Even though pain professionals and even the FDA have warned against the forced tapering of opioid medication for chronic pain patients, it’s still happening—fueled by a fear of recrimination from the Drug Enforcement Administration, state regulators and/or local enforcement.
Earlier this month the National Pain Report asked its readers for their stories if their provider had stop prescribing opioid medications or was forcing them to reduce their medication (tapering)
We have received dozens and dozens of stories—many of them painful. Here’s one from a patient who did not identify herself, but who laid out a story that we’ve heard too many times:
I tapered partially on my own. Went at my own pace, and it was fine. I was ready to reduce the amount of meds I was using as I’d stabilized over the years. Then I was force tapered from about 500mme to 0mme in 6 WEEKS by the PCP who had treated me for more than a decade. I had never had any compliance issues. He said I’d failed a drug test, but the results were crazy. He waited six weeks to tell me the results. I said I could retest in 15 minutes when he told me over the phone. He refused a retest. My psychiatrist, his colleague, asked him three times to retest. He refused. He dismissed several other pain patients in the same timeframe. He sent my drug test to a busy urban hospital lab instead of the specialty lab in Utah he’d always used. It was all very suspect. To be tapered so quickly nearly killed me. I’ve never been so sick, and I have lasting health complications from the force taper. I lost a year of my life. My pain is worse than ever. Some days I just lay in bed and cry. I fantasize about getting a terminal case of cancer that will quickly kill me so my family can collect on my life insurance. I write letter after letter to the doctor who tapered me in my head, caught in an endless loop of anger and hatred. I have one doctor I can trust. The rest are jackals who have no desire to help and seem to just laugh over my crumbling corpse. Do I seem like I’m doing well? I have two kids. I have a loving husband. And I’m next-to useless to them. So to answer your question: no, my pain and health is NOT better after being force tapered.
This comment resonated with me after I saw this tweet Friday night from Dr. Terri Lewis, who has been one of the strongest advocacy voices for chronic pain.
Terri Lewis, PhD 和平抵抗 (@tal7291)
Let’s discuss what pain management is NOT:
- It is not counting pills
- It’s not peeing in a cup w/ the door open and an audience.
- Being on the receiving end of a lecture about being a compliant or adherent patient.
As one reader wrote me in an email, “When will it stop?”