.

"I was completely devastated, but not surprised when I eventually lost my job. I had simply taken too much sick leave and when I was there, I wasn’t even functioning to 50 per cent of my capability.

"I was in a mental fog, wading through treacle. In a PA role it’s essential you’re completely on the ball and capable of spinning lots of plates simultaneously. I simply couldn’t cope.

"The amount of pain medication I was taking meant drinking alcohol was a no-no. I found in social situations lots of people pressuring me to have a drink, and again it just got too much. So, I stopped going out. It was easier to stay in.

"At this point many of my friends fell by the wayside. I found myself spiralling into depression and would become increasingly anxious at the thought of leaving the house, needing someone with me much of the time.

"I didn’t recognise this person anymore. I was sad and I was lonely."

Mrs Honour underwent lots of treatment including facet joint injections, radio frequency lesioning and a hysterectomy but the pain continued.

In 2016, when her husband had lifesaving heart surgery, Mrs Honour realised things needed to change and the couple went on a meditation course.

Working with her GP, she gradually reduced her medication.

She said: "I knew it was a long road, but bit by bit I could feel myself getting back to ‘normal’.

"I now take no pain medication on a regular basis. A little bit of pain is better than being flat out on a cocktail of drugs.

"Drug free and managing my own pain, it feels great to be back in control.

"I meditate, do yoga and use a pacing technique I learnt on a pain management course eight years ago to manage my physical activity, so I don’t overdo it. I feel like a different person. I’m back.”

In January 2019, she started working part time as an exam invigilator and is now a teaching assistant.