My chronic pain treatment has not been covered since the CDC guidelines were published.
But the reasons my pain is not covered are different. It’s because of what I am. I’m an older white female.
Let me explain.
I have arthritis all over the place, yes; and this is the most common debilitating pain problem in the United States. I’ve had knee replacement surgery; my hands have had multiple surgeries for they are awash in stage IV arthritis. My spine, hips, SI joints, hips and left knee all have arthritis.
I have gone to extraordinary lengths to protect my bones and joints from both arthritis and osteoporosis. I strength train rigorously every week—as I have for 30 years. I also upholster furniture, alone, with my hands. If you saw my hands you would never suspect I have severe arthritis.
I am a psychotherapist. I specialize in treating professionals with dual diagnoses: professionals with substance use disorders. I understand addiction pretty well. I also understand professionals pretty well. And I have to say today I am ashamed to be part of my profession. Not because I am like those that precipitate these feelings in me. Because I am not like them. I am a pain patient and my pain is not being covered and I am furious and terrified about it.
My pain is literally killing me. Not lessening my will to live. Not making me depressed or anxious. MY PAIN IS KILLING ME.
Since my pain stopped being properly treated, I have been incapacitated between 24-36 hours a week, every week. It is as though I entered a time warp. I am aging at an astonishingly rapid rate. It is abnormal. Since my pain has not been adequately treated my level of functioning has declined beyond any other experience with illness that I have had. I have not been able to do my taxes in four years! Never before have I been unable to do my taxes.
I believe that one of the reasons chronic pain patients have been vilified is so that addictions professionals can have more patients and make more money. And that they are currently doing just that at the same time they fail to properly treat pain. The greed that accompanies a human being’s willingness to lay claim to a patient and keep her in pain in treatment in order to make more money is pretty repulsive to me. But I believe that is one part of the puzzle. If I was not an addiction specialist, I probably would not believe this. Imagine how popular I am in my field.
I also believe this is happening because it makes the DEA feel like they have some sort of handle on the problem identified as increased death due to opioid use. In other words, DEA agents and other people in positions of responsibility for drug control blame treating pain patients for changing the social mores, the social tolerance of opioid use. If our society had not become so lax, we would not have all these overdoses. People would not dream of using heroin laced with fentanyl if the stigma had not been altered by treating pain patients with opioids.
And there is another reason, perhaps the most significant reason why this is happening. Two social groups that suffer from chronic pain the most are aging white females and people of lower Socio-Economic-Status. two social groups are comprised of human beings that are not wanted, not valued by our society. Aging white females and people of lower SES are getting bullied by the amendment and administration of the pain policies in the United States today.
I have spoken to physicians who treat pain and their response to my challenges is pretty interesting. Upon approaching one physician with a sterling reputation for treating pain with the questions I have about the failure to treat my pain properly (I have extenuating circumstances, by the way) and he made no effort whatever to answer my questions. He met me with bristling hostility. Now, I did not approach him in the manner I am writing this article. I approached him as a humble patient suffering with pain that I do not believe is being properly medicated. I asked questions articulately and perhaps without the level of meekness he would have liked. But he just bristled with hostility. There was no way IN THE WORLD he was going to address my points. Because he couldn’t. There is no justification for the way my pain is mismanaged. And he hated me for making that clear.
My pain is not being covered because I am an aging white female being put in my place.