NASCAR Legend’s Chronic Pain Led to Suicide

NASCAR Legend’s Chronic Pain Led to Suicide

The pain was so bad he killed himself.

Its something that happens all too often, unrelenting chronic pain that causes someone to commit suicide.

That’s what happened to retired NASCAR driver Dick Trickle this week. His brother Chuck told ESPN by phone from Las Vegas that Dick told him, “I don’t know how much longer I can put up with this.”

Dick Trickle

Dick Trickle

Trickle shot himself Thursday at a cemetery near his home in Boger City, North Carolina. He was 71.

“It is a terrible tragedy that anyone would have to resort to taking their own life as a result of pain. Too often, however, this occurs.  It is unfortunate that it takes a publicly know figure to bring this to the forefront of people’s minds,” said Daniel Bennett, MD, DABPM, a Denver pain physician.

As Bennett and other pain physicians know, diagnosing and treating pain is difficult.

“You would assume that MRI’s, CT’s, nerve testing, et al, would uncover the cause of the pain. But that’s not always true,” said Bennett, who is Chief Medical Officer of The National Pain Report. “We simply have to learn more about how to diagnose and treat the pain.”

Trickle, who was known as the sport’s greatest local short-track racer, went to Duke University for more tests to help determine what caused the pain under his left breast.

But apparently they couldn’t help, at least not fast enough for Trickle.

“He must have just decided the pain was too high, because he would have never done it for any other reason,” said his brother.

Bennett says the academic system in the United States needs to address how pain is diagnosed and treated.

“We can and must do better,” said Dr. Bennett. “Our medical schools must think about how to prepare the physicians of tomorrow with the right formal training to be able to tackle the complexity of pain.”

“Pain is the number one reason for a person in the United States to seek medical attention. Despite this, the academic system in the United States has never formed a residency which would produce a physician who is skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of pain.”

If you or a loved one are in emotional distress, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has counselors available 24 hours day, seven days a week, at 800-273-TALK (8255). You are not alone. Help and hope are available.

Authored by: Ed Coghlan

There are 26 comments for this article
  1. charles Bates at 6:54 pm

    Multiply these accounts by hundreds of thousands every day and just begin to realize the scope of poorly controlled pain and depression issues in the United States. How interesting it is to read here how some organizations are laboring for better control of pain and its consequences whilst elsewhere all we read about is how a huge nationwide crackdown is underway to deprive so many hundreds of thousands of patients from badly needed pain control, especially those with decades of multiple chronic pain issues. I have watched the Albuquerque VA hospital oscillate from one absurd policy to the other for forty years now,telling us “you have the right to be free from pain” just a few years ago to telling me personally that I will receive no increase in pain meds even though I have several major back issues pending surgery(waiting months for diagnotic exams) even as I am changing medications for major depression and seizures at the same time. Thoughts of suicide become increasingly realistic as day after day goes by having forgotten what the feeling of being pain free is actually like.Add into this mix the worsening symptoms of combat PTSD this time of year and there are many mornings when I truly wished I hadn’t awakened at all. God Bless Mr. Trickle and his family. He will be in all our prayers and may they all be at peace knowing that his suffering has ended.

  2. Season at 3:26 pm

    I feel so sorry for Mr. Trickles family but can only think that Mr Trickles is now at peace! I have Fibromyalgia for16yrs and all I can think of is suicide. I am also at the point that I don’t know how much longer I can take this. I am so angry with everything the sun shines and all I can think is beautiful day and I can’t do (fill in the blanks hike, play whatever). Then I see everyone else happily Living. I want so much to live but even though I’m on options I’m still getting worse and so far nothing works. Without a drastic improvement it’s just a matter of time before I kill myself. I agree with all the above comments the medical system has to change now and listen to and Help the suffering pain community. Best wishes for everyone.

  3. ken at 1:48 pm

    If you have RSD/CRPS Please go to the website American RSDHope

    American RSDHope’s Mission Statment is as follows; American RSDHope – Provide Hope, Help, information, and Comfort to patients with CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome), formerly known as RSDS (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome) and their loved ones.

  4. Lia at 10:18 pm

    Fibromialgia makes your life a living nightmare! Day and night pain 24 hours a day! We need HELP ! And we need pain relife!

  5. Cathy at 8:04 am

    I’ve had chronic pain for yrs at one time in my life it was so unbearable I felt like I couldn’t go on so my dr assigned me to pain management. Then and only then did I start getting relief! I couldn’t live life this good without their help!!!!! I still have flare ups but not that intense every day. Prayers r with his family!! I felt that pain beyond words! No one has a clue how a persons pain is and to what extend. U can’t tell by looking. I’m very sad! Prayers for all

  6. Karma at 6:34 pm

    I bless my doctor every day. She understands that there is pain and that I cannot deal with it without some help. Many times I have considered suicide – but I cannot do that to my family. I never thought I would be so useless. I can understand Dick’s position. I am fixing to start with a pain management center – but I have already told them – if they try to mess with my meds I an out of there.

  7. Kelli J. Martin at 10:19 am

    Like most of the other commenters, I too have serious pain issues. I’ve tried everything from narcotics, to physical therapy and injections. ER DOCTORS DON’T GIVE A CRAP! Know this! They are only there for a paycheck. 99.9% of Doctors think you’re drug seeking. Here in Florida, it’s a nightmare. You can go to a pill mill Dr and sit for 3 hours or you can go to a Dr that is the other end of the spectrum and doesn’t prescribe ANY pain meds. Pain Dr’s are a joke. My last one yelled at me and told me my whole problem was MY fault because I’d had back surgery 12 years ago. I just recently hurt my elbow. The ER Dr said it was broken, sent me to an ortho and gave me 20 Percoet 5/325 for pain. This is the 6th prescription I’ve had in 14 months. I live in agony. It sux because you know, no Dr’s give a shit.

  8. erika at 8:28 am

    this should be a warning to a lot of doctors who don’t listen to their patients and don’t want to prescribe pain medication… only the person who is having the pain realy knows what it feels like…it is awful…I suffer from fibromyalgia ..very severe pain… and everyone has different pain tolerance… if a patient asks for pain med please give him the pain med…he is asking to have more of a life , be able to join in with family activities etc.. not to get a high like a lot of doctors think pain patients want the medication…you live in pain for a long time and see how long you can live without proper pain management and proper pain meds…. my prayers go out to his family and I know how he felt with pain and how terrible it is to have pain everyday 24 hours a day all year and years long…..

  9. Tracy Jones at 8:21 am

    I have had RSD /CRPS for 12 years I now have fibromyalgia, ankylosing spondylitis, reverse T3 hypothyroidism and parry romberg syndrome all cause chronic pain I went from being a out going wife and mom who loved yo be active with her family to living my life on the couch watching T.V. living in chronic pain is horrible and then the way. I am treated is devastating the medical community needs to start teaching that pain is as real as cancer and we deserve the same respect as anyone please make a change
    thanks
    Tracy

  10. Pat Anson, Editor at 1:31 pm

    If you or a loved one are in emotional distress, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). You are not alone. Help and hope are available.

  11. Dr. Paul Christo, host of Aches and Gains radio show on chronic pain at 12:28 pm

    Sadly, multiple studies have shown that patients with chronic pain are at greater risk for suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, and suicide completions. In fact, the likelihood of death by suicide in patients with chronic pain is 2-3 the rate of the general population. This makes evaluation and treatment of pain by trained specialists even more important.

  12. Terry Fenwick at 9:15 am

    I live with chronic pain from nerves damaged during surgery for cancer treatment. It was after the chemo and radiation of my jaw. They then opened my neck completely on the right side as a precaution. They removes a huge amount of tissue, muscle etc.
    They also severed a nerve. This nerve is trying to reconnect and of course it never will. The problem is my brain thinks I am in pain. The whole area of the surgery is painful like the wound is wide open and someone is digging out the tissue. All the time!! It never eases up. It never will.
    It has been almost 8 years. I suffer every second of every day.
    I know it’s not as bad as some but I sometimes feel like I can’t take it any more.
    Feel the worst pain possible and try to wrap your head around the thought that no matter what, you will always feel that pain. No relief is coming until your dead.

    I’m only 50 years old. I have a lot of years to live with my pain.
    I have come to grip with this fact. Some days are hell but I get by.

    I feel sad for his family.

  13. Chronic Pain Aware at 7:43 am

    I agree with Sarah B. It makes simple sense, that a Pain relief medication shoudl be prescribed for pain!!!!! very few Dr’s understand this very very simple fact. The pain patient has to choose life or no life. Even if the life means Opioid treatment.

    “I am also a severe chronic pain (so far) survivor. In my opinion it is criminal to withhold opioid treatment from those who need it for palliative (NOT terminal) care and to allow us some fraction of a quality of life that most others, including physicians, enjoy.

    As for those who believe that prescriptions do only damage and should not be used, wise up. There are tradeoffs and shades of grey in life and people should be entitled to make their own choices regarding pain care, just like whether or not they would want certain surgeries. Every person and their circumstances is different, all options should be available to be considered! And ESPECIALLY for the aging, their burdens become larger to bear with time and quality of life becoming shorter.”

  14. Annie at 1:01 am

    This article and the comments to it just saddens me so much. So much suffering and hardship, and so little understanding and support. I think pain is made worse when it feels as if no-one understands and no0one is helping. My heart goes out to all of you

  15. JB at 9:18 pm

    Dealing with chronic pain myself (Fibromyalgia) I have considered ending my life. If I get to a place where my pain cannot be treated and I cannot take care of my self I will euthanize myself. But that’s not what I want to write about. I want to talk about the stigma of chronic pain. Doctors are so afraid to use narcotics because they don’t want us to get addicted. Well guess what…the narcotics are the only thing that work. We are not drug addicts. We are people who have a legitimate use for narcotics and we are using them to treat pain, not get high. There is a difference between a drug abuser and a drug user. I am not a drug addict. Yes, if I stop taking narcotics I will go through withdraw. But if I stop taking the Lyrica or Cymbalta I will go through withdraw too. My body is chemically dependent on narcotics but Im not a strung out addict. I work, I have a home, a dog, hobbies, etc. With out the narcotics I would not have any of those things. I couldn’t work or take care of myself and it would leave me with Mr Trickle’s option. I wish more people understood this.

  16. Donna at 5:50 pm

    As a fellow chronic pain sufferer it saddens me that Mr. Trickle felt there was no other relief except by suicide. The medical system is broken and it must be fixed. As another poster said, why can’t a physician admit they don’t know what is wrong to cause such pain, but treat it so a person can have some semblance of life. My prayers are with the family and other sufferers. Fight for treatment!!

  17. Carla at 5:24 pm

    I have chronic daily migraines, FM, and RA. I been to see the best migraine doctors and rheumatologist s in Fl. All have told me there is nothing more they can do for to go to pain management. I go but the meds do not help and the drs are afraid to give anything stronger or more dosages per day because the DEA will swiftly swoop in and arrest the dr. I have been kicked out of hospital ers, crying from pain and bleeding all over the place because they think I’m a drug seeker. If they give md pain meds they call me a drug addict because the meds do nothing for the pain.I have built up a tolerance to most of the drugs ers give becuase I have taken them daily since all this began 20+ years ago. A 800 mg ibuprofen is not going to stop my pain. And neither will a shot of demerol. .I would gladly try any experimental treatments, even surgeries just tk stop the pain so I can have a life..play with my kids..walk without a cane. Everyday I get up an hour before I have to just to take my daily cocktail of pain meds muscle relaxers and depression meds just so I can see my kids off to school. I have a 9 year old daughter with down syndrome who sits by me when I’m in bed throsing up and crying fom a migraine who tells me that its ok the dr will fix it… no they won’t… they can’t.. they have no clue how without putting themselves at risk of going to jail. Even then I can’t take that strong stuff I need to be functional mentally to care for my 3 kids as I am a single mom. And yes I have thought about suicide a lot actually. The pain is getting to be to much to bear, and I hate seeing my kids upset because I’m in pain and they want to help but can’t.

    So please someone help us. Stop putting drs in jail for trying to keep a person out of pain, we need more research on fibromyalgia. It affects so many people, even small children can get it. If I can barely stand the pain then those poor kids must be in agony.drug companies need to focus on curing illnesses and research more effective drugs and stop trying to be the richest one. One nasal spray migraine med. One dose is $800. Who can afford that?

    My next option is suicide. I have no doubts if they don’t find an effective treatment soon I will get to the point where I won’t be able to take it anymore.

  18. Donna Ratliff at 5:14 pm

    This is a very sad story and it didn’t have to happen. I agree with everyone here including the author that pain needs to be treated. A man who is as popular as Dick Trickle, suffering with pain, and living in NC has me wondering? Because I thought that state had a program to help ensure that pain patients had access to care and medications? Why did this man have to suffer so badly? NO ONE should have to commit suicide because of pain. Access to treatment is a HUGE problem in 2013. GOD help ALL of us who are suffering with pain in this country.

  19. Andrew at 5:12 pm

    I belong to some Chronic Pain groups on Facebook, such as Chronic Pain Info. We offer each other support and encouragement.

    Thanks,

    Andrew

  20. Beth Stoll at 4:51 pm

    As a chronic pain sufferer~~~~30 years since diagnosis~~~there are MANY days where you ask yourself~~~why me?, why no cure? and yet somehow I have found the strength to keep picking myself up and try to remain positive~~~not always easy to do~~~but this is the plan that God has for me. I tried testing HIM~~~but HE would not let me die. So every day is a challenge~~~many disappointments~~~but when I need to cry~~~I DO. AND I have learned NEVER to apologize to anyone for my condition and its limitations. Our lives are “special” in more ways than one~~~and we are never to forget this. The “SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW”!!!!

  21. StrongerthanRSD at 1:10 pm

    I have CRPS/RSD. I got it from a blood draw at an ER Room. What the hospital and insurance did to hide their negligence, the way they treated me like I was there for money, knowing nothing about me or the career that injury destroyed. I wrote about my experience in Letters of Courage bc I could not believe how the system had 1) hurt me, 2) disparaged me to my face and then in my medical records, and 3) denied me medical care and pain treatment. Bc I was injured at UCSF, no neurologist will see me bc they don’t want to get in the middle. Is this how medical care should be when CRPS brings the highest pain levels known to man or woman? Its super abuse.

    I’ve never been so challenged in all my life. I tried advocating but then the hospital accused ME of wanting media attention. Then, they have gone around hiring colleagues of mine to do their PR campaigns.

    The system is seriously messed up. Please do something. I am trying to hang on, but like one of the posters said, years are passing, I can’t get out, I am losing friends and family, and my life is passing me by. I can’t work to support my family and I feel awful. Then, to have the medical care system treat me like I am out for drugs, or money, its more than a person can take.

    PLEASE DO SOMETHING. I am stronger but as the months pass with not enough to eat, not enough money for medication, I have grown weary. Did I mention the local service agency tried to prosecute me like I was fraud case out to ‘take’ benefits and even though I qualify, I am too scared to go through those experiences again bc it takes such a toll on my health.

    My whole life…they took my whole life. In this country, breaking a lamp in a store has more consequences.

  22. Sarah B. at 12:27 pm

    I am also a severe chronic pain (so far) survivor. In my opinion it is criminal to withhold opioid treatment from those who need it for palliative (NOT terminal) care and to allow us some fraction of a quality of life that most others, including physicians, enjoy.

    As for those who believe that prescriptions do only damage and should not be used, wise up. There are tradeoffs and shades of grey in life and people should be entitled to make their own choices regarding pain care, just like whether or not they would want certain surgeries. Every person and their circumstances is different, all options should be available to be considered! And ESPECIALLY for the aging, their burdens become larger to bear with time and quality of life becoming shorter.

  23. Trey Barber at 11:49 am

    Hello. This is another senseless death. We pray for Mr. Trickle’s family. Medical science can treat persistent pain with Opioid Therapy, but politicians have scared Doctors into ceasing prescribing opioids. Hopefully the suicide of Mr. Dick Trickle will alert politicians into using common sense in returning chronic pain opioid management back to Doctors. Until then, the suicide rate for people living in hellish pain will continue to rise. A good site for Opioid Therapy is http://www.livinginpain.org. Take care and bless you.

  24. Dennis Kinch at 9:18 pm

    There is an answer, maybe not to the disease that causes pain, but to the way we, as patients, handle it. What if your diagnosis is a permanent disease with no treatment? Is it the end? The answer is self empowerment.To being happy and productive despite pain. To putting pain in its proper perspective. To taming the monster and learning to live with and around it. But there are steps that need to be taken to get to this point first. Steps that may take years o get to. (it took me 4) Some get through these steps in less than a year. It just depends. I only wish could have talked to Mr. Dickie. Would he have been willing to undertake the challenge of “swinging the curve,” of taking the steps that lead out of the negative side of the Pain Cycle? We’ll never know. I walked across the country to prove to people how the illusion of Pain, the huge monster we think pain is, just isn’t true. The human spirit is much bigger than the true Pain monster, but going through pain and the medical system builds the stigma of pain up and our own true spirit down until one day Pain is running everything. You end up in a cave with no light, feeling your way along, hoping your next step isn’t over the edge of a cliff. And nobody seems to help, or show you the way, or light the light. After a while you feel alone and stuck with this monster who has ruined everything you once were, and you don’t even know who YOU are anymore. This is the negative side of the Cycle. Sites like this one show there are people, many people, who have gone through it. There are 20 million people going through it as we speak. 20 million!! The medical system needs to change drastically if they want this needless suicide rate to stop. Forget the opioid epidemic. It’s nothing compared to the suicide from Pain epidemic. Or the ones who don’t commit suicide, who live for many years on the negative side, losing everything, jobs, insurance, money, even their family and friends, and end up for years in this bleak cave.Pain medicine need s to start including any and all methods of treating pain, including pain counseling, teaching people to tame the monster, to grab their lives back. I counsel people through awareness of what the Cycle is and how it ruined them, and how to get back on track. The medical community needs to take this epidemic seriously enough to pull together, to side with alternative methods and counseling, to rush to the aid of these people. The insurance industry needs to get behind this idea and start giving up the money to fund this style of treatment. It works! I’ve seen it i action, in communities where the medical pros tell the insurance companies what to do.The case of Mr. Dickie is one of hundreds of thousands and it is growing into a pandemic.In countries with socialized medicine it isn’t as bad because all medicine is available. Our country needs to start changing how we practice medicine and how we help people, especially people with long term, chronic pain disease.My life may have been ruined, more from the system than from Pain, but my spirit is stronger and I am happier and more productive than I’ve EVER been! And I’m not alone. Just few in numbers. It doesn’t need to be this way.Please help us all.

  25. Holly at 1:54 pm

    This is so sad… I encourage the medical profession to re-evaluate how they diagnose & treat pain. Prescription medications act as a temporary cover that may further damage the bodies capacity to heal itself. Perhaps it’s time to look at one’s genetic makeup, which may predispose one to toxicity or deficiency & treat individually based on that… Also, certain prescription medications, like fluoroquinolones (Avelox, Cipro, Levaquin), are known to cause chronic CNS, & peripheral nervous system damage that may lead to irreversible pain. I am among the thousands of lucky ones damaged by them. Pain is also commonly dismissed as psychological, simply because a physician lacks the humility to say, “I don’t know what is causing your pain.”

  26. Holly at 12:59 pm

    I suffer from FM, Arthritis, Bursitis, Osteoporosis, RSD, and my back has been broken in two different places. It gets to the point where nothing helps at times. I know there are people out there who have it worse than me and my heart goes out to them. It completely changes your whole life!!!