Estimates are that there are 100 million people in the U.S. with chronic pain.
The numbers are not broken down into long term disabling pain — as opposed to manageable pain.
But for argument’s sake, let’s say 50% have long term diseases or disorders of chronic pain: trigeminal neuralgia, Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, etc.
Let’s say that 25% of them are on opioid pain medications such as hydrocodone, codeine, Vicodin and others. It is that 25% that are the ones who always pay when politicians get worried about pain medication abuse.
When my pain started in 1979, there were neither the issues nor the hysteria that we have now over the prescribing and use of narcotics. I was given morphine, tincture of opium, Demerol and many others.
And I had no trouble finding pharmacies to fill my prescriptions. But that was before the days of the “prescription drug epidemic” and the reality of pain pill abuse.
As long as the media touts the drug “epidemic” and vilifies patients and doctors, the ones who get hurt are those who need these medications.
We will be seeing this again shortly as hydrocodone goes from a Schedule III drug to a Schedule II. Instead of being permitted a 180 day prescription as they are now, patients will only be able to get an initial 90 day supply. Refills cannot be called into the pharmacy and patients will have to be seen by their doctor for each new prescription. (This is only for hydrocodone with acetaminophen or aspirin, hydrocodone alone is already schedule II.)
What benefit is there to rescheduling hydrocodone? It will cost the health care system and patients financially. It will also cause more pain, as those who have difficulty getting around now will have to see their doctor more often.
There is only speculation that it will reduce abuse, the alleged reason for the rescheduling.
So what is the holdup on research? Instead of new medications, we see more of the same; opioids coming onto the market, differing only in properties, such as “extended release” or potentially less abuse potential.
It is hard when you are in constant pain to find the energy to fight the powers that be. I think that is one reason studies are not being done. We do not have a lobby and people do not see chronic pain as it truly is: Disabling, debilitating, scary, and in some instances, fatal.
We need to find the energy to get the media to spend time on us, on what chronic pain means to us individually and to society at large.
The irony is that the political and legal communities, including the DEA, have made it so we cannot get the medications we need to get enough relief to mount the fight.
Carol Jay Levy has lived with trigeminal neuralgia, a chronic facial pain disorder, for over 30 years. She is the author of “A Pained Life, A Chronic Pain Journey.” Carol was accredited to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, where she helped get chronic pain recognized as a disease.
The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that! It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.