Chronic pain sufferers punished by the “war on drugs”


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.



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:

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.