By Denise Hedley
Those of us with chronic pain are well aware of the new laws that have labeled the opioid crisis and thus punished chronic pain patients. We are all affected in one way or another, and a good number of us have had our medications taken from us. Just today, I was told to take Advil for my pinched nerve and three herniated disks in my back – oh and from now on, I’m supposed to basically live on my heating pad.
Those of us who have lived with chronic pain for quite a while are well aware of what it takes to hold down a job with an invisible illness. Most of us hide it for as long as we are able to work. We are the ones who are not addicts, of course, but there is a new threat to the chronic pain community in the form of proposed legislation and other movements that want to punish those in pain who are still able to work.
The fear of abuse is so rampant, that they want to make pre-employment and random drug screens add opioids to their lists of banned substances for the workplace. In those jobs that have safety concerns this might be understandable that they might worry about impairment. This move, however, seems more like a witch hunt.
What is not understood by many of the parties proposing these actions is that those of us who function only because we have this one tiny tool towards some degree of relief do not find ourselves impaired. We are better able to focus. For some, this relief could be the only thing keeping them in the workforce where they can have a benefits package and better insurance.
It is now recommended that prescription pain killers be considered a violation of the drug-free environment. Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) have now been advised to recommend that any employee who is using prescription painkillers be referred for treatment.
Companies who have thus far avoided drug testing programs may soon be required to begin one. There is a large movement towards taking the war on opioids into the workplace. Companies are now requiring employees to notify their employers if they are placed on prescription painkillers. Most will be required to take leave for the duration of their pain treatment while others may lose their jobs. Ironically, the company does not have the right to ask what those employees are receiving their pain management treatment for.
There have been some moves, as a result of the recent HHS task force activities, to rewrite instructions to primary care physicians as to the prescribing of opioids to those chronic pain patients with a proven history of staying within guidelines. The right to continue treatment seems like it is being excluded for those patients who are still able to work. If all of this new legislation passes, then the war on opioids is taken too far and it seems like it officially becomes a war on chronic pain.
This gives us one more reason why those of us in the chronic pain community need to be more vocal. Even if it is only one person at a time, our voices must somehow be heard.
Denise Hedley was initially diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2009. Her condition has worsened, and was diagnosed with bilateral RSD in January, 2019. She also suffers from Osteoarthritis, 2 herniated discs, and Systemic Lupus Erythematosis