A Country of Drug Seekers

A Country of Drug Seekers

By Steve Ariens, PharmD.

(Editor’s Note—For the past several years, retired pharmacist Steve Ariens has shared his thoughts about chronic pain from the perspective of both a pharmacist and a husband whose wife suffers from chronic pain. I received an email from him this past weekend which started an interesting discussion about whether chronic pain patients are “giving up”. Both of us sense a frustration. I asked for permission to republish this column he originally posted on his own site, pharmaciststeve.com. Please read it and then share your opinion on the “state of chronic pain” these days.)

There are about 4.5 BILLION prescriptions filled in the USA every year – in community pharmacies and via mail order pharmacies. –  We have some 320 million residents—doing the math that means that each person would have 14 prescriptions filled each year.

Steve Ariens, PharmD

Most of the prescriptions are filled by people who are “seeking  to improve their quality of life”.

This time of year a lot of those “drug seekers” are known as ALLERGY SUFFERs-they seek out antihistamines, cortisone nasal sprays and other substances used to control their allergy symptoms and improve their quality of life.

No matter what disease state or condition/syndrome a person is dealing with.. all too many will seek out some medication(s) to help to control the undesirable symptoms from the disease.. basically.. the person seeks out to improve his or her quality of life.

Some groups try to draw a line between themselves as being chronic pain patients and those who abuse opiates.

If you take a step backwards and try to look at those who take/use opiates and controlled substances.. and consider those that take them legally and those who take them illegally- because our society will not allow them to obtain them legally you ask” Are they all that different ?

Both are typically suffering from depression, anxiety and physical and mental “pain”. Both are trying to “improve” their quality of life… just what their own opinion/definition of “improve” may be can be quite different.

Those who are suffering from the mental health issues of addictive personalities.. they have demons in their head and/or monkeys on their back. They are just “seeking” to improve their lives by attempting to silence those demons and monkeys. Their “high” is getting some solitude from those things causing them mental pain.

Those that suffer from chronic pain are also “seeking” their own particular “high”, but their high is to calm the pain that torments them and keeps them from participating in a “normal family life”.

IMO, there are those in the chronic pain community that want to point fingers at those who our society has labeled as “addicts” and continue to point out “that is not us/me”… it is “them”..

People with mental health issues have always been “looked down upon” ..  just told to “suck it up and get over it”… our health insurance system has normally had poor coverage for seeing mental health professionals.

Is this part of the puritanical thread in our societal fabric that is still part of the “witch hunts” from the late 17th century in our country ?

Are those in the chronic pain community doing themselves any favors by agreeing with the DEA that those with mental health addictive issues are “bad people” and CRIMINALS ?

Recently our previous Surgeon General declared that addiction is a mental health issue and not a moral failing https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/vivek-murthy-report-on-drugs-and-alcohol_us_582dce19e4b099512f812e9c

Does it make any sense that two different major Federal agencies and members of the Presidential Cabinet (DOJ & Surgeon General) are on opposite sides of the same coin… in dealing with people that are suffering from chronic conditions that opiates and controlled substance can help people deal with their health issues?

(Thoughts on this? And the state of chronic pain these days?—Please share in our commentary section)

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Tim Mason

I read a recent advertisement for an LC/MS/MS column used for a UDS. 24 compounds of abuse in under 10 minutes….
They stated that Prescribing was Epidemic.
Used to be there were fewer people on this planet. There are a lot on this rock now and the number of older folks who need pain medications. (If you have not figured out that getting old comes with pain…well you are still to young to understand life}
The amount of garbage the planet generates has increased.. is that epidemic? No.
The word epidemic has been used out of ignorance.
Where in the statistics do those that keep records put the counterfeit OxyContin quantities and those that bought them in the equation? They don’t.

Ellen F

Thanks for helping to broaden and expand my definition of pain and suffering. I must admit I have judged “others” as ruining it for “us.” I hear you Steve, and I appreciate your compassion for all.

Ellen F

Tim Mason

Nucynta is a good pain medication if you can take it.


In the “editor’s note preceeding this article, it was asked of the readers to comment on the” state of chronic pain these days “. While I did comment on the day this was published, I didn’t necessarily address the editor’s request. I will do so now.

After the FDA’s announcement that it is basically going to enforce the CDC “guidelines” via legal enforcement (that’s my interpretation), I believe the “state of chronic pain these days” is one of hopelessness, fatigue and frustration. Many of us have written to our state and federal government representatives as well as to the CDC. Personally, I feel like I totally wasted my time by doing so. These people are playing politics with our lives, but the “game” of politics isn’t one of reason or common sense. The media has jumped in on the subject and is swallowing the flawed propaganda hook, line and sinker. Here in North Carolina, the Governor is making a push for increased regulation with an anti-opiate fervor. The Winston-Salem Journal had articles supporting this approach (in one way or another) for 7 consecutive Weekdays! I have written to the newspaper, saying that “I have a story” (as was suggested by someone on this website) but haven’t gotten a response in 12 days.

The instant I finished reading the FDA announcement, I was totally deflated. What do I think about “the state of chronic pain these days”? I have begun to prepare myself for the day that, after 26+ years of suffering, I am potentially facing a future without medications. Or, at a minimum, without the medications that have given me a “life” for the last 16 years. I recoil at the thought of the suffering I endured for 10 years before I found my Pain Mgt Doctor. Those memories will play a large role in answering the question I believe I’m going to have to answer, sooner rather than later: Can I live like I did during those awful 10 years now that I’m 56-years old, not in my 30s? If I’m being honest with myself, I already know the answer.

Ibin Aiken

Short story. Just before Christmas 2016 after being released from further treatment with pain medication from a pain management clinic, a friend of mine told me of a mutual acquaintance. I did not “know” him well. He was most likely not receiving adequately prescribed pain medication from his pain management facility, my friend states. He attempted to find relief from his general MD. He was refused because of his release from his pain management doctor. After buying, borrowing, and continued effort to find some peace from a hell like existence, he went to one of the two local hospitals, found an empty room, took a bed to lie in and explained he could no longer deal with his extreme pain. I do not know from what he suffered but, through my friends testimony, that knew my acquaintance more personally, he did have reason to have physical pain not drug “just” addicition in the typical sense. He was in his late 60’s. The nurses at the hospital did not, could not, help him with pain medication. He was admitted to the hospitals “psychiatric” ward and after 3 days he was released with NO other advice for his health condition. About mid January, 2017 after failed attempts to reach him by phone, his brother traveled to his home only to find him sitting, slumped over in a chair, gun by his side on the floor. He took the only route he had left. This is a true story that I have related to our “elected” officials with no response. No doubt he was categorized as a “drug addict” and this human being was dismissed from further thought. This deeply disturbed me as this scenario can happen to those of us seeking only sufficient pain relief from our various health conditions that we did not ask for.

Tim Mason

I agree with Cathy, A peer reviewed definition in is order. Without a doubt a pharmacist will see many people try and scam a doctor, or pharmacy, His or her judgment may reach “burn out” level and lead to false assumptions about those that have prescriptions filled.
Judge not the patient lest ye have suffered such infirmities yourself.


Mary Kotuba

I disagree with your statement that chronic pain patients seek their own high. Pain increases blood pressure & causes a slew of other health issues not to mention the agony. Wanting it to stop & desiring to return to a semi normal life should never be called “seeking their own high.” Our society is not bothered by high school students experimenting with drugs, & there begins many addictions. We made DUI’s very expensive for the driver, not the bartender; and DUI’s went down. If we’d make possession of illegal substances very expensive for the user, we’d see a decrease in our drug epidemic. Instead, they approach the drug epidemic by hurting those who they should be shielding & helping. Ironically, they are sending more people to the street & more people will b committing suicide because life is not that important when each breath you take causes excruciating pain. Relief becomes more important than life.

It’s apparent that this is about someone making money off of people’s agony. Right when the opioid fiasco started in with doctors and the govt threatening those if us in pain or watching our loved ones in pain, the tv channels were inundated with one after another rehab facility. The actors were young people who stated, “I’m addicted to crack, I’m addicted to any pill I can get my hand on and I just want to be high. A pseudo doctor with a stethoscope came on the screen and stated that no one can fight addiction by themselves. It’s not too late we can help. Your insurance will cover it. The last scene is a guy who looks like he has been strung out for days, and he says, “If my family had insurance I could get help but we didn’t know.” You are left to think that he OD’d. Here is the crime in this……these folks are addicts, pain patients are dependant. When survey results are depicted they clump together addicts using heroin, crack, Oxys (which by the way, I as a pain patient have never called them that) and those of us who go through pain management clinics legally, get urine tested as per govt regulations. That make the results skewed leaving the US people with bogus information regarding opioids. In fact, I never even called my meds opioids, jyst my pain meds. The public has been led to believe that you and I, other pain sufferers are just like Joe Blow who slips out at dark to score a a 10 cent bag of crack to shoot or smoke. I refuse to be clumped in the group of those who are illegally getting high on crack, then take downers or booze to come down. I’m sorry they are addicts but each and everyone of us has choices. Upon being picked up, arrested and sentenced they can go into a rehab on the govt nickel( that’s my and your nickel). When back on the street they don’t follow up with their PO or NA mentor because they want the high again. Why should I be in pain and unable to care for my mentally disabled son due to these people’s failings.? Someone needs to come to their senses and realize that this isn’t the usual black and white decision the govt wants to make. We can’t fix it so ban it all. BTW…..is this author referring to the new Surgeon General who is a gynecologist and stated he had lunch with one of his fellow docs who stated, “I didn’t know opioids were addictive.?” With that I say Bulldoogy!!!!!!. A doctor couldn’t graduate from Med school and not know those drug’s side effects. I’m an RN and I knew the SE of the most prescribed meds and 2 of those would be Vicodin or Norco. Acting dumb is no excuse, just like Obama saying opioids are more dangerous than ISIS. People have been so bludgeoned to death with… Read more »


@Carrie, Thank you very much for clarifying IMO for me. Hugs


@IM DONE, PERFECTLY SAID, Thank you for speaking my feelings so well! Maureen


I would like to address those who commented on my post. 1) PHARMACIST STEVE, I was sincerely asking for your expert opinion on my wife’s abuse problem. I didn’t mean to offend you or question your article. For clarification, she definitely enjoyed the “runner’s high” before the breast cancer surgery. Once she was finally recovered from it, including the 2nd operation, she could never restart & maintain a running schedule. I’ve always thought that maybe the endorphin high either wasn’t as “good” as the meds, using the meds was simply easier or a combination of both after the shock of facing cancer. And I would be just as concerned if she were using alcohol, to answer your question. Only because I know there are underlying issues involved. CARLA CHESHIRE, I want to address/clarify a couple of things for you. 1st, I tried to work after my accident but wasn’t able to maintain a consistent schedule, due to my head pain. So, I’ve never worked while using my prescription pain meds. As for my wife, my astonishment at her being successful at her job isn’t that she’s working while using meds - it’s that she’s able to work in an almost perpetual state of opioid withdrawal. After we moved away from her “source”, she now mostly uses what she can get or steal from me. This is because she’s been labeled as a “drug seeker” by the hospital systems where we live after using several different doctors for a variety of “injuries & illnesses”. I try not to “judge” her; it’s when she steals my meds and lies about it that upsets me. It also upsets me to see the negative changes in her and how she’s affected by them. I will most read the book you suggested and will try to get her to read it, too. My biggest frustration is that she knows she’s addicted but refuses to seek the help she needs. Her employer will pay for it (not sure of the details) and she’ll have a job waiting for her afterwards. Which leads me to MARK IBSEN. Thanks for the kind words, but I think I’ve always known that, if my wife does get the help she needs and can conquer this evil, there is no way that we can stay together. I don’t see how any addiction specialist can recommend that she stay in a home where there will always be opioid medications present. How will she be able to deal with that situation? I hope and pray that I’m wrong, but all I want is for her to get well. I’ll do whatever is necessary to accomplish that. And, yes, it’s been so very hard for me to enable her and not give her some of my meds to “help” her feel better. To you and MAUREEN, thank you for your prayers. To WHO CARES, I’ll say this: I became very close to a guy who had terrible pain due to spine damage resulting from… Read more »


Steve. Your annoyance at the chronic pain community for trying to separate themselves from say, ‘allergy sufferers’ as you put it, highlights the exact difficulty that we have in conveying our situation to people who are not in pain. There is nothing on this earth that compares to being in massive pain every second of every day year after year. I was a practicing alcoholic for 30 years, got sick with neuropathy and quit drinking five years ago. I’ve suffered through all of the mental illness you speak of, I was massively abused as a youngster, and medicated myself with alcohol. Now that I’m in constant pain on a scale that I had never experienced even occasionally during my pre-disease days, I can tell you that NOTHING IS AS BAD AS THIS BY A MULTIPLE OF 100. We separate ourselves because we have NO CHOICES anymore. Our body dictates to us every day. See, normal people, and a lot of addicts have CHOICES. Addicts can seek help. I sought help many times, but ultimately continued to drink after many periods of abstinence. There are many resources for addicts. People in chronic pain have ONLY ONE RESOURCE. Pain medication. That’s it. Try to get this premise into your head, for your intolerance is indicative of pharmacists in general, in my experience. There are a lot of mediocre people making a living as pharmacists - by that I mean that you are NOT medical doctors, although you have some training. You do not diagnose. You do not treat. You merely pull product off the shelf and give it to sufferers. That’s basically it.

Joy Collins

I have co-occurring conditions; physical pain due to several chronic diseases, as-well as ADHD, and PTSD. Before the Healthcare Reform Act and resulting “Shortages”, my medications for both pain and brain were adequate and authentic. I was able-to volunteer, advocate, and incorporate other paths of healing, such as focused relaxation,meditation,,and Holistic breathing. After the “Shortages”, and reappearance of my ADHD med, it’s been a series of increased disability, as the “medications” labeled as those I had taken for years, were notably different, non-standardized, ineffective and causing health issues-enough to warrant medical interventions, eg: Heavy Metals. I have written political representatives, but were given no explanation. Now, the same has happened with new “side-effects”, never before experienced from my opiate pain medication.

Denise Bault

I found your article to be QUITE IGNORANT, especially regarding those of us in chronic pain. We do not choose the illnesses that effect us. We do not choose to “get high” with our pain medication. We are seeking and in some cases begging for relief! Opioids are not the first drug we’ve tried in attempting to get relief. Perhaps if the drug companies would stop spending $5 BILLION dollars a year on pushing their drugs on t.v., things would be different.

Carrie Wisner

IMO=in my opinion

Carrie Wisner


Carrie Wisner

You stated exactly what I tried to state! Thank you! Well done!


There’s a reason people are seeking opioid medications for non-medical conditions or situations… I think the U.S. population has found cheap “relief” in alcohol, prescription drugs, and illegal substances. As Steve says, the lack of mental health treatment and emphasis on self-improvement doesn’t allow for most people to get the care they need for whatever stress, anxiety, depression, emotional abuse, negative or unhealthy family dynamics that are going on in people’s lives. As a result people are seeking oblivion from economic and financial difficulties​, but rather than providing social or community support we isolate, judge and blame those who need emotional guidance and possibly mental health treatment to get back to feeling pretty good about life.

I am a chronic pain patient, and for the past 15 years I have been taking opioid medication on & off, but I am NOT an addict. The drug seeking behavior described by one of the previous commenters is NOT what those of us in legitimate physical pain experience. However, chronic pain patients need to feel we aren’t being accused of addictive behavior and that our physical pain is real. Due to the recent anti-opioid campaign by PROP and others to lump chronic pain patients in with all addicts as if there’s no distinction between their legitimate addiction-condition that requires real medical help and the physical pain conditions that are driving chronic pain patients to take legally prescribed medication.

There shouldn’t be judgement of those who are addicted, but neither should we receive the same treatment or lack of treatment options as addicts. Chronic pain patients should not be treated like addicts, and addicts shouldn’t be mistreated or abused by doctors.

Susan McKee

I totally disagree with you about chronic pain sufferers and street drug addicts. The street drug users CHOOSE to use and ARE using to get high.
Chronic pain sufferers need the drugs to ease there horrific pain and be able to take a shower, do the dishes, go out for a meal or family get together with low pain. We don’t want to spend our lives in bed because our pain has the upper hand on us. I at this time am not on any opioid medications because my doctor and i worked together and found other ways for me to be in control of my pain. I have no idea when it will change again but you and I both know it will over take me again. When it does my doctor should be allowed to prescribe what I need not what some government idiot who is not in the medical field, has no idea about me in anyway dictates. I have never been “high” in my life but I can not have the medication that I need. What is wrong with that? Why should I be punished for others illegal choices?


Danny I read your story …tough one. Many like you out there. !!! The only one thing I know that helps is NA with a lady sponsor for her …..they have a group for you also. These things are a must. 30 days thirty meeting to start they will fill you in on what to do.

Deborah Babcock

Why is it that a drug seeker/addict can get pain meds and us responsible ones can’t ?


Hi Steve, I admire you and I’m always high five -ing you with your posts BUT I have to say…this one that staff shared is surely confusing me.
And it surely has lit a fire under some tooshs.
I’m not quite sure where you are going with this one??
Are you putting us into any ‘same’ category with addicts?
Are you asking for our empathy for each others’ group because in your opinion we have similarities?
I don’t think we look down on addicts…we just don’t like being compared to them in regard to our medications that we ‘use’ and they… ‘abuse’, which has made our treatments greatly difficult and caused us undue suffering and angst.
Also, I disagree with addicts particularly beinglabeled as having ‘mental health’ issues. Perhaps everyone does to some degree these days! Bits a tough world we live in! Also, what is IMO?
If given the opportunity… and in all due respect…
would you mind clarifying your point of this writing? Thank you, Maureen

ps. Great job with your Live peer to peer online support group!


Wow Danny! That’s quite the story! I surely feel for you and your dilemma.
And I feel for your wife. What a shame. Although, she knew the difference and should’ve nipped it in the bud. And especially as you wrote knowing how crucial your meds are to you. I’m sure the stress only escalates your pain.
Your story clearly shows the difference of a non addict and an addict, amazingly living under the same roof. Keep strong. I will be praying for you both.

Barbara Sherer

I am one of the millions of women and some men who have fibromyalgia. the muscle and nerve pain is almost daily. The chronic severe muscle contraction headaches are daily.It causes arthritis, neuropathy, nausea, unable to eat, loss of balance, muscle weakness and fibro fog which makes you unable to think clearly. Most of the time I am in bed due to the extreme fatigue that goes along with the disease.
I am a Nurse Practitioner and love working, but have not been able to work for 12 years. My husband is on Medicare and I am on Disability. The cost of living is very high in Florida. We can’t even afford to move out of the State to a state that it is cheaper to live in. Plus the medical community has totally changed since I worked in Florida 20 years ago. It is almost impossible to find a doctor on my medical plan that knows anything about my disease. The doctors are so scared to give you any medication that they don’t. I finally got an appointment with a pain specialist who prescribes medical Marijuana which is finally legal in Florida. that is the only ting that really helps me but I don’t like the high, so i can get an liquid or inhaler that takes away the symptoms but doesn’t make you high. Opiates do not help me because I develop a tolerance to opiates fast even though I have been off them for 9 months. I think that it is unfair that it is so hard for true chronic pain patents not to be able to get strong enough pain meds to relieve a majority of the pain. In regards to Fibromyalgia, basic opiates in my opinion do not relieve the intense pain we have. Plus those who care for us have a heavy burden on their shoulders and they do not even understand the disease. They can’t see our severe pain. It is a very hard disease for people to understand and most of the time we loose friends and family because they don’t believe that we are really sick. They think we are hypochondriacs. That is very emotionally hard on us. Most of us , including me are very depressed and have no joy or hope in our lives. Many times I have tried suicide and consider it frequently.

Tim Mason

Yes there is a difference. Chronic pain sufferers , allergy sufferers and diabetics seek drugs to help them with an organic disease that is of no cause of their own.
On the other hand, the addict created his/her own hell. That took medication that was not prescribed for them and then once they have robbed their family, friends and neighbors they rob stores for cash to stay “Happy” or “not drug sick”.
Big difference.


Those that are taking opiates in order to do physical functions like grocery shopping, housekeeping, etc are not taking opiates to get high. Needing a lower pain level in order to do certain physical things and having to take opiates for it is not getting high.

Taking drugs for psychological pain is not the same as taking it for physical pain. Lumping those that are addicts and with those that only take opiates for severe chronic pain is not helping chronic pain patients. Especially when the person doing it says they are an Advocate for those in chronic pain. It is people like this that make the powers that be think everyone that takes opiates are addicts.

Jean Price

Wow, this article points up something I’ve not heard anyone say…YET!! At least not quite in this way! And although I think I do understand the author’s inference that BOTH those addicted to narcotics/substances and those with long term physical pain just want to find more COMFORT in life…I can’t say I agree with SOME of his analogy/comparison. I agree that we have no right to judge addicts for causing our current plight! Afterall, they weren’t the ones who wrote the guidelines! Besides they are hurting too…and some of their stories would surely break our hearts. For myself, I do balk a little at the way some of this is communicated! Yet I know this has become an increasingly touchy subject lately! Basicall, as I said before, I don’t think we can blame those addicted to drugs for what’s happening lately! They have struggles too! And hurting really isn’t ever a contest between who is worse off or who is to BLAME for what!! Or at least, it shouldn’t be! There’s surely enough pain and hurt and human need to go around…and enough flaws in all of us to,not criticize others! Plus we have powerful “stakeholders” on the periphery just out to make a financial killing off other people’s problems and pain! I see those people and the agencies involved as the cause of all of this current opioid phobia and craziness! So, here’s some of the things I DO agree are similarities between MOST people who have either of these two “conditions”……(please note**this list I’m offering can’t possibly apply to EACH individual situation, nor is it all inclusive of the similarities we may share. It’s just my attempt to make sense of what this article says for myself…and it’s what I know and how I personally feel about the whole subject!) So…regarding those with long term pain who want to be able to use opioids, and those who are addicted to drugs and want to be able to use opioids…. They are both people with a significant, life limiting, and potentially life-threatening medical conditions, one PRIMARILY physical (as with “chronic” pain), and the other PRIMARILY emotional/mental (as with addiction). They are both deserving of medical treatment to help lessen and/or alleviate their hurting, whether it be physical or emotional/mental…OR a combination. They both deserve FAIR assessment and appropriate treatment, and to NOT be judged as moral failures due to their condition or as a result of it. They both have life issues which can impact (or even hurt) OTHERS who are in relationship with them, and even affect society at large. They both have experienced some type of life changing event…an incident, traumatic accident, a new diagnosis, an abuse, or some happening causing them major losses…so they both have major grief issues including even complicated/complex grief. They both have the potential for multiple other physical AND/OR mental or emotional health issues which can result from their initial diagnosis/condition. They both often need varying amounts of physical and emotional care… Read more »

Pharmacist Steve

While I am neither a Psychologist nor a Psychiatrist, I have worked - as a Pharmacist - in out pt mental health facilities and have interaction with both chronic pain pts and those dealing with various mental health issues.
I will preface my comments with the fact that I believe that everyone deserves to have access to whatever healthcare they need to deal with whatever health disease/condition they are dealing with.
It is stated that our country has 45 million alcoholics.. and many of them are “functioning alcoholics” .. they hold down jobs, have families, and from a external perspective.. they live a “normal life” Some are 5PM - 8AM alcoholics, some just binge on weekends and holidays.
IMO, many of those in our society that we have labeled as “addicts” were given access to pharmaceutical grade medication that many could become functioning addicts and could become productive members of our society.
From what you described of your wife.. in the corporate world.. she was probably a “ladder climber” or workaholic which our society gives “two thumbs up” to someone so dedicated to their job.. but their home life tends to suffer.
You stated that she was a “controller” which would suggest some possible OCD issues and she was a runner which we know that the body produces endorphins (morphine type substance) during exercise.. to her the running could have produced a “endorphin high”.. because of injury she was no longer to be the runner that she had been and was missing that endorphin high.
Would you have been more acceptable of her behavior dealing with the stressors in her life with her using the drug ALCOHOL and was a binge drinker?
Here is a post from last week on my blog https://www.pharmaciststeve.com/?p=20543 “David Freed, district attorney for Cumberland County, Pennsylvania says states have a “moral obligation” to help drug addicts who he says won’t help themselves.
How pathetic, that our society has granted themselves the authority to determine what behavior is acceptable and what is not. Not once in this lengthy article is the word Alcohol, Tobacco, Nicotine mentioned once.. even though we have 45 million alcoholics and 35 million Nicotine addicts. Which appears to be “morally acceptable” by our society.


As someone who has an adult child who has been permanently disabled with Mental illness,Rheumatoid Arthritis caused by lithium, and now central pain syndrome which doctors are refusing to treat properly: I think Steves editorial is spot on: My daughter became addicted to a street drug that almost killed her. I had to save her life with NO help from any
drug addiction’ specialists and centers ( thats another story in terms of how useless they both are ) and I will say: The mistake of attacking drug addicts instead of attacking our govt who REFUSES to fund mental health services and help/living facilities, and WANTS pain patients and others to attack drug addicts just wastes the time we need to fight the DEA and CDC and the doctors who are torturing pain patients by refusal of care: STOP falling for the govts tactic. Join together and lets create a national movement to A: Go after all heads of all these agencies, B: Have a NATIONALLY ORGANIZED group of grass roots protests that picket all offensive ERs and hospitals, CDC, DEA and PROP members HOMES. Its time to stop allowing ourselves to get diverted by the criminals harming us and our families. Peace.

Hi Pharmacist Steve!

I’ve often wondered about the term “Self Medicating”. It’s encouraged if you have an allergy and let’s say, use benedryl and calomine. It’s fine if you take an aspirin or tylenol for a headache. It’s just dandy if you take an antihistamine for hay fever or alka seltzer for a stomach ache. Got constipation? Sure, take a laxative! No problem!
But live with chronic pain and want relief? Want to self medicate for that? OH NO, Now you’re labeled an addict!

Most of us chronic pain patients aren’t looking for a high. Like you said Steve, we’re just looking for quality of life, same as every “self-medicating” person is doing for their “acceptable” conditions. Studies say actual chronic pain patients don’t become mentally addicted…And so you gotta ask yourself..does a person with a bad cough get mentally addicted to their cough medicine they have to take to calm the cough?

In all honesty, I’m tired of the stigma attached to opiates and really tired of one set of people (who usually have never experienced chronic pain & have no medical training whatsoever) deciding for the rest of us what is good for us. We are individuals, should be reviewed individually and we should be allowed to live our lives the best way we can!

Sincerely, JJ (Lupus, TN+)

Who Cares

Thank you for you comment,Danny. I spent the whole day yesterday contemplating suicide. Luckily for my I have 90 Xanax which I am sure will do the trick. I can’t live with this chronic, constant pain and I live in a state that would prefer that we are all drug addicts. The only thinking that keeps me from putting myself out of my misery is that I own a beloved 10lb. dog, but my constants fits of rage and pain aren’t making him so happy.. Many it would benefit our beloved president if all the non-billionaires in this country would off themselves and then they could live in the lap of luxury, pain free..

Ibin Aiken

The well meaning pharmacist left one personal, situation for the OPPORTUNITY to be sufficiently treated, prescribed use of opioid medication. Income!!!!!. I have had controlled, prescribed with “due diligence” prescribing from the “doctor” for over 20 years to….provide for myself and family. ANOTHER piece of the “opioid epidemic”?
I, personally do NOT blame any drug abuse upon any one type of personality however, those who are seeking pain relief whether able to “work”, or not, and have used discretion and responsibility with prescribing personal medication are being caused to endure a level of real pain that was previously “managed”, properly, sufficiently.
I realize that their are people that seek to get “high” to escape mental anguish, caused by many different situations, to “escape” personal responsibility through no personal “faults”and there are those that seek pain relief from minor aggravations “with a pill” but, there is a category of those that have sought ALL other forms of pain relief due to physical complications that cause non “curable”, severe, continuous pain. This category of people are being lumped into the same category in the “effort” to stop abuse of many different types of chemicals called “opioids”.
Other countries as well as our own are manufacturing illicit “pain relievers” that are KILLER concoctions of chemicals that the true person, individual, seeking ONLY to ease constant pain will now be tempted to try. Are we actually helping the situation by denying sufficiently prescribed MEDICATION to those of us who may have been stably, authorized, monitored, evaluated (with use of) F D A approved pain relievers treated for decades?
There is NOT a simple, one solution but, the mis-guided-line is an unjustified persecution upon many people in the effort to control INDIVIDUAL thought.I do not presume to know the answer for this COMPLICATED issue but, I DO now what the incorrect current attempted solution is. I, for one, am NOT convinced that the limitation of prescried opioid medication will curb drug abuse. Too many other resources that will and are flooding the country.

Carla Cheshire

Danny– Have you talked to your wife about all this? Is she really pain free, mentally and physically? I don’t see why you’re surprised that she can still do her job when she’s taking opiates when you were able to do yours while also taking opiates. One reason many chronic pain patients use opiates is so that they can continue to work.

From what you wrote it’s impossible for me to judge your wife. There’s just not enough information nor do we have her side of the story. I too have had breast cancer. It is life-changing because you realize that you are a mere mortal. This can hit a smart, thinking person very hard. Dealing with death up front and personal requires help, it is the “human condition” and each one of us deals with this in our own way. This could very well be what has triggered her change in behavior. It can be very difficult to deal with. There is a book, “Denial of Death” by Ernest Becker that was very helpful to me.

Mark Ibsen

Dear Danny:
Your wife has an addiction.
Addictions lie to the addict.
If you go to naranon
You will find help.
It is a vexing cunning and baffling situation.
Pills did not cause the addiction.
When she became unable to exercise at the rate she was used to,
Her lack of endorphins caused an upset in her biochemistry.
God bless you both.
Thank you for standing by her,
Hating her illness and loving her
Not enabling.


Well obviously someone ELSE is getting MY 14 prescriptions per year because I’m not on ANY prescription meds for my chronic pain, or my other health issues. My doctor told me 20 years ago to “Learn to live with the pain”….I took pain meds for the first few years of my life of pain, but since moving to another state, my doc is not so compassionate, and I don’t have the energy (physical or mental) to search for another doctor who may or may not be any different..

I have degenerative disc disease in my L4-L5-S1 low back. I’m in pain 24/7/365. On a “normal day” my pain level is a 7-8 and I’ve been living with it for 25+ years now. I’ve done the injections, physical therapy, massage, dry needling, chiropractor, and most of the other “alternative treatments”….nothing helped. Yes, I’m living with my pain but MY QUALITY OF LIFE SUCKS!!!!

I really don’t understand how you can say chronic pain patients are looking for a “high”….and lumping them in with those who are addicts. We’re not looking for a “high”, we’re looking for some RELIEF so that we might have a some-what “normal life”. Yes, addiction is terrible, but they CHOSE that life, chronic pain patients did NOT chose their pain.

I.M. Done

I’m sick to death of this lumping together of people who use opiates to feed addiction and those who obtain opiates legally from qualified physicians for legitimate chronic and/or acute pain. Nobody needs to be pointing fingers. It is what it is and it’s simple. Both groups have illnesses/disorders that opiates ease the pain of. The difference, of course, is that pain patients denied opiates suffer needlessly and relentlessly. Over time untreated pain leads to the breakdown of virtually every system in the body, more pain, and greater despair. This new trend of abrupt cessation of these medications with no medical support can be fatal, in a number of ways. Then, there is the increase in suicides, a tragic choice that understandably feels like the only option when ALL hope is lost.

Addicts, on the other hand, need and should be able to get safe medical detox and rehab with follow up support. That is the treatment for addiction-that is the way of hope and life for the addict.

It’s like if you have 2 people with cancer-one a woman with breast cancer, the other a man with prostate cancer, nobody in their right mind would suggest because they both have cancer, their treatment should be the exact same.

This cruel, inhumane treatment of chronic pain patients, which is now extending to post op patients and people presenting in ERs with serious injuries, is ludicrous beyond belief. Of course it’s about money-& now our government has blatantly been sold to the highest bidder. It’s all pay for play now. But it’s no game for the sick, at least for the sick who are not members of the 1%. Stop playing word games/semantics, and devil’s advocate. This is total BS what’s being done to us. I’m sick to death of it.


My opinion is for the past 8 years prior to Trump (not sure where he stands on this) the government forgot that they work for the USA citizens. We are the customer!!! What jerks my chain is that we are Not able to have a daily life because we are in PAIN due to a malfunctioning body! The government, big Pharma, and doctors should be working together to roll out,
1. a non-addictive pain drug (several may need to be developed because…yes there are different types of pain)
2. Discover the root cause for all of the auto-immune diseases. Yes, ROOT CAUSE. We should Not be treated with ‘Take a Number’ and we will get you a band aid in just a minute!
3. Develop a solution/treatment plan to stop the madness! I mean…yes, there should be a anti-injection for the root cause of our Mast Cell Dysfunction for all of the hundreds of auto-immune diseases attacking our bodies for a slow painful exhausting zombie-like bed ridden disease.

I mean come on! Is our country for the people, or just the rich and famous?!
My opinion.

Cathy M

I hear what you’re saying, Steve, and I appreciate your compassion, but as a retired mental health therapist, and a chronic pain sufferer, I need to disagree. Using your definition, no one could ever be held accountable for their poor choices, even if they hurt others! Certainly, people are generally seeking “to feel better”, but those with chronic pain, taking meds responsibly, are choosing a path agreed upon w/medical consultation that generally results in them becoming more functional in many areas.Those who we call addicts (and I’ve worked with many) often are very aware that their choices are hurting themselves and their loved ones, and actually making their lives worse, but the pain of giving up the substance defeats their attempts to stop.

If you don’t accurate diagnose, you have little chance of helping a problem. Society is falsely conflating chronic pain and addiction (partly because there is no easy test for pain), but it does no good to go the other way, to say that every person who uses meds is “drug seeking” - because then no practical assistance can be given. Heck, there’s so many different kinds of chronic pain that we shouldn’t even be lumping all that together!! Addicts are using substances that make their lives LESS functional, and that most of the time cause suffering to them and their loved ones. Those with mental health issues who seek meds to feel better could be better helped with skilled counseling (and I’m not talking about the 5-session cognitive behavioral [edit] they’re dishing out these days) and some assistance with social/housing issues. Pain meds are very helpful in the right circumstances, and I am grieved that it’s become a political hot potato, turning pain sufferers into suspected criminals who have an added severe anxiety that they might lose their only help at any time, for reasons outside their own actions/choices!

I don’t want to get into the very large, sticky discussion about how to help those who are addicted to prescription pain meds, but obscuring the definition is not helpful.


I wonder how Pharmacist Steve will view this situation; whether it fits his definition of “mental health issues of addictive personalities”? I am a member of the “chronic pain” part of society due to an electrical accident 26+ years ago that’s caused chronic, severe head pain. I married a girl I’d known previously about 6 years later. She knew what I was dealing with at the time, searching for someone to help with my pain. As my wife, she helped me with traveling to see a highly recommended accupuncturist. She actually knew someone who recommended a hypnotist. I had already been to two Pain Clinics, both affiliated with highly-rated hospitals. And, I was also searching for traditional doctors, as well. We had been married for six years when I found my current doctor, a neuropsychiatrist-Pain Management Specialist who saved my life. I had reached the end of the rope having suffered terribly for over 12 years at this point. But, this doctor was able and willing to prescribe the necessary combination of medications that finally gave me a bit of relief. During all this time, my wife was a runner. She had a couple of pretty painful injuries, including once when she dislocated and fractured a toe (not related to her running). This is a perfect example of the type of “patient” she was at the time: She couldn’t handle taking the lowest dose of narcotic pain medication. When her toe injury happened, she was prescribed 5 mg hydrocodone/325 acetaminophen pills. When she took the 1st one, within 45 minutes, she was vomiting. Within 1-1.5 hours, she was asleep, and slept for 6 hours. She refused to take another pill because of how her body reacted. Then, in 2006, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a single mastectomy and plastic surgery using a back muscle wrapped around, under the skin and under her arm, to form the outside of the “fake” breast. Then an implant was inserted and she had to progress from there with the “breast” being stretched until it reached the desired size. Once this process was completed, she began to suffer from pain in her back, where the muscle was originally located. She was told the pain was normal and was prescribed a couple of months of pain medicine. I can’t remember what the strength was, but by that time, after enduring such a major surgery, her previous intolerance to low-dose pain medication had been demolished. She had gone through, and was going through, a very painful ordeal. After the “couple of months” of pain medication, the plastic surgeon refused to write any more scripts for pain meds. He told her that she would be feeling much better very soon. Well, he was wrong. After another period of several weeks of pain, she asked me for some of my pain medicine. I couldn’t help her, though, because, after 15 years of being on pain meds and the resulting high tolerance, I was now using the… Read more »

Jacqueline Kelly

I have cervical retrolithesis. This is an acute condition where my vertebrae in my neck is sliding backwards and shearing and dislocating from the disc. This causes disc nucleus and nerve tissue pain
However since this is degenerative and chronic, I cannot have pain medication because Kaiser doesn’t believe in narcotics for chronic pain. I think they are barbaric inhumane #%^*#!

What happened to compassion?

I find that doctors think we all should just buck-up and deal with your pain.As for the person in chronic pain what are we suppose to do ?All the doctors want to do is push machines on us that doesn’t work either!


I do not have “mental pain” or depression. What I have is a genetic defect that causes my collagen to not form normally and stretch out but not spring back so my joints become bone on bone, starting when I was a preteen. Every surgeon that has worked on my joints has remarked about how the damage was greatly in excess of what they expected. That is because most of them have no real knowledge of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. My spine is fused 2/3 of the way, including rods that fuse my head to my neck because it had fallen down onto my spinal column, squishing my brainstem and pituitary gland. Unfortunately, the damage is done and cannot be undone. I have had over 25 surgeries trying to hold my body together, fix what was hanging out or repair life threatening problems like ectopic pregnancies and then placental abruptio. My hollow organs are all extremely affected as well, making me at risk for herniations, ruptures, aneurysms and dissections. Every new pain or discomfort has to be evaluated and monitored to decide is it a slight chest cold or another pulmonary embolism, is the chest pain my heart acting crazy or my intercostal muscles spasming? I am so exhausted by the constant infections that never end despite doing everything right to support my immune system and the malfunctioning autonomic nervous system that keeps my temperature anywhere but normal and my heart rate that goes too high when I’m upright and my BP that goes too low when my HR is high.

Surely you can see how all this, coupled with 24/7/365 unremitting pain that will most likely be with me for life, might look like depression because it would depress you. I however, have made peace with myself, my world and my maker and found a strength that comes from knowing that death is not the worst thing that could happen to someone. Being trapped in this fragile body, that no one understands and having to beg for even a minimal degree of pain control, knowing that we don’t make our pets live with this kind of unrelenting pain yet my government is forcing my doctors to do so to me for the rest of my life, now THAT is truly enough to cause a mental condition!! I guess that is what our government wants; to stress our bodies enough that they just shut down and die. Not that IS depressing.

George Gregorich

I live in constant pain forced to have health insurance that I can not use . I have been denied medical intervention of my chronic pain , I have been denied an operation for a hernia until my pain is managed . I am slowly going crazy to be in a so called free country and not have the freedom to have my health treated . I also have been told by behavior health my condition is physical and they will not help me . I am on disability wich means I have no money to sue or get a lawyer to go on doctor visits with me . Sad , a lawyer to go to a doctor’s visit . Doctors show no compassion only ask if I have track marks ? I have tried all over counter medicines all alternative treatments . There is nothing I can do but cook in pain day in day out . I no longer respect or trust doctors and would like to know why these people who practice medicine from a Farr are not arrested . ( law makers)


Wow. YES there is a difference!

People who have a legitimate medical need for pain relief and try to take their meds responsibly are NOT drug addicts. It has nothing to do with pointing fingers.

People who are abusing medications may become debilitated by the abuse. It has a negative impact on their quality of life… and often, their relationships.

People who are in chronic pain need medication to live a better quality of life. I am NOT seeking a high. I’m not trying to get out of my head. I want to do the $@&# dishes and laundry. Do you know what I want most of all??? I want to continue to work!!! I’m currently working full-time and my medication allows me to do that!

If you’re just trying to play the devil’s advocate, it’s ridiculous.

I’d like to see people who have an addiction problem get the help that they deserve. Heck, I live next to people who are addicted. They’re going out and partying and then having violent fights with each other at night. I knew the guy before he got involved in drugs and he was a very nice, kind man. He had a lot going for him. Now I try to avoid him because his behavior has changed and I’m not sure that interacting with him would put myself in harm’s way.

I know addiction destroys lives. And I hate it. And people who have an addiction issue need the right kind of intervention. Lumping them together with chronic pain patients is NOT going to get them the help that they need.

John Quintner

‘Those that suffer from chronic pain are also “seeking” their own particular “high”, but their high is to calm the pain that torments them and keeps them from participating in a “normal family life”’.

In my opinion, this is the only justifiable reason for the widespread marketing of so-called “medicinal” cannabinoids to chronic pain sufferers.

Carrie Wisner

Being a chronic pain sufferer myself, (CRPS/RSD), I almost feel shamed by this article, how dare I point my finger like suggested. You make very important facts, & i really appreciate them. So much so, that i wish you would write to congress and make these points known, not to stop our “seeking better quality of life”, but to make more awareness & understanding, that we are all hurting, and we need HELP.