Time Magazine Releases Cover Story on Pain Killers

Time Magazine Releases Cover Story on Pain Killers

The June 15 issue of Time Magazine is out with a cover story on Pain Killers that says America’s addiction to them is the worst addiction crisis the country has ever seen.

Calling it a national epidemic, it says “9.4 million Americans take opioids for long-term pain and 2.1 million are estimated by the NIH (National Institutes of Health) to be hooked.”

The article written by Massimo Calabresi calls the crisis a “tragic combination of good intentions, criminal deception and feckless oversight to turn America’s desire to relieve its pain into such widespread suffering.”

It recounts how the FDA approved ever more powerful drugs for long-term use without enough data, the pharmaceutical companies marketed aggressively, and doctors wrote the prescriptions too freely.

The article doesn’t speak much to the issue of chronic pain, for which many prescriptions are written, other than to say 100-million people suffer from it and a quarter of them says it is severe enough to limit their quality of life, according to the Institutes of Medicine.

The National Pain Report ran a story in April asking if the media are missing the point on the pain medication dispute and cited two pain leaders who agreed that prescription drug abuse is a problem, but that pain patients who need the medication and use it responsibly needs to be remembered in the discussion.

The Time article really concentrated on the addiction and the lack of science it says exists. Calabresi writes:

“Part of the problem, according to the NIH, is that doctors have no scientific certainty over when and whether it’s safe to use opioids to treat long-term pain. “There is insufficient evidence for every clinical decision that a provider needs to make regarding use of opioids for chronic pain,” a NIH panel on opioids concluded earlier this year. The American Academy of Neurology last year concluded that the risks of long-term opioid treatment for headaches and chronic low-back pain likely outweigh the benefits.”

The lack of science both retrospectively and going forward was cited in the story.

“There were no reliable studies proving opioids worked safely against chronic pain, because it would be unethical to require pain patients in a control group to go months on end without medication. “It’s not practical for us to require people to go for a year on a placebo,” says Janet Woodcock, head of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research”

The Time article also says the issue is starting to percolate in the nascent 2016 presidential campaign. Hilary Clinton is talking about the “quiet epidemic” and Carly Fiorina, whose late daughter struggled with painkillers, has call for decriminalizing drug addiction.

Editor’s Note: The Time Magazine article hyperlinked in the article is behind a pay wall, so if you don’t have a subscription to Time, you have to pay to read it.

We expect many of our readers will have comments on the story. We will publish those that add to the dialogue. 

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Authored by: Ed Coghlan

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LouisVA: I am not doubting your experience with Opiates. You are very lucky. But assuming others won’t get addicted because you didn’t and deciding that I don’t know what I am talking about is, in my opinion, very wrong. I know the definition of addiction was changed but it is what it really is. Addiction versus dependence: The definitions of “addiction” and “dependence” have evolved over the last few decades, and continue to be debated. I used to be the secretary for a pyschiatrist at the local mental health facility. The definition in my medical dictionary “The Bantam” is: Addiction n. a state of dependence produced by the habitual taking of drugs. Strictly speaking, the term implies the state of physical dependence induced by such drugs as morphine, heroin, and alcohol. I was required to go to seminars about prescription drug abuse. In my state, at the time, it had the highest rate of overdoes and abuse, worse than street drugs, in the whole country. My age is important because I have been seeing this in almost all people for many years. I’ve seen the name addiction turned into dependence to comply with the change in the pain management community trying to originally do a good thing, by helping people with chronic pain and take away the stigma of the very likely occurance of getting hooked. It has been a huge failure. My other sister died of an overdose from these drugs after a surgery. My mother is not her anymore and down to 68 pounds, paranoid and miserable and still protecting her doctor who said, “Lortab can’t kill a headache in a piss-ant”. I was taking notes. My father just died from hospice giving him Methadone after he became addicted to percocet also. He was never the same again. My mother-in-law fell and broke her ankle and the rehab gave her ongoing pain pills that she became physically addicted to. Eventually, she became paranoid and halluciated so they dianosed her with Alzheimer’s and put her in a lock down assisted living for her own safety. They said she had to take the pain pills because, after 6 months, she was still in excruciating pain. She fell again, after 3 falls in a one week, and shattered her hip socket and femer. I got angry and told them to gradually get her off of these drugs. She is 92, back at her home that she forgot she had when on these drugs, and on NO pain pills, with NO sign of Alzheimer’s. She is doing GREAT!. Both of my aunts died young from these opiates. The one aunt told us, there is a place worse than pain, death and hell. It’s addiction to these opiates! She was not old. She died 2 years later from an overdose. My uncle died at 69 from them..My cousin was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s after she was put on Percocet and Ambien. Percocet won’t let you sleep enough and a lot of users are put… Read more »


LouisVA & Narek, those our age have seen many things. We have seen the good and the bad that cetain drugs can do. The patient has to be Responsible and so does the Prescribing Physician. When the patient realizes they have a problem with abuse of the pain meds, it is their responsibility to tell their dr. If they chose to contnue to abuse the meds, that is their choice. Everyone runs the risk of addictions when they take these meds and no one forces them to. Just because addicts chose to get high and some overdose doesn’t mean that they have the right to decide how responsible patients should be treated.



I do not see your age having anything to do with this issue – I am 65. In addition, the ‘Opium Wars’ to me is evidence of the failure of an ongoing drug war and has nothing to do with opioid therapy for chronic pain.

You said: “Pain Pills May Actually Increase Pain. Most people do not know that taking painkillers over a long period of time may in fact increase a patient’s sensitivity to pain (hyperalgesia).”

I’ve not had this problem at all. In fact, I am comfortable and am getting the same good relief after five and a half years and have never needed to increase my dose. As to Dr. Clifford Bernstein, I simply disagree with his assessment and so would my doctor, Dr. Forest Tennant.

You say: “For those who are addicted to narcotic pain medications, a detoxification program is often needed. Pain killer addiction is a chemical, physical disease, one that requires expert medical treatment in a safe, humane environment.”

That may be true; however, I am not addicted. You continue to use addiction and dependence as if they mean the same thing and they don’t. According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse – see:


“Addiction—or compulsive drug use despite harmful consequences—is characterized by an inability to stop using a drug; failure to meet work, social, or family obligations; and, sometimes (depending on the drug), tolerance and withdrawal. The latter reflect physical dependence in which the body adapts to the drug, requiring more of it to achieve a certain effect (tolerance) and eliciting drug-specific physical or mental symptoms if drug use is abruptly ceased (withdrawal). Physical dependence can happen with the chronic use of many drugs—including many prescription drugs, even if taken as instructed. Thus, physical dependence in and of itself does not constitute addiction, but it often accompanies addiction. This distinction can be difficult to discern, particularly with prescribed pain medications, for which the need for increasing dosages can represent tolerance or a worsening underlying problem, as opposed to the beginning of abuse or addiction.”

I am truly sorry that you have had a bad experience with opioids but everyone is different and we all respond to different medications in different ways. For the last five years I’ve experienced my highest quality of life I’ve had as an adult. Please read my comment @ LouisVA, June 13, 2015 at 1:12 pm for more info. Also the comment by Mark Ibsen June 7, 2015 at 9:40 pm so poignantly says:

“Let’s also note: there is no evidence that suddenly dropping people who have been treated with opioids is useful either.”

Finally, we can all find evidence that supports our views. I realize there is controversy; however, opioids have helped me immensely and I will continue to use them rather than be in pain 24/7.


To LouisVA: Good for you, you can take these pills with no problems but I am 62 years old and have seen the nightmare that most people experience that no one used to talk about. I don’t have enough time to prove all of my facts. I have a file on this from many years of dealing with this. I am the caretaker, picking up the pieces that these doctors don’t! I am dealing with it right now. I have a sister, whose whole life was ruined since she was put on them in 1996 for Fibromyalgia and Migraines. Her doctor was WRONG! People need to find out the truth before they go down this road. There is tons of evidence if you really open your eyes. Read about the 2 Opium wars that happened over 100 years ago. And why would I need complete proof of facts in order to have any credibility, when you have shown none? References: 1.”CDC Grand Rounds: prescription Drug Overdoses – a U.S. Epidemic,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, published Jan. 13, 2012, , accessed Nov. 5, 2012. Pain Pills May Actually Increase Pain. Most people do not know that taking painkillers over a long period of time may in fact increase a patient’s sensitivity to pain (hyperalgesia). This happens because long term use of opiate painkillers causes a decrease in your ability to tolerate pain, and an increased sensitivity to pain. When the pain increases, people are often led to believe they need to take higher doses of pain medication than they were on initially. For those who are addicted to narcotic pain medications, a detoxification program is often needed. Pain killer addiction is a chemical, physical disease, one that requires expert medical treatment in a safe, humane environment. Becoming addicted to pain medication is a disease. This is because the painkillers (e.g. Vicodin, OxyContin, Norco, Hydrocodone) – commonly prescribed by physicians to treat pain – cause a change in your brain chemistry that is not under your control. Addiction to opioids can lead to fatal overdose. According to the CDC, 15,000 Americans died in 2011 as a result of opioid overdose. This is triple the rate from a decade ago.1 The alarming trend in opioid overdoses has caused the Centers for Disease Control to declare opioid addiction an epidemic. Physical impact of pain killers Doctor Clifford Bernstein, a pain management physician and author on Spine-health.com clearly outlines how these pain medications physically affect the body: •The brain responds to the pain medicine by increasing the number of receptors for the drug, and the nerve cells in the brain stop functioning •The body stops producing endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers) because it is receiving opiates instead •The degeneration of the nerve cells in the brain causes a physical dependency on an external supply of opiates, and reducing or not taking the pain killers causes a painful series of physical changes, known as withdrawal. Most people who take opioids for more than 2-4… Read more »


Narek said “I know many people who have been put on Opiate pain medication in the past 10 years for ongoing pain. Almost all of them have either died from an overdose or from one of the side-effects of these Opiate drugs or are addicted and suffering the consequences of the many other NIGHMARISH consequences and or side-effects of these very RISKY drugs.”

I have to respectfully disagree as most pain patients report improvement of pain and very few become “addicted.” No one has changed any definitions, Narek. Addiction and dependence are two different things. Addiction is a loss of control where one continues to abuse these drugs no matter what the consequences may be; whereas, dependence means that if one stopped taking their meds suddenly, they would go into opioid withdrawals. Please see my comment of June 13 and the same still applies. I AM STILL HAVING MY HIGHEST QUALITY OF LIFE with these meds.

You also said “ALL people WILL build up a tolerance and need more and more to get the same effect and then they suffer with worse ailments than any ongoing pain they have. Long-term Opiate use was proven to eventually cause MORE pain anyway.” It is obvious that you have no idea what you are talking about as I have not had to raise my dose in over five years and still have the same relief. Please provide data that PROVES opioids cause more pain because I do not find that to be true at all.


I know many people who have been put on Opiate pain medication in the past 10 years for ongoing pain. Almost all of them have either died from an overdose or from one of the side-effects of these Opiate drugs or are addicted and suffering the consequences of the many other NIGHMARISH consequences and or side-effects of these very RISKY drugs.

And what it does to their mind and soul is beyond words! It’s like “Invasion of the Body-Snatchers”! Who’s next?

How and why they changed the definition of “physical addiction” to “dependence” is causing MORE deaths due to these opiate pain pills. People believe that being “dependent” really isn’t the same as “physical addiction” and they think it’s safe. In recent years, they changed the definition, trying to stop negative labels on this new drug class of users. They also came out with the 1 to 10 pain scale. I know people who would hurt themselves so they could go to the hospital and get Opiate Pain Pills and others who would automatically say, I’m a 10!

I’m old enough to have a lot of experience to see the outcome of people taking addicting Opiates to deal with on-going pain. These drugs should only be used for short-term and or for people that are dying! Otherwise, ALL people WILL build up a tolerance and need more and more to get the same effect and then they suffer with worse ailments than any ongoing pain they have. Long-term Opiate use was proven to eventually cause MORE pain anyway.

People tell me, you don’t understand what it’s like to be in chronic pain. Oh yes I do. I have Ankylosing Spondylitis.. Yes, is is very painful! There are MANY other NON-ADDICTING methods to help chronic pain. Why would anyone choose to get addicted on top of their ongoing pain? Many people DON’T realize what they are risking when they take something they think is safe because it is prescibed by a doctor.

The fact is: more people are dying from PRESCRIPTION Opiate pain drugs than all of the street drugs put together. And there is no factual, scientific proof that Opiates are effective with treating on-going, long-term pain. The medical community needs to open their eyes and admit failure with this problem.

About a hundred years ago, Bayer promoted and sold Heroin as a non-addictive form of Morphine. Many doctors prescribed it and many unsuspecting people got addicted. It was a horrible tragedy! Bayer stopped production and got rid of the history of what they did and started selling aspirin. Because of the internet, that history is now out in the open. And Drug companies and doctors DO make a lot of money off of the sale of these “modern day” forms of heroin, called prescription pain pills.

Larry Blackburn

I know i was addict anyone who has been on pain meds as long as I have has to be addicted. I have 4 bulging disk in my back and pinch nerve and 4 herniated disk in my kneck. Had been on 5 oxy 30 since I was 18 until 5 years ago I switched to methadone. I am m 37 now and have quit thr methadone because my doctor was moved 7 hrs away because my state Wv does not tolerate pain doc. I do not want tb to go back to the opioid. Does anyone have any solution I live in misery and have no quality of life. God bless

Stacey E. Clark

As a Hospice and Palliative Care Nurse, i have seen and my patients have experienced the increased controls put in place to help stem the drug seeking behaviors of those our society has deemed not worthy of pain control. The sounds of increased controls are again sounding and I am deeply concerned that in our attempts to control the distribution of pain medications to “appropriate” patients that hospice patients’ needs will be ignored. Please remember those patients at the end of life.

Julie B

This is so full of misleading statements that it scares me. I have Fibromyalgia, Degenative Disc Diease,bad back, curvature of the spine and some others. Led an active life, working in my yard and spending time with my grandkids. I’m 63 and until two years ago had only took pain pills a few after surgery. Didn’t like taking medicine even Advil only took them when I had bad headache. After getting Fibromyalgia about two years ago along with the degenating bones I was in pain all the time along with no energy. Some days didn’t get out of bed. Now I take two hydrocodone, ten mg daily. One in morning and one at night. I’m still in pain but most of the time I can at least get around some without too much pain. They have pain it hard enough to get the medicine now. Have to get new prescription every month. On top of that half the time drugstore are out so have to go to two or three drugstores to get it filled. I am dependent on the pills but in no way am I am an addict. I take it as prescribed and very aware of addiction. I’m like so many comments I’ve read, if I had to suffer without them I would be in misery all the time. I agree with the comments of if you let a animal be in pain unnecessarily its abuse but what about us. All of f that suffer chronic pain, I am afraid too like the others that there would be more suicides and people hurting so much that they would try to find relief somehow. We are not talking about pain that last a few days with relief in site but day after day after day. Endless days of pain ahead with no end in sight. Would anyone want that for themselves or a loved one?

They need to get their facts from the ones that live with pain and deal with it. If you are a decent human being then you should have some compassion for us. It’s our lives you are dealing with here and it might be yours one day. So don’t leave it to the people who have no idea of the ones who suffer. Don’t have the doctors so worried about prescribing the medicine that they stop or make it so low a dose as to be no help. Leave it to the person who suffers to decide. Getting high is of no interest to me I could do that if I was an addict. I am a responsible, loving, caring, giving person who just wants the rest of my life to be as comfortable as I can. Please consider what you are doing and how it will effect many good, kind people that just don’t want to suffer.
Thank you.

15,000 overdose deaths a year from prescribed narcotics. 30,000 deaths from arthritis Ned’s like ibuprofen ( called NSAIDS) . Our research has shown that treating the root causes of the pain ( eg- sleep, hormonal deficiencies, infections/inflammation) safely decreased pain by 50% and improved symptoms overall by 91% in fibromyalgia, but being low cost, the information gets out slowly. Many studies show herbals more effective than arthritis mess and very safe. The problem is not lack of effective research on treating pain , but lack of effective education on pain management.


What if Pain Mgmt Doctor actually hurts you, through Occipital nerve blocks done with my hair pulled up sitting on a chair, Who does this a San Leandro PM, and his PA, first time I could not feel my legs, mind you I was IMPAIRED and had to drive 50 miles through traffic, I told nurses, and Recpt. They ignored me, I literally could not feel the back of my head, or my legs or feet, I got home but for over 7 hrs I was in this condition. I was receiving Oxy 30 mg 6 per day, Fiorinal #3 1-2 tabs every 3 hours as needed, Adderall 20 mg 4 tabs per day for ADD, yes I have ADD. 2nd injection was on jul 3 14 a holiday weekend Occipital nerve pain block, I was able to walk a little better out of there I asked for less Lidocaine but symptoms worsened could not walk for 3 weeks, called and called no one called back. Next time I saw doc he said this is when Doctors run from patients, he said I am Unusual and blew off my difficulties, upped my dosage, allowed early refills always, and then I met the PA. Could Never get an appt. with (dr J) ever, so PA sees me doesn’t know why Im being treated. I had to tell him everything, (Whole time I’m thinking where is my file? why don’t you know this. His name has been on several early scripts he approved since pain was not being managed, he injected my traps, and near spine with Cortisal and some other agents, he punctured my lung? I felt it immediately, since then I can’t walk well, I lost 10 more pounds, have extreme rgidity in legs, arms back neck and have lost teeth suddenly as if the are disintegrating in my sleep? Im in AGONY. THEY Discharged me suddenly in May 2015, gave me a letter written in April 2015 and basically won’t talk to me, gave me 30n day supply and don’t give a blank if I live or die. Now I am having hard time finding pain mgmt doc, it takes time, ran out of Oxy 30s 3 days ago, no refills. I have some of F3’s and address thank Gawd. I did nothing wrong they did, staff there have been let go, and my life is in limbo. I used to run on trails and do things now I sit all day in pain, and scared to death I don’t know what to do. I am going to file a complaint with medical board. The other issue now SSDI is doing a disability review on me and I have no doctor suddenly. Last time I was there I gave them a copy I hope they don’t harm me further that is the only income I have and get medicare medical and part D. They are grossly negligent here, I am the victim, and this has mostly to do with… Read more »


So your limping but you never said how much pain your in so I’m guessing you’re not in alot of pain otherwise you would have said something about it not everyone perceives pain in the same way so I’m happy you don’t have severe chronic pain that you don’t have to take or do anything about but not the same for everyone

Carissa Simao

“Fibro is a dsm5 diagnosis and it should be. I have never met anyone with it that wasn’t a borderline. I have insufficiency fractures from radiation and I take nothing for pain and go to work limping every day. Suck it up!”

You’ve got a lot of nerve. How dare you judge another’s pain! I can’t stand those who claim they have it so much worse and take nothing so everyone else should suck it up. Not everyone can tolerate pain at the same level. Some can take nothing and soldier on. Others can’t get out of bed. Who are you to judge how they feel? Does everyone with fibro need narcotics? No. But let’s leave that decision between them and their doctors. How about we learn compassion, stop judging people on what we THINK we know, and become better people for it. I hope you never have to face the cold-hearted attitude you displayed.


Fibro is a dsm5 diagnosis and it should be. I have never met anyone with it that wasn’t a borderline. I have insufficiency fractures from radiation and I take nothing for pain and go to work limping every day. Suck it up!


Fibro, MS, Degenerative Bone disease, etc etc. Yes a lot of pain. By the time I was referred to a pain specialist I was taking 3x the recommended amount of medication. As my body got used to the meds I would have to increase the amount. Because of stories such as those talked about, I was certain that the pain was the same I was just becoming addicted. I saw the pain specialist and he told me that I need to be honost about everything so that he could treat me and really take away the pain or at least get it to a tolerable level. I was completely honost with him right down to telling him I thin I’m just an addict. This Dr. didnt agree but he had many hoops to jump thru to become a pt. of his. You had to have a full drug panel test blood, uring, hair right there at your first visit. Then a psychological exam. Also a background check so that if you were guilty of a drug chrime, he would still treat you, but he had to be more cautious. Plus a few other things I couldnt remember. I took about 6 weeks of work to get all this info for another visit and until you had it he would not write a script or treat your pain. So I did all these things while my regular Dr. treated me and while taking extra. When all was said and done I had en electonic pump put inside of me with a wire up my spine right to the central nervous system. It delivers a very small amount of dilaudid continuosly without going thru my body( I don’t have a hockey puck for a liver etc). I was so scared to try this because again I thought I was addicted. The Dr. said “you trusted me and told me all your truths now trust me because if this doesnt work I will keep giving you your pain meds (3x what my personal Dr could give me). To try to end this story a little quicker my life is completely different now. Not only do I take 1/150th of the meds I was taking before (because it does directly to your cns you don’t need hardly any) but it is more effective then anything I”ve tried. My point is there are people with medical problems that require large amounts of pain therapy. Without this I absolutely could not live. I could not take the physical pain. I would have had to keep getting more as my body tolerated pain meds (not an issue with the pump). I would have either had to go to street drug or more likely I would have taken my own life. You cannot live with chronic pain and be the person you want to be. These areticles like Time don’t realize all the damage they can cause when they throw out facts that are unsupported or unexplained.

Leslie moore

I live with chronic pain from diabetic neuropathy fibromyalgia arthritis and bulging disks and degenerative disk disease it’s a living hell I just got shut off cold turkey of 130mg of long acting morphine twice a day and oxy 10’s four times a day I have taken this for many years and was able to live a fairly normal life now I’m unable to stand to cook or wash dishes I can’t go to a store that does not have a wheelchair I can’t walk around the store I’d rather be dead then live the rest of my life like this the neuropathy is the worst it should be a crime to do this to me animals have more rights then me they are not aloud to suffer the owner would be arrested for animal abuse true addicts can still get pills illegally while good people suffer something needs to be done this is just in humane we all need to come together and fight for our right to have a quality life please I don’t want to live in pain any longer


I am 65 years old and have had chronic pain for 50 of those 65 years. Now, my pain has become ‘centralized’ and my only recourse is opioid therapy. For five years, I have been seeing one of the best pain specs in our country and because of the opioid therapy I’m having the highest quality of life I’ve ever had. Raines comment of June 8 is excellent. The commenter says:

“The only reason I’m still alive is because of pain medication. When you live in constant pain everyday with no relief and no chance of either, I personally felt/feel like living that way is senseless torture.
I honestly don’t care if I find out that the medication took away 15 years of my life. I would rather have a year of being able to do things, of having a chance to really have a life, than I ever would want those 15 years worth of pain and misery.”

I could not agree more! If I had to go back to pre-opioid days I do not think I would want to live. I made a rational choice with my doctor, while knowing the possible long-term consequences, and would do the same thing again.

Also, to MELODY – please be conservative with hydrocodone, not because of the opioid but it also contains acetaminophen which can damage organs. I feel much safer taking pure opioids with no acetaminophen.

One final note: I travel every 90 days from Virginia to California to see my pain specialist. Is that something a ‘so-called’ addict would do? I think not. It is better to live my life with much less pain.

Janice Reynolds

Opioids have a long history of relieving pain and this fixation on it’s potential for addiction is relatively new. There is nothing to link pain management to addiction on a large scale. (Cochrane Review on studies pertaining to that found they were not strong but still only found 4- percent become addicted when using opioids for pain management (remember 17% of the population has an addictive personality).
Any medications that can help someone with persistent pain is welcome and research should continue. The problems associated with the type of medications you mentioned is many times with persistent pain there is no known site of origin; neurons are sending the wrong message to the brain due to injury through crushing or breakage or chemical toxicity-there are so very many types of persistent pain. We also can believe these medications will not work for everyone. We don’t know what the adverse effects will be; may be worse than potential for addiction. We can also realize they will be so expensive, most people with persistent pain will not be able to afford them. In the last fifteen years we have two medications have been approved for use for persistent pain. which have come (there are more but I want to recount these two-problems with others are similar). Ziconotide (Prialt) was developed for neuropathic pain but used for “Chronic Pain”. It is a last chance medication (nothing else works) delivered by intrathecal infusion. It is very very expensive unable to find exact cost but one reviewer said he had a $2500 copay every 7 weeks). Side effects include serous (scary) mental conditions which may require hospitalization. In a happier note Lidoderm (Lidocaine )patches have no side effects except possibly the adhesive on them (rare) Approved for peripheral neuropathies but research supports use for back pain (as well as many patient reports), broken ribs, fractured hips (does not stop the need for opioids but decreases the amount needed), and other assorted persistent pains. They don’t work for everyone like any med, but the bigger problem is getting them prescribed (being a pain medication will pull the “Off Label” card) or try to prescribe Lidocaine cream instead (they don’t work the same way at all). The are expensive so a few insurances won’t pay but people without insurance, a large deductible, or on Medicaid cannot afford them (patch is worn for 12-24 hours, 1 to 3 patches, $120-$250 for 30). So here you have a non-opioid option which is greatly underutilized.
One more thought on the non-opioid meds- there are types of insurance including Louisiana Medicaid which will not pay for ANY treatment/intervention for Chronic Pain. I say once again the addiction issue is frequently a prejudicial issue against those with persistent pain.

I would like to hold out a ray of hope to the many people who have written comments regarding the legitimate needs for pain medicines. There are new medicines in development have the potential to be the next-generation of pain medicine that are non-opioid that have the potential to provide major pain relief for many conditions. They act on new targets present in the peripheral nervous system and block pain at the source of the pain and NOT in the brain. Hence, they will not be addictive and NOT have and will not have abuse liability like all of the current opioid medications. We need more monetary support to move this new type of drug into clinical trials and make this type of alternative an FDA approved. This kind of ground-breaking research that needs your support!

Janice Reynolds

I would like to respond or comment on several of the comments. While it always good to contact a media outlet with your disappointment or praise, Time Magazine has not been receptive in the past to responding at all. Some years back they did do a series on pain but it was slanted so that it didn’t seem that persistent pain (PP) was big a deal, most were whiners and drug seekers. Over all the media cannot usually be trusted. I don’t understand why prescription drug addiction seems to be the sexier story but it is and the facts are seldom that but rather innuendo, urban myths, quotes from addiction providers, and a distortion of research (i.e this article).
I don’t know if progress will ever be made on issue of health care providers as well as the general public understanding or even believe those who live with PP. One of the biggest myths is there is a difference between PP in a cancer setting and PP in a non-cancer setting. There is NO evidence to support there is. Everyone responds to a medication uniquely so it is difficult to say something works always. There is research supporting the mu receptor may actually have an affinity for one opioid over another (oxycodone works well for me; hydrocodone poorly). There are so many different causes, diseases, and settings related to PP-one size is never going to fit all.
Research is flaunted with much information in articles like this as well as addiction specialists, addicts, and many health care providers who are not willing to accept there is research out there which supports opioids for PP or how disruptive PP is to someone’s life. They either do not know how to evaluate research and recognize how strong the evidence is or isn’t or they base it on whether they agree or disagree-arrogance based medicine. Saying placebos have to be used is ignorant. Do they believe when cancer drugs are going through clinical trials cancer patients are placed on placebos? When they claim something is unethical, how can they believe allowing someone to suffer untreated is ever ethical? (and why has the ACLU never stepped in?). Personal anecdotes (I got addicted when prescribed narcotics for pain) are never evidence. You can find many more stories of people whose pain was relieved and they did not become addicted.
Prejudice and bigotry are the root cause of the current crisis with people with PP. That and arrogance of media and providers who wrongly try to link addiction and PP.

Katherine Johnson

It amazes me that the powers that be can state, repeatedly, that there is no evidence proving effectiveness of opioid pain medications in treatment of chronic pain. As every person with chronic pain, and more than a few physicians, will tell you the alleviation of pain in a chronic pain patient IS treatment of the most effective kind.
Patients like myself who suffer from fibromyalgia, lupus, osteoarthritis, spinal issues and other ongoing pain conditions are aware that we will never have a cure for those conditions that plague us on a daily basis. There is no magic pill that will cure MS or fibromyalgia or lupus. All we can hope for is a doctor who is sympathetic enough to realize that our pain has changed our quality of life to the point where many of us become reclusive and rarely leave our homes. What is needed is pain control and if opioid pain medications provide that relief then we should be able to get it.
We, the chronic pain population, deserve to be treated like worthwhile human beings who deserve to be effectively treated for those painful conditions that limit our lives more than the average person realizes.
Many pain patients have found it increasingly difficult to find doctors who are willing to provide adequate pain control because they few reprisals from governmental agencies like the DEA. Doctors take an oath to “First, do no harm…” but the government is currently making this very difficult.
The DEA and the federal and state governments need to be removed from the health care relationship between a doctor and patient.

Melody Starr

I was diagnosed with Fibro 5 years ago. I take Hydrocodone every day just to get the pain to tolerable levels. AGAINST my doctor’s advice, I stayed on 5mg 3x per day for 3 years…. and then, when they tried to bump me up to METHADONE, convinced them that I would be better off taking a SMALL step (to 7.5mg Hydro 3x a day) instead of going to a MUCH stronger pain med like they wanted me to. Addicted? Hell no. If I were, I’d have taken the Methadone. Instead, I’m staying on the lowest dose I can for as long as I can. This is my 2nd year on 7.5s, and I just had Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus added to my diagnoses…. but I’m staying at the same level of painkiller. I don’t want to get high, and I don’t expect to ever be 100% pain free…. I just want the pain to be tolerable, so I can live my life. Shame on you, TIME magazine, for publishing a half-@$$ed report that didn’t get all sides of the story!!!

b mac

If you want a change, try Kratom its a legal herbal supplement that treats chronic pain according to those who use it. and its much cheaper and not nearly as dangerous.

b mac

I have seen pain killers ruin many many lives and it has killed 5 of my friends. The reason we still have this major epidemic is because money always wins. Ive seen pain clinics in south florida with lines 20 people deep which you could pay a “bouncer” $100 to jump up in line so you could see the pain doctor sooner for your legal drugs. Some pain clinics had pool tables and other amenities, they were almost like a club. Freely written prescriptions for anyone with a fake MRI.

Steve G

Many of the common diseases and illnesses that cause chronic pain, a majority of the time, are caused by NUTRIENT DEFICIENCIES. Don’t ever expect your allopathic doctors to tell you this because they don’t have the TRAINING or KNOWLEDGE. They are simply drug dispensers for the pharmaceutical companies when it comes to treating chronic disease. Please check out Naturopathic Doctor Joel Wallach. He has helped THOUSANDS of people with all sorts of illnesses get off their pharmaceuticals. Dead Doctors Don’t Lie

Cheryl kirby

I am a fibro victim as well. Over the years (since 1990) I have taken every medication and therapy Dr suggested. The part of the article that really spoke to me was the part about the study. “There were no reliable studies proving opioids worked safely against chronic pain, because it would be unethical to require pain patients in a control group to go months on end without medication. “It’s not practical for us to require people to go for a year on a placebo,” says Janet Woodcock, head of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research” yet it’s ok to just not give pain meds at all? I’m confused. I hear from more and more people that they have been dropped by pain management. That happened to me and I have not used pain meds on a regular basis ever since. I have found a solution to the majority of my FIBRO symptoms. KRATOM.

Stacie tessman

This article show just one side of the problem. Did you do any research on how many chronic pain patients take there lives and Dr’s pass it off as they were depressed not in real pain. There is terrible misconceptions regarding the medical field and it all goes back to big money and big pharmaceutical companies getting what they want.


I think the article missed the mark. This is an epidemic, but it isn’t the patients that are monitored by their doctors for chronic pain that are the problem. The problem is doctors prescribing narcotics and then the patients don’t take them as prescribed and/or the doctors don’t follow up. I’ve heard the story many times of a person gets insured, prescribed a narcotic pain killer, gets addicted, doctor shops, it gets too expensive, turns to heroin, and loses everything. I’ve also heard many stories of people who had a medical or dental procedure done and were given a TON of painkillers. I was given Tylenol with Codeine when I had my wisdom teeth taken out and the medicine made me sick. I took a couple doses and then took children’s tylenol for the pain.

S Fields

Maybe the politicians need to stay out of our health care as they are obviously not very knowledgable on the subject. As others have stated we are not addicted but dependant on pain meds. I have chronic pancreatitis due to gallstones (my pancreas is digesting itself), it is the most painful thing I have ever dealt with (more so than natural childbirth) and what they are doing to us is nothing short of neglect and malpractice. I think a national class action law suit needs to be filed. I have seen many in major pain with no hope of help, many ER’s will no longer treat pain even though it is a vital sign of something amiss in our bodies, We deserve to be able to live as much of a pain free life as we can

A report (Source: Jama Network) on “Lower Opioid Overdose Death Rates Associated with State Medical Marijuana Laws” found a 24.8 percent lower average annual opioid overdose death rate in those states that had legal access to medical marijuana. I would be very interested to know if that figure is accurate and whether a similar picture is seen in overall use, abuse and addiction to opioids? If true, full legalisation could be a highly effective step in any campaign to address their “global” overuse.

Amy People

I am 34. So many of my friends that I grew up with are in chronic pain. It’s always either back problems of fibromyalgia. I don’t doubt their pain, and if their doctors were to cut them off they would probably turn to heroin just to numb their pain. What I don’t understand is why so many people are in so much pain? What have we done to deserve this? I don’t know what fibermalgia is exactly, but it appears to be dreadful. What is causing our bodies to turn on us like this?????


The only reason I’m still alive is because of pain medication. When you live in constant pain everyday with no relief and no chance of either, I personally felt/feel like living that way is senseless torture.
I honestly don’t care if I find out that the medication took away 15 years of my life. I would rather have a year of being able to do things, of having a chance to really have a life, than I ever would want those 15 years worth of pain and misery.

Carissa Simao

I have had fibro since 2008 and largely tried to stay away from narcotics, but a bulged disc in my back in the last few years turned that in its head. I have tried everything to relieve the pain. Non-narcotics have more or less helped manage my fibro pain, but they don’t touch the pain I feel in my back. As a result of being uninsured I have been without medicine for my back. There is a vastly different quality of life when pain is managed. All the herbs, essential oils, heat pads, ice packs, Epsom salt baths, and topical ointments in the world aren’t enough. Sometimes you just need something stronger. For now, I push through. I do what I have to despite the tears and pain because the only other option is to give up. I look forward to being insured again. All I want is to live like a normal person who can get through shopping or laundry, or washing dishes without pain, or at least being able to stop the pain before it stops me. I don’t think I’m asking too much, but more and more I feel I’m being punished for the pain I can’t control. I’m not the bad guy just because I need pain meds for my body to function as well as anyone else’s. I would love to see something done to stem the addictions but without punishing those who rely on these medications just to have a life worth living.

Dianne St Clair

To whom it may concern,

I am 49 years old. My immune system is attacking my body. I have Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis.,Primary Polycythemia Vera, Ankolosying Spondylisis, Psoratic arthritis,….my bedroom and home has become my world. I would love to go out to eat, watch my grandson play ball, go on a date with my husband or go to work everyday.
My illness has changed all of us. No one can understand the pain, despair, & hopelessness I feel sometimes. My family feels so hopeless because there isn’t anything they can do to help me. My husband & I raise our grandchildren. I try so hard not to let them see me cry. I have laid on the bathroom floor- many times- begging God to help me.
A MS relapse can be so painful that I may be bedridden for several weeks. Due to the laws on pain killers – many of us suffer unnecessarily. We are not allowed to take more pain killers during a relapse/flare.
My brother is a Baptist Preacher, my Daddy is a Deacon. My husband & I ran a successful electrical contracting business for 15 years. We are regular people. Since I have been “sick” our views on many things have changed.
No one would sit & watch a dog in that much pain for that long. Shouldn’t we be treated better?
Many of the medicines I am prescribed have awful side affects such as sudden death, loosing your hair, constipation, weakens the immune system, heart problems, liver problems,… Not to mention the pain , double vision,… & other symptoms of MS that “we” battle everyday.
I can’t believe the pious attitude many people have. They have no clue. Instead of causing more pain – mental & physical- there are many more ways to stop the people who are abusing pain killers. For instance, shut down the clinics that only accept cash. Or refuse to give pain meds to the people who only go to the pain Dr once a month. I see a Nurologist, Oncologist, Gastrologist, Rhumatologist, ,,,, Don’t judge anyone until you have laid in bed for weeks because the pain is so bad.

Dianne St Clair


I am NOT addicted to opiates, however, I am dependent on them to give me some quality of life!

Kimberly Cornilsen

Please send a petition to time telling them to write a follow up article including pain medicine hysteria, alcohol addition and its dangers (maybe we should be having the same attitude regarding dangers and make changes) a patients right to deal with there pain, choose treatments, other medicine addicton such anti depressants and muscle relation, the medical communities reduction in fixing pain problems due to insurance restrictions, and REALLY compair current numbers of pain med addicton vs. Alcohol addiction vs. Heroin addition. That article was very unprofessional.

Let’s also note: there is no evidence that suddenly dropping people who have been treated with opioids is useful either.

So study THAT and get some data. Please

patti millican-mccomb

I am a chronic pain patient. I have fibro, stenosis, herniated disk, several bulging discs, have implanted spinal stimulator, and take pain medication every day. I have to be drug tested several times a year to prove I take my meds as directed, am not abusing them or taking other meds I’m not prescribed. Without meds my life has no function. I can’t move. I’m also getting invasive injections in my back to try and help the pain plus two spinal surgeries. I’m dependent on them, not addicted. I’m not shooting up meds to get high. And I see my Dr every month. Time magazine should have talked to some REAL pain patients, not addicts to balance out this one sided story.

Kathy Hastings

I think it is time for all of us to write to Time Magazine and request an article on the other side of this issue. Some how national media needs to cover the real story behind what is going on…


These politicians and government get involved, and all of us who need medicine for pain will be in dyer straits …..it will be a runaway train !


The way I look at it is I’m not addicted to pain pills I’m addicted to NOT being in pain 24/7 ! I have lower back problems and Rheumatoid arthritis. Without hydrocodon I would not be able to work or do daily tasks.

Jodi rosenberg

I truly can’t believe what is happening I have taken pain pills for 15 years just to be able to participate in my children’s life and take care of what I have to still in pain but it makes thins easier I am not addicted I am dependent and because some people abuse it we will suffer and yes I believe suicide rates will fly if they are taken away the Drs r stopping us cold turkey it’s insane . I have fibromyalgia,vasculitus,arthritis , raynound neuropathy and my bones are becoming brittle and it’s very hard to do things with the meds so I’m screwed without them.we should be able to decide what goes in our bodies I really wonder what is going on in this world.this really makes me sick because u have addicts we shall suffer it’s awful

Patricia in TX

I have nerve damage at the spinal level from misdiagnosed illness and injury to my cervical spine (neck) and multiple surgeries to correct them. The nerves to my right arm were compressed for too long creating permanent damage and nerve pain that physical therapy & a medication regimen that includes opioids. I am treated by a variety of specialists including a pain management specialist in a multidisciplinary clinic where my urine is tested monthly to
insure that I am taking my medications and not taking any that have not been prescribed for me.

Before being monitored by pain management specialists I endured pain levels that made me pray for death and left me completely incapable of functioning on any level. The monitoring is necessary and I understand that necessity but every day some new article like this frightens me because people like me are rarely asked how my family and I would be affected should access to the pain medications I require be further limited or disappear altogether.

With databases of information maintained and scrutinised by state and federal authorities to monitor prescriptions of controlled substances there is more oversight and control of same as well as too many false judgments and temptation to criminalise chronic pain patients with a legitimate need for this level of pain control.

There will always be those among us that will abuse or seek to capitalise on access to such substances just as an alcoholic abuses a fully legal item that has no medicinal or social value beyond that of personal enjoyment or to the clear detriment of many. So which substance do I view as more harmful than good?


I have to take them I’m not addicted people who abuse medication are not taking them right don’t blame me !


I have fibromyalgia and back problems and hemp c with out my pain pills I can’t function the doctor are doing random drug testing on me my blood test came back positive for cocaine I have never used cocaine now he will not give me pain pills no more lyrica helps a little bit but not enough I’m so scared when I run out I will have to quit my job disability doesn’t pay enough I’m going to see a pain doctor he wants to do pain injection some people say it helps and some say they felt numb couldn’t function as well it is my life and I want to take what works for me been on pain pills for 3 years my blood test shows that my liver and kidneysee are fine I don’t drink alcohol or do street drugs they make me feel like a criminal it’s my life my body just give me what works so I can do all the things I love to do working gardening playing with my grandkids my life will be over as I know it without pain pills I’m SO SCARED what will happen to me they say Marijuana might work for me I don’t want to feel foggy the fibro fog is bad enough GOD HELP ME

Marcia M.

I too have had fibromyalgia for decades. Not everyone who takes pain killers is an addict!! Even with the pain meds, we do NOT have a pain free life. They just make the pain tolerable. I guarantee if this reporter or the owners of this magazine had to live with the day to day pain we live with you couldn’t handle it one day without pain meds and you sure couldn’t survive as long as we have with the pain. Think and talk to chronic pain sufferers before you put out this kind of “news”. If our pain meds are taken away, you will be responsible for the ones who choose suicide over the pain!! I won’t be one of them but I guarantee there will be a lot of them!!

B. Shannon

I have fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. I also have anxiety and depression from dealing with the constant pain and the changes I had to make in my life. Pain medication which I take responsibly and NEVER abuses gives me the opportunity to participate in life. Without these meds I probably would not have the will to leave because what kind of life is spent laying in bed all day and night missing out on your kids family friends and fun activities. I am only 40 years old and had to stop working and go in disability because the pain interfered with my job. Pain meds are my only hope to function to some degree. So many people don’t take us who suffer from chronic pain into account in these kind of articles laws etc. let them spend one day in our shoes and see what they say then. They would be begging for mercy!! I’m tired of being stereotyped!!

keith self

Are you kidding me, I only have two words to say. Alcohol and cigarettes. You people can fill in the rest of the story!

Nancy Ribok

All comments seem to be in a similar vein. I am so glad that my thoughts are being supported in every comment I have read. This upsets me so much, that I want to cry. People keep writing and commenting wherever you can. Thanks, Nancy

#1. I am addiction, happy to finally great you… I’m sorry, We, a society of addicts hidden in plain site have failed you, your loved one, or shattered your family. I have always been here, in perfect harmony with the trills in life that keep us all buzzing about. The world is a vampire, sucking the life blood of all who provide their innocence and naivety to the fruits that have become us. We are all guilty of indulging on the very things that make us feel…everyone needs to be seen smiling. Life is not just the separation of cells… … it has become the separation to excel ! While we all find comfort in the warmth of another, each and every one of us would climb each other for the last drop of water on earth. It’s instinct, survival, what we are really made of…most would consume an extra drop over sharing or leaving it behind, that’s just natures way of receiving you. To provide for your offspring is the only other survival tactic there is … to self preservation. Weather we consume an extra minute of joy, sleep, nourishment or excitement, addiction to that very procedure, sneaks in un noticed by the very ones who practice. Generally your own addictions effect, affects others before it’s recognition as a factor in your own life’s struggle. We are your children, your spouses, your friends, the people who serve you dinner at your favorite restaurant, your doctor, your neighbor, your coworkers, teachers, judges and police,the actors in your favorite films, the musicians who perform your favorite songs, and so on. Some of us are quite obvious, and others are well-hidden, suffering the ugly effects of this disease alone on their bathroom floor, shaking violently, soaked in tears, and overflowing with shame. 80% of us struggle with addiction daily! While 20% of us admit it being a problem for them. These very stats, show a degree of normalcy, being addicted to something…sooner or later, even if it eventually KILLS YOU. Try and Enjoy ! It’s our survival, to save the children… Edited, taken in part from ” The Poison Truth” by Craig Dickinson DAAD https://www.facebook.com/pages/DAAD-Drug-Addicts-Against-DRUGS/827943680551991 When referring to any kind of addiction, it is important to recognize that its cause is not simply a search for pleasure and that addiction has nothing to do with one’s morality or strength of character. Experts debate whether addiction is a “disease” or a true mental illness, whether drug dependence and addiction mean the same thing, and many other aspects of addiction. Such debates are not likely to be resolved soon. But the lack of resolution does not preclude effective treatment.