Chronic pain sufferers punished by the “war on drugs”

chronic_pain

I don’t have a lot of medical knowledge and normally I don’t pay a lot of attention to the pharmaceutical drug industry and its laws, but my housemate has a huge problem and there seems to be no solution other than her considering turning to the black market–or even suicide.

My housemate suffers from several medical conditions that cause her chronic, excruciating pain in her back and joints, as well as fibromyalgia. She’s been to at least 15 doctors and not one of them will prescribe her any effective pain medication, because they’re afraid she might become “addicted.”   We’re talking about a 60 year old woman who can barely move due to the chronic pain that keeps her from sleeping and makes her moan out loud at night.   I’ve actually seen her sitting on the edge of her bed, rocking back and forth crying from how bad the pain is.

Only one doctor prescribed anything that worked, but it was a much lower does than she needs, so she was forced to take more than the prescribed dosage.  When she ran out before the refill date, he refused to prescribe it again because “she showed signs of addiction.”   She was forced to go the the ER just to get something to relieve the pain and they only gave her enough pills for a few days.  She can’t even get a prescription for medical marijuana (but her pain is so bad that weed doesn’t help).  A couple of these doctors have told her it’s “all in her head” and to try to focus on other things.  But if you have pain as bad as my housemate does, the pain is all you CAN focus on.   I think women in particular are sometimes not taken seriously by doctors. I wonder if it might be easier for her to get appropriate treatment if she were a man.

 

chronic_pain_chart

Her only alternative seems to be injections given by a pain management specialist, but these would require constant trips to the doctor and are more expensive than her insurance will cover. She doesn’t have the money to pay out of pocket for the portion that isn’t covered and she doesn’t have a car to get to the doctor anyway (I can’t take her because I have the car during the day).  Right now, she’s taking up to 20 Ibuprofen a day, which will probably destroy her liver.

This is a real problem in this country because of the DEA and its stupid “war on drugs,” which includes the crackdown on medications known to be effective for chronic pain because of their status as “controlled substances.”    As a result, we have a huge black market for drugs like Oxycontin, which even chronic pain patients–not kids looking to get high–rely on to get the relief they need.  Of course, if they get caught, they become criminals and could go to jail–just because they couldn’t stand to live with the pain.   It’s just another way our society wages war on its most vulnerable members.

The only reason my housemate hasn’t gone to the black market is because she’s new to the area and knows no one (I can’t help her there).    I was talking to someone the other day about her problem, and they told me about a cousin who actually committed suicide because he couldn’t get medicine for his chronic pain.   Apparently, this isn’t uncommon.  I thought it was only a problem in my state, but  I just read this article and it seems the problem is widespread in this country:

http://www.lynnwebstermd.com/dea-inflicts-harm-on-chronic-pain-patients/

I’m not sure what my housemate can do.  I hate to see anyone suffer that much and can’t offer her any other solutions other than “keep trying more doctors.”  But it seems they all live in mortal fear of the DEA.

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About luckyotter

Recovering from BPD and C-PTSD due to narcissistic abuse from childhood. Married to a sociopath for 20 years. Proud INFJ, Enneagram type 4w5. Animal lover, music lover, cat mom, unapologetic geek, fan of the absurd, progressive Catholic, mom to 2, mental illness stigma activist, anti-Trumper. #RESISTANCE
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32 Responses to Chronic pain sufferers punished by the “war on drugs”

  1. ibikenyc says:

    I will (for at least right now) spare you(se) my soapbox oratory about this.

    I am ON DISABILITY — as in CANNOT work — BECAUSE OF my pain.

    The things that cause this have been documented nine ways from Sunday, including by the SSA’s OWN physicians. There are numerous images of my insides showing, CLEARLY, the very things that cause my pain.

    One of the physicians to whom I went YEARS before I even thought of applying for Disability looked at the MRI of my back and said, IN THESE WORDS,

    “Your back is A MESS.”

    BUT!

    In spite of these FACTS, I am nothing but a nun-raping, child-corrupting, Skid Row crack whore.

    I keep wondering what would happen if, oh, an insulin-dependent diabetic were refused ADEQUATE DOSES of it.

    When I was hypertensive, they were DELIGHTED to pour on the ACE inhibitors.

    My Captor takes statins. High blood lipids? RAISE HIS LIPITOR!

    I DON’T CARE IF I’M ADDICTED! HOLY SHIT!

    (What do they DO to them in medical school? The “adult” version of “Just Say No” or D.A.R.E.?)

    NOT EVERY ADDICT IS A JUNKIE!

    (And speaking OF, how come THOSE addicts can get free needles and stuff but THESE addicts are demonized?)

    (Ain’tcha glad I spared you my soapbox? I am all but ready to go to law school if I have to in order to eliminate this bullshit.)

    Like

  2. This is awful. I can relate to it a bit, although I’ve finally managed to get a few prescriptions. It’s a constant fight against this stigma doctors have. That it’s all mental, that the pain can’t be that bad and constant and that you’re an addict.

    It’s indeed bad to take that much ibuprofen. But I can totally imagine why she’s doing it. I hope she doesn’t take any other NSAIDs, because that makes the damage even worse. It’s stupid because oxycontin for example does less damage to your organs. Does she have something to protect her stomach? Like pantoprazole? NSAIDs are really bad for your stomach :/

    I take diclofenac chronically with pantoprazole and I often take paracetamol. And I also have oxynorm and amitriprylin.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. ibikenyc says:

    I am really sorry about your roommate. My pain is NOTHING like hers; I cannot imagine.

    The internet is full of stories by patients with LATE-STAGE illnesses who were harassed about their opiate needs.

    (The only drugs about which They care are the ones that make you high.)

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Heartafire says:

    This is a huge problem in Florida, the drive began with our attorney generals “war ” on drugs. People are suffering, taking their own lives. The illegal drug dealers couldn’t be more pleased. This sickens me, this heartless inhumanity.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. S says:

    Sounds to me like your housemate needs a voice. Can you go with her to her next doctor appointment and help explain? Tell the doctor what you’ve observed in her at home. If not you, maybe someone else who’s word will carry even more weight. Might be best to begin this way with a completely new doctor. Maybe not, try this with the current one first before moving on or it will appear she’s doctor shopping.

    Liked by 4 people

    • luckyotter says:

      I would but I’m never around during the day. She did finally find a dr. who gave her the rx today though. I said a prayer, I think that helped.

      Like

  6. S says:

    Also, it wouldn’t hurt to pray before the appointment.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Leslie says:

    My mother has this problem. Advocation for her by my father (who was a pharmacist) has helped some. However, she had to have surgery on her knee a couple years ago. The medication they gave her for pain for invasive surgery was less than what she takes for the rest of her conditions when she’s at home. She also has this weird thing that when she is in pain her blood pressure actually goes down. When she is given enough medication to alleviate the pain her pressure actually rises instead of going down. But the doctors in the hospital didn’t believe her, so we ended up sneaking her pain meds into the hospital for her.

    I agree with S that an advocate, someone who sees the problem first hand, in other words, you, is a stellar starting point.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. John Fraser Findlay says:

    Even if its all in her head, she should be afforded some psychiatric or therapy treatment.!
    I’m on anti-depressants currently and off work due to depression and a pretty painful problem with my foot…worried about affording them monthly-no insurance-not covered up here by the gov. either.

    Like

    • luckyotter says:

      The health care system is a huge mess on every level. Hopefully things change soon. Psychiatric treatment would certainly be helpful but I don’t think she has coverage for that. Not sure though.

      Like

  9. Diana says:

    Said prayer for your roommate and so happy she got her RX today! It is so frustrating the druggies are ruining it for real suffering people. There is so much loss of balance and common sense in our government and with doctors today.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. bp7o9 says:

    It’s a sick and twisted system.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This probably won’t be of much help but I remember a long time ago a friend of mine had pain and he saw a neurologist who prescribed Amitryptylene which is actually an old-time antidepressant(Elavil), but it was supposed to help the pain. I don’t know whether it does or the doctor prescribing it just thought he was depressed.

    How about going to a clinic for a one time pain shot on a regular basis? Maybe it’s too costly, I don’t know but I sure feel for her and if nothing else your show of support and fighting for her I’m sure makes her feel better.

    Do practical things like a warm tub soak help her? Heating pads. A bath with Epsom salts?

    Like

  12. I clicked “like” but I actually feel HATE when I read articles like this one – hate for ill-informed medical so-called “professionals” and self-important politicians and DEA agents who pretend to be concerned with protecting drug abusers from themselves (at the expense of the functionality and quality of life pain/disorder/disabilities management of those who NEED medication), but are frequently doing little more than playing politics and covering their own a$$e$.

    Dr. Ginger Campbell, from the excellent Brain Science Podcast, has hosted several discussions and interviews about pain/pain management, featuring one of the leading experts on pain, Dr. Fernando Cervero from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Cervero is (or was at the time) the president of the International Association for the Study of Pain (google it – you will find credible websites with articles you can download, print and take to your MD). He is also the author of a relatively new book from MIT Press entitled, Understanding Pain.
    (You can get also detailed show notes and transcripts of every episode of the Brain Science Podcast at brainsciencepodcast.com.)

    According to Cervero, MOST doctors know little to nothing about pain or pain management — which is why their response to patient pain is so generally lousy. Dr. Campbell says, “You know, in medical school, I don’t remember even having a lecture on pain or what causes it.” (‘Sup with THAT, med schools?)

    ========> The biggest problem, according to Cervero, is that most [uninformed] doctors look at a patient and see “addiction” because they aren’t aware of or don’t understand the concept of “sensitization” – much less know how to medicate appropriately. As a result, they err on what they believe is the “conservative” side, and almost always under-medicate as a result — unnecessarily and to the detriment of their patient care. <=========

    From an interview with Ceverro:
    ——————-
    "We do not have a thermometer or a measurement that we can connect to a patient and measure how much pain that person has; we rely entirely on the subjective report. So, whatever a patient tells us, that's the pain that we can assess. And we do that with a variety of different methods, but it's always a subjective report."

    "Pain is the only sensory experience—and we call it, now, an experience—in which not only doesn't adapt, it actually amplifies. So, if you have a constant pain, it doesn't get less and less and less, it gets more and more and more with time."

    "Even a small amount of pain, if it's there all the time, amplifies. And this is a process that we call, scientifically, 'sensitization'—amplification of the pain signal. And it happens in the periphery, it happens in the sensors (the pain sensors in the organs are also capable of sensitization and amplifying the responses), and it happens in the brain.

    And this is what leads to chronic pain; so that eventually the whole pain experience takes over. And then it's very difficult to get rid of this process—this sensation, this perception—because it dominates your life. ***Pain does not adapt; pain amplifies. This is a key point to understand."***

    Campbell believes that EVERY doctor needs to have (and read) a copy of Dr. Fernando Cevero's book (again, Understanding Pain). If you can POSSIBLY afford it, tell your doctor that you will BUY them a copy so that they will be able to offer better pain management without ruminating about the addiction issue.

    If that doesn't shame them into buying it themselves (they can afford it easily) – YOU BUY IT, take it to the doctor's office, and quiz him or her as to whether they are reading it *every single visit.* Read it yourself first, yellow highlighter in hand, and highlight sections you believe they really need to understand.

    If a doctor is going to listen to *anybody* s/he is TWENTY times more likely to listen to another doctor than the patient him or herself, more's the pity, and this particular doctor is a leading expert in the field.

    If you can't afford to buy it for them, call periodically asking the doctor to call you when they have located and read the book. You'll never get that call, most likely, but you might have forced a crack in their reticence to medicate appropriately and effectively.

    Hope this helps.

    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    "It takes a village to educate a world!"

    Liked by 2 people

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