By Arianne Grande.
At this very moment there are millions of Americans who are being denied life saving medicine. People with severe health issues are facing a LIFETIME of pain due to a devastating diagnosis of some incurable disease, or because they were tragically injured and all treatment options have failed. I am one of those Americans.
I was involved in a tree cutting accident in 2010 and sustained a cervical spine injury as well as having a chronic illness that causes daily pain. I was able to achieve a good level of functionality while being treated with opioid medicines to mediate my pain. I was able to garden, walk, and to travel to see my children and grandchildren. I was able to take care of farm and household chores with more ease, and even sit and watch a movie comfortably with my loved ones from time to time. Now, my life and my health are spiraling out of control after being without medicines to effectively mediate my chronic pain for almost 5 years.
Few realize that patients in pain are now being profiled, discriminated against, put into government databases where even their Veterinarians have access to their medical records. They are being forced into ‘pain contracts’, or ‘medication agreements’, with the direct threat of not receiving needed medications if they do not comply. These contracts are in fact, more penalizing than some probation sentences levied at individuals who have actually committed drug crimes. People convicted of drug crimes can often earn their freedom with probation and by ‘proving’ themselves in a court of law. Pain patients have no such right.
Seriously ill, injured, and elderly patients are being subjected to endless, repeated drug testing protocols, pill counts, and are only able to use 1 pharmacy to fill all their prescriptions. These patients are sometimes even told they must begin taking medications in order to be prescribed the medicines that treat their pain effectively, resulting in dangerous situations where polypharmacy can pose serious health risks and even the risk of death. Patients with complex health conditions are being told they must undergo risky medical procedures in order to keep receiving the pain medicines that are already working for them, and are often treated by medical professionals with hostility, dismissive attitudes, and blatant contempt. Many more are merely being abandoned by the medical community without a second thought now, as they are being determined to be too much of a liability by health practitioners.
It’s important to note that even when a patient complies fully with their ‘contract’, and follows all the rules as stipulated, they are being force tapered or denied needed medication altogether. Most who were functional and living their lives the best they could, are now housebound and forced to endure severe, relentless, debilitating pain.
People with serious, often debilitating health conditions are even being told that instead of needed medication they should learn ‘pain acceptance’ or to use exercise, yoga, and/or meditation to treat their pain.
People already suffering horribly with life-long chronic illness and/or injuries are now describing their lives in the same way that people describe the experience of torture. Human Rights watch has even taken notice and is investigating. This cannot continue. Opioids are safe and effective when taken responsibly, which tens of millions of people do.
Unrelenting chronic pain impacts every aspect of life. It also leads to other serious health issues such as sudden cardiac arrest, stroke, hypertensive crisis, endocrine dysregulation, PTSD, anxiety, and even cancer. The public health crisis that is unfolding due to withholding and restricting pain medicines will make the ‘opioid crisis’ pale in comparison to what is coming if we don’t alter our current trajectory and approach to the addiction issues we face as a nation.
Since implementation of PROP ‘guidelines’, the current approach to combating the ‘opioid crisis’ has not turned the tide on the steady rise in overdose deaths for those facing issues with substance use disorder, this is according to recent government statistics tracking OD deaths.
If we truly begin to look at addiction objectively, without stigma, and with some measure of sanity, we see that addiction isn’t about the substance per se used for escapism. The causes of addiction are far more insidious and complex than a substance or habit, and will require of our leaders the impetus to address the underlying causes of addiction; issues like joblessness, homelessness, poverty, and lack of access to affordable health and mental health services.
Another often neglected fact being overlooked by the current public opioid narrative is that addiction happens in a very small percentage of people who are prescribed opioids for legitimate health conditions that cause moderate to severe pain. Some professionals have suggested that number is about 2.5 or less in those with no prior history of substance abuse.
Chronic and intractable pain patients MUST BE EXEMPT from policies and legislation regarding prescribed opiate based medicines. Those with serious illnesses and injuries should be able to be covered by a palliative care umbrella and allowed access to the medicines and treatments tailored to their specific needs, which will allow them to achieve the best quality of life possible.
We in the pain community are begging for mercy. We are pleading with our legislators and our doctors to do what is right. We are fighting for our very lives.