Forgotten victims of the ‘War on Drugs’

Sandy M.
Isanti County resident

There’s an epidemic of ignorance in this country that needs to be addressed.

While lawmakers and the CDC are taking a blanket approach (with suspicious motives) to what they are calling an ‘epidemic’ of opioid abuse, no one seems to be talking about the forgotten victims of this war on prescription pain medication.

I’m referring to the countless people that the government has suddenly decided do not deserve relief from their pain: chronic pain sufferers. Suddenly, in many cases, because chronic pain patients are going to see their doctors or specialists expecting a refill of the medication they have come to rely on and being told as they sit in front of their provider that the government has banned them from prescribing anymore opioids to treat their chronic pain.

These are the patients who have been taking their medication responsibly, subjecting themselves to all of the obstacles and humiliation that have been set up for people using opioid drug therapy for their pain. In many instances, these patients are not being given effective alternatives to treat their pain or even being monitored to see if they have any adverse effects from the opioid withdrawal. The ignorance and incompetence surrounding this situation is mind-boggling.

I’m speaking from over 20 years of experience suffering chronic, debilitating pain, and the vast network of people in pain I have come in contact with over that time. Our circumstances may vary, but our stories are eerily similar- and these are the stories the lawmakers and media for the most part fail to talk about.

Victims of chronic pain who responsibly use opioids to control their pain are not addicts; on the contrary, many have been given back their livelihood due to the effectiveness of these drugs to control pain. Many have found that the relief of pain the opiates provide enables them to work again, do their own shopping, drive more comfortably and reactively, and participate in social activities. Impairment from the pain they were experiencing was much more distracting than the effects of the pain-relieving drug. A significant number of people experience more than just pain relief on the opioid therapy, because effective pain relief in turn leads to better sleep and healthier food consumption, less depression and better organization and creativity.

For some, the symptoms of brain-fog dramatically improve because we are no longer focused on fighting excruciating pain. With the opioid treatment I regained my memory, concentration, and was able to write and work again as well as take part in activities outside my home. I was also able to effectively participate in physical therapy and guided imagery to help keep my dose of the medication at a minimum. Without it, I fear the loss of all of that, and a life doomed to be lived from my sofa once more. Taking opioids to relieve pain in order to be productive and to maintain relationships is vastly different from being addicted, which limits a person’s ability to contribute to society.

I recognize that opioid treatment for pain is far from being a perfect solution, as it never completely takes the pain away, but for many of us it does mean the difference between spending the day in bed and being able to get up and make a meal and tend to our families. And now the government is taking that away from us without giving us effective alternatives. In the majority of cases of chronic pain sufferers there is no good reason to stop opioid pain medication other than because of government interference. Most of these patients have been responsible users and are not contributing to the so-called ‘epidemic’ of over use of drugs in our society.

This is in no way meant to minimize the horrible consequences of opioid abuse and overdose and the loss of lives that have taken place, but there is another side of the story that must be considered. Careful research into the motives behind this ‘war on drugs’ will reveal that agencies blocked the input of chronic pain patients and their doctors from contributing their experiences before setting up the new guidelines for opioid prescribing. A look at who may be profiting from these new guidelines will reveal some startling information. Reliable predictions are being made that these new restrictions on opioid drugs will serve to increase illegal drug use as well as leading to an epidemic of suicide by chronic pain patients no longer able to find relief. Self-medicating instead of being monitored by a physician is another danger these patients may face.

There are many relevant articles that can be accessed online, including these from the Pain News Network- It’s Time for Pain Patients to Speak Up, and DEA Cutting Opioid Supply in 2017. Also check out Fighting Back: The War against Chronic Pain Sufferers, Dr. Lynn Webster’s book, The Painful Truth, and For some chronic pain patients, ‘without opioids, life would be torture’ by Stat News.

I urge people to look more deeply into this issue and speak up for the millions that are being overlooked and disregarded who deserve better. The unfortunate stigma of being a chronic pain patient searching for relief extends to doctors, pharmacists, lawmakers, the media and even family members. This is an impossible battle for victims of pain to fight unaided.