Over the past decade, we’ve seen a rise and fall of opiate pain relievers being widely used, overused, abused, and now they are being cut back significantly in order to stem opiate-induced deaths. But, who does this really hurt and is this actually causing deaths? Moreover, this profound cutback on opiate medications is causing pain patients to either turn to illegally purchased narcotics or suicide. Pain patients must jump through many hoops to get help from going to physical therapy to paying out-of-pocket for message, getting steroid injections and sometimes going to counseling for coping skills. Oftentimes, opiate medications are the only thing available to get pain patents through these hoops and while some of these alternative therapies are helpful for some, they aren’t for many.
The use of opiate medications and the amounts of medications prescribed differ from state to state; however, now that the CDC, no, not the FDA, came out with new “opiate guidelines” more doctors are following suit and either lowering, forcing quick cut off tapers, or completely cutting off narcotic pain medication altogether for chronic pain sufferers, leaving them with limited options. One doctor referred to this as being, “a form of natural selection as many people will commit suicide”. Thus, there are pain specialists who understand what this is doing to patients and they simply are not rallying to stop it. Actually, pharmacies like CVS are jumping on the anti-opiate train and threatening to only dispense a week’s worth of narcotic medication at a time.
There is one sub-group that is benefiting from these narcotic restrictions. Drug dealers. One drug dealer claims his sales have quadrupled since the newer opiate restrictions came out. Hence, now that doctors are taking away the only thing allowing pain patients to live relatively normal lives, they are seeking illegal drugs to sustain some sense of quality of life. Some fear they’ll end up with a bad batch of drugs laced with fentanyl and die, but they’ll take that over living in debilitating pain or suicide. If we put animals down because their quality of life would not be worth it due to pain, who has the right to do this to people?
In complete contrast, almost a slap in the face to pain patients being denied pain medications, Settle, Washington will be voting on whether or not to have “safe injection sites” for drug addicts in November, 2017. You cannot have your pain medication to live and be a productive citizen, but you may be able to shoot up heroin safely in a city near you. At least with prescribed pain medication, it can be monitored by a doctor instead of a “street pharmacist”. The hypocrisy is astounding.
While opiate medications get a bad reputation, more and more people are turning to marijuana to help with pain management. Further, the general public seems to be more accepting of the use of marijuana as an analgesic than they are of opiates despite the fact that most people have no idea what it means to have to live on pain medications to survive. The question is, what’s the difference really? They both have their uses and some can function better on one than the other. It is simply based on the individual. Some people require both medications in order to reduce the use of one (some marijuana to reduce the use of opiates when they are home after work).
Dick Trickle of NASCAR killed himself in 2013 because of his mistreated chronic pain. His death got attention for a few moments because he was “someone” but people like Doug Hale who committed suicide because he couldn’t live in pain anymore aren‘t even a blip on the radar. People do not consider those who are left behind like Linda Jonsson who watched her daughter Sonja, a chronic pain patient, die because she couldn’t live in pain anymore after doctors cut off her pain medication.
The Declaration of Independence states that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are our unalienable rights as US citizens. People living in chronic pain aren’t looking for doctors to make them happy or to get high. They are looking for the ability pursue happiness through living a functional life instead of laying on the floor in the fetal position writing in pain, begging to just die or seek illegal drugs that could kill them to get some sort of respite from the pain. What kind of world do we live in where an animal can be treated or put down for their pain and people can’t and we’re considering making “safe injection sites” for heroin addicts while demonizing pain patients who require narcotics to help with their quality of life? Something needs to change.
For Doug Hale and his family. For Sonja, Linda and their family as well as for all of the other pain patients out there who are dealing with this while living a life in pain and despair that most people will never understand. You are not alone.