By Suzanne Stewart.
There are many articles that discuss this topic but I’m writing from the chronic pain patients’ perspective. Most things that are written are authored by Dr’s and others in the medical profession. But for me and for us this is real! Sudden cardiac death is a frightening topic to discuss. This is true especially because many chronic pain patients live with the risk factors that are written about in the articles and medical journals etc. Personally, I have a pacemaker for not only Dysautonomia & POTS, but for an Arrythmia called “Sick Sinus Syndrome”! Additionally, I live with atrial fibrillation, MVP & TVP (mitral valve & tricuspid valve prolapse), CAD (coronary artery disease) & long QT syndrome! In 2005, I had a heart attack and in 2006, a CVA or stroke. Enough about me, but I’m trying to paint the picture that I am not alone in this. Many chronic pain patients have several comorbidity’s. If the CDC continues with this crazy “war on opioids”; taking our pain medications down to dangerously low & restricted levels, people will die! I may die as well, and I’m not being dramatic!
So many people, including our clueless government representatives do not realize that severe untreated chronic pain can lead to death. They think it is just an innocuous “pain in the behind” for those that live with it. It doesn’t interfere with their lives or the lives of the CDC, FDA and several others such as, Big Pharma and the many physician run drug treatment centers in the USA. But when suddenly, chronic pain “hits” one of their family members, then they start advocating more. But why do they have to wait until it happens to their family members or even themselves? Why can’t they listen to our cries of suffering now, before more of my friends die suddenly from the agony of living with the daily unrelenting chronic pain without any reprieve? Does the government or the general public even realize that Veterinarians get about five times more education hours than medical students get for human beings living with chronic pain? I read that there was a study done in 2011, and the Journal of Pain found that the United States medical programs only allot approximately 5 hours of teaching time on the management of chronic pain. Our Canadian neighbors give their medical students a whopping 19 1/2 hours! This is where the medical professionals who educate the incoming physicians are at fault for their part in this “crisis” as it has been called.
Just this past week, the pain community, including the support groups that I administrate online, lost another chronic pain warrior. I lost my 7th friend in just over 2 years! This is the 3rd friend that I have lost to chronic pain and patients diminished access to pain medications. In my experience, it continues to be the same story; in that the chronic pain patient tells their significant other or family members that they are feeling worse. They go to bed to try and relieve their pain and they never awaken. My friends husband found her slumped over in her chair, late at night when he checked on her. It’s not unusual for most pain patients to stay up very late watching T.V. or “playing” online to keep our minds off of the pain for awhile. When the coroners do an autopsy on a person who has died suddenly, and they find “drugs” in the bodily fluids; they blame the opioids. These are educated people, toxicologists an forensic medicine physicians. They seem to just blindly blame these deaths on the opioids instead of seeing the possibilities that exist. It could have been death from pain that was unrelenting and untreated and/or misdiagnosed and under treated. Maybe more of my friends died from the sudden drop in their pain medications?
What is it going to take to get the government to listen to our pleas? I’ve written and sent the same letter to the White House twice and have gotten no response. I’ve made videos on YouTube to explain this crisis in Chronic pain community. I was hoping for at least one of them to go viral. But instead, the viral videos are about usually someone falling off of a chair or a baby biting his brothers finger! How do we get them to listen to us? I agree with the fact that Opioids should not be the first option for people with chronic pain. I also agree with the research that’s being done on medications that cannot be crushed or melted to become more potent for those that do abuse them. But for those patients who have been on a “normal amount” and steady dosage of Opioids for a long period of time; why not leave them to the physician(s) that know them? Let the Doctors who’ve treated them for many years, take care of their patients without fear of Federal agents breaking into their clinic during hours and scaring everyone half to death! If someone has been taking opioids for a long time and the dosage remains the same and it’s working for them, can we not leave them alone? Let them live some semblance of a life outside of their bedroom or recliner. When I say “them”, I mean “us” and we are dependent but not addicted to these medications. These are not “powerful, strong meds that loop us out of our minds” as I’ve heard on several occasions. These are the medications that we need, in order to have a small amount of active time during the days. We aren’t asking for more and we agree to the submissiveness and feeling of personal character attacks with urine drug screening. We sign the contract with our pain management physicians. So why not just let us live our lives and stop attacking us and calling people who live with chronic pain, “drug addicts”.
Anyone who calls people living with daily struggles of unrelenting pain, “addicted”; needs to learn more and be educated about opioid use with chronic pain patients who have several high pain illnesses. Not only do they need to learn more, but they need to be empathetic and try to put themselves in the pain patients place for a moment or two. People, especially those in positions of power; need to think about what their lives would be like if they could barely get out of bed in the mornings. What if they couldn’t go to their fancy dinners or dances, due to chronic pain and unrelenting fatigue? I’d say they wouldn’t like it very much and neither do we! How do we get these officials to learn the difference between the words “addiction” and “dependence” before more of my friends die from under treated pain or lack of any treatment?
Suzanne has lived with a Systemic CRPS & several other chronic pain illnesses since a MVA in 2002. Prior to being disabled from chronic pain, she was an Interpreter for the Deaf at a hospital & worked with Deaf children. Since 2005, Suzanne’s been a patient Health advocate, support group leader & Mentor. She continues doing these things today, but also does public speaking, awareness events and she’s a Writer/blogger & an Ambassador for the U.S. Pain Foundation.
For entertainment she creates advocacy videos & uplifting ASL cover song videos on You tube and she writes in her own blog Tears Of Truth (Suzydukettes.wordpress.com).