Pain patients: newest targets for abuse and discrimination.

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In our increasingly sociopathic and cold-blooded society, the most vulnerable people are falling through the cracks and no one seems to care. It’s a popular sport these days to target the poor, elderly, mentally ill, sick, disabled and otherwise vulnerable and blame them for all of society’s ills–and of course for their own lot. Many people today think helping these people is just “enabling” them and that somehow they deserve their lot. Some Prosperity Gospel “Christians” even say that to help them is a sin because the reason they suffer is because they are morally inferior and displeasing to God. All this is nothing more than societal gaslighting, and to Christians who want to live as Jesus did, such views are pure heresy and evil.

Now there’s a new group of targeted people–chronic pain patients. My housemate, who I’ve written about before, suffers from chronic, debilitating pain due to fibromyalgia and injuries sustained in a car accident she was involved in more than thirty years ago that has caused bone fusion and scar tissue buildup. Some days are so bad she can hardly move, and spends the entire day in bed, sometimes crying from the pain. But she’s been unable to get any pain medicine that works. She has been to 20 or 30 different doctors, and all refuse to prescribe any kind of opiate medication, the only kind that works for her.

My housemate is not a drug addict. She has no history of drug addiction. Before she moved to this state, her doctor prescribed her Oxycodone, which relieved her pain. She did not get high from it or take more than the prescribed amount. When she moved here, her medical records were transferred, but no doctor here will even look at them. She’s been to several pain management doctors, but all they will do is give steroid injections, which require twice weekly visits (she does not have any method of transportation so this is a hardship) and are much more expensive than her previous opioid medicine was–the frequent copays cost much more than she can afford, and only a portion of injection treatments are covered. They also don’t work for her pain. Physical therapy hasn’t worked either. In fact, she says it makes the pain worse.

But because she has asked doctors for the same pain medicine she was getting in her old state, and keeps trying new doctors, she has been redflagged as a “drug seeker” and “doctor shopper” and “shows addictive behaviors.” She was required to attend a drug assessment and passed it, but she still can’t get any doctor to give her a prescription. Pain patients are being stigmatized as addicts even when they are just doing what anyone in their right mind would do when denied medicine that works–going to a different doctor. My housemate (who is moving back to the state where her old doctor was) continues to suffer and can barely function due to the pain.

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I decided to do some research on this issue, and it turns out she’s far from alone. Profiling pain patients as if they’re criminals and stigmatizing them as drug addicts has become a new epidemic in this country, and it’s because of the recent DEA crackdown on opioid pain medicines, which have been sold for years on the black market as recreational drugs. Some people have speculated that the increasing difficulty in obtaining pain medicine legally is due to the relaxation of marijuana laws that have decriminalized or even made medical marijuana legal in many states. The DEA needs a new bogeyman, because that’s their bread and butter and there’s a lot of money involved, so now they’re going after pain patients.

Only cancer patients can (theoretically) be legally prescribed opioid pain medication without having to submit to all sorts of unnecessary drug and psychological tests (these protect the doctor rather than the patient) and jump through medical hoops to get the medicine they need. But even they sometimes fall through the cracks, especially in states like Florida where the drug laws are especially draconian. Darlene Patsos, a Florida woman with Stage 4 lung cancer, was denied access to any kind of palliative pain relief, even though she was terminal. This is unconscionable and appalling–and cruel beyond belief. You’d think we were living in the Middle Ages instead of 2016.  This simply should not happen in any technologically advanced society.

No one, whether they have cancer or some other condition causing chronic, severe pain, should be profiled like a criminal and denied medicine that improves their quality of life and allows them to function instead of being bedridden because they’re in too much agony to do anything else. Yet doctors are denying patients these necessary medicines because they’re afraid the DEA might come after them. So they’ve adopted a one-size-fits-all pain management regime that consists of less effective (and more expensive and time consuming) “alternative” treatments–and that size doesn’t fit everyone. Whatever happened to the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship? Since when do doctors have less authority than these law-and-order thugs who tell them what they can and cannot give to their patients? Methinks the people who approve of these ridiculous new drug laws are the same ones who loudly scream about “too much government.” This country is running amok with these sort of heartless hypocrites who want everything for themselves and could give a rat’s ass about you. You’re in so much pain you can’t sleep at night, can’t work, can’t take care of your kids, are a burden on your family, can’t have any quality of life at all? The injections of dangerous steroids and physical therapy aren’t working? Oh well, sucks for you. I’m fit and healthy and can afford to pay an expensive specialist out of pocket for opioids if I ever have chronic pain–but I’ll never be in your shoes anyway.

I read a website by an empathetic doctor who wrote a blog about this issue, and there are hundreds of responses, mostly from chronic pain sufferers. They are heartbreaking. Many describe contemplating suicide because the pain is so unbearable. Some had been getting opioid pain relievers without any problems for years, and their doctors suddenly stopped their prescriptions when the DEA began to crack down, in some cases pulling the medication from them cold-turkey, so not only did their patients have to deal with sudden severe pain, they had withdrawal symptoms as well.  Some were forced to go to the black market to obtain pain medicine, risking arrest and the possibility of taking something impure or dangerous.   The suicide rate among pain patients is up 30% since the DEA began to crack down, and many of the entries describe friends and relatives who died by their own hands, because they were no longer able to cope with their pain. But to the DEA, I guess it’s better to have no quality of life and end it in suicide or turn to the black market (heroin is easier to obtain than legal pain medicine) than to run a small risk (4% for pain patients) of becoming addicted.

This issue needs to be addressed.  You can help by sending a letter to Congress.

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“Doctor shopping”? Oh, PLEASE!

Not long ago, I wrote about my housemate, a woman several years older than me who lives with chronic, unrelenting, severe pain due to a number of chronic medical conditions. I ranted about how none of the doctors will prescribe this woman any pain medicine, because of the dumb drug laws in this state, which are very strict. But IMHO, they’ve gone way too far. If you’re wealthy, of course, you can pay a doctor to give you pain medicine, but because this woman is on SSDI and gets Medicare, she doesn’t have much choice in who she can see. Now she is being accused of “doctor shopping” and is required to attend an evaluation for substance abuse before anyone can prescribe her anything. As far as I know, this woman has never been addicted to drugs! Oh, but she might *get* addicted. *eyeroll*  She might even be distributing, even though she is 60 years old, can barely walk, and doesn’t know anyone here anyway.  So I guess she’s just supposed to LIVE with the pain?  If it were me, you’d better believe I’d be “doctor shopping.”

She’s supposed to be having surgery (knee and shoulder replacement), but they keep putting it off and in the meantime, are doing NOTHING to help her.

I wouldn’t normally get involved in something like this, because under normal circumstances it would violate my boundaries (and probably hers too), but I wrote this letter of my own accord, because I am at my wit’s end and my boundaries are being violated anyway, by this woman’s constant pain I must deal with.  I will not toss her on the streets (although I could and may have to if things don’t get better or she gets much worse) but it’s very, very difficult to live with someone in severe, chronic pain who talks about nothing else, even if it’s a close relative like your mother, but this is a woman I didn’t know from Adam until last October. I don’t know how much this letter is going to help (it’s probably more useful as a rant to get things off my own chest); she probably needs to get an advocate (I know they’re out there), but I have no idea how she would go about getting one.   The behavior of the so-called “medical profession” toward people like my housemate is appalling, in my opinion. So I ranted off in this letter, which I hope you can read. You may need to click on the photos to make them large enough to read.

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