Miss Understood: Being Called a Drug Seeker

Miss Understood: Being Called a Drug Seeker

When I think of a person who visits a doctor or emergency room for the sole purpose of getting painkillers, I think of a junkie or someone with no morals. I never thought I would one day be placed in that same category.

For anyone who knows me, I truly hate taking pain medication to treat my conditions for fear of becoming dependent or addicted. I have a high tolerance for pain and will try all other alternatives before taking an opioid to alleviate my discomfort. At times my justification for not taking prescription drugs is that they don’t do anything for me.

Drugs SignHowever, I’ve been to the ER and urgent care many times for pain (and not always the same location) and I am so insulted by the fact that doctors hint at the possibility that I may only be drug seeking.

If only they knew that I probably have a medicine cabinet with stronger medications than what they’re willing to give me. And that I have several unfilled prescriptions for painkillers that are ten times as strong.

I know what works for me and what doesn’t when dealing with pain. Whenever I’m admitted for pain management the only thing that will get me to the point where it’s bearable is a patient controlled analgesia pump.

Oftentimes I go in and ask the nurses to let the doctor on-call know I need one and I’m met with mixed responses. Some nurses assume I’m not really suffering. Others inform the doctor but add their two cents and make me sound crazy. Some simply choose to ignore me.

I understand that they’re unaware of my case and knowledge but I feel like I should still be treated respectfully. Until they know for a fact that I really don’t need pain medication, I expect to be treated like someone who is truly suffering. I shouldn’t have to be penalized because others try to abuse medicine.

I’ve learned to stick to one emergency room for my after-hours needs. Now when I go in, my records are on file and I don’t have to say much because they can just look at what previous doctors have done to treat my pain.

Sometimes I do have to explain that all other painkillers have failed and have to justify getting a new one, which is frustrating, but I don’t expect everyone to understand how my body works.

A drug seeker is not what I am, but the world is filled with ignorant people and all I can do is hope for the day when I am no longer categorized as one.

I refuse to let it bring me down or anger me. We will always be met with doubt and judgment, but it’s how we react to those things that make us stronger individuals.

Arlene Grau

Arlene Grau

Arlene Grau lives in Lakewood, California. She suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, migraine, vasculitis, and Sjogren’s 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 represent 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.

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There are 6 comments for this article
  1. Rainey at 12:54 pm

    It’s always easier to bear someone else’s suffering. My heart goes out to anybody who has had to deal with officious, unhelpful, self serving medical “professionals” who are put in charge of treating our chronic pain. Of course, I have my own horror story: A very severe, rapidly worsening migraine brought me into my local emergency room. Basically, I thought I was going to die. I was so dizzy and nauseated that when they wheeled me back, I threw up. The nurse practitioner a perky brunette named “Kate” yelled at me to calm down and accused me “just having a panic attack.” She asked me why I had been to the emergency room nine times in a really condescending voice. I told her that my visits were over the past seven years. She decided to treat the pain and nausea with Benadryl. It took 45 minutes before I actually got a medication that was dedicated to relieving pain: 2 mg of Dilauded. I eventually needed much more, but it was slow in coming and the pain was the worst I have ever felt. The entire experience has cost me over $3500. I didn’t even get seen by an MD.

  2. Rae at 12:05 pm

    Arlene: your “gumpshun & confidence” is inspiring, but so many of us cannot handle both the emotional on top of the physical pain and make the sad judgement call to just suffer!! I was coached during a 2 mo. Hospital stay, while at the mercy of my care-givers….that medication is addictive & would not guide my life. This was 20 years ago & sadly we are regressing where CP treatment is concerned! I was yelled at by a (big chain) pharmacist, in front of customers 10yrs ago for filling a typical CP medication. Just recently hospitalized for a surgery to remove a tumor…I was told by the LPN (after she saw my chart & CP meds listed I suppose) …”that Morphine pump your on is ONLY going to last for so many hours & if you over-use it and run out….they may not replace it for awhile, so do be conservative with it!” I could go on & on but…..what is it going to take to turn this around to a country that has some semblance of humanity & “sane” ways of thinking toward CP!! I feel like we are living in the land of the “loonies!”… We did NOT ask for a life sentence of suffering!! So frustrating what we have to endure! Thank you for sharing & inspiring during this sad time in our country!

  3. Janice Reolds at 7:58 am

    First of all Julie, I hope you wrote a letter to the nurse manager and vice president of nursing. Of course it won’t change what happened but it will alert others there is a problem. Always do this and keep copies. At some point it may have to be legally addressed.
    As a Pain Management nurse I have seen too much of this. The great Margo McCaffery said she would rather be fooled by 10 people than have one person suffer in pain. Unfortunately now many times it is I would rather have 10 people suffer in pain than let one person fool me. Please we have the DEA out with their own agenda.
    As a person with persistent post craniotomy pain I have also experienced the ill informed judgments and bias that is still rampant in medical care. Taking opioids as prescribed does not cause addiction or impairment but too many are as I said ignorant.

  4. William Spakes at 6:26 pm

    Yes I truly understand how you feel. I once had an experience when the pharmacy put a different DR.’S name on my pain medication my mistake .well when I went to the pain management DR. he accused me of going to different DR’S and I ended up on Black list of the State of Ohio well I tried to explain it to the DR but he walked away and he even called me a Drug Addict. I was upset and talked to my Pharmacy .I also was aware of how people act and try to get their medicine early so that is why people like you ,me and countless otrhers because of the epidemic of all the stuff people do wiyh pain medicine and the things they do to get them.

    Sincereky William Spakes

  5. arlene Grau at 8:58 am

    Julie Anna,

    My heart goes out to you. That sounds like such a horrific experience. Some people shouldn’t be allowed to work in the medical field if they lack compassion.

  6. Julie Anna Bloodworth at 1:47 pm

    To me, being called a “drug seeker” is the ultimate insult. I too have been subjected to that. Last year I went in for what was termed “Major Back Surgery” – a fusion, and hardware – which required a 6 hour surgery and 25 staples in my back. I was placed on a PCA pump (pain pump for the non-initiated). After about 2 hours I was SCREAMING in pain, begging for relief and contrary to the huge posters on every wall stating that they took patient pain seriously, I was scolded by a nurse who told me that I was just a junkie and that I couldn’t have anything else, they weren’t going to call the doctor, and that I just had to tough it out. 7 AGONIZING hours later when the PCA pump needed to be refilled it was discovered that the nurse that had installed the bag of pain meds had broken off the attachment and when they opened up the pump, all 8 hours of pain meds poured out onto the floor!!!!!! Of course they did apologize but it didn’t come close to making me feel any better. My heart goes out to all of my brothers and sisters with Chronic Pain because until you actually experience that type of pain with no chance of relief it is hard to understand.