The new DEA rules for hydrocodone have been in effect for a little over a month and it has really been hurting those of us that need these medicines to deal with chronic pain and illnesses.
Patients now have to get a written prescription for hydrocodone on special paper that cannot be copied or manipulated — instead of one submitted by phone, fax or email. Refills are also prohibited. Patients have to check in with their doctors on a monthly or weekly basis to get a new prescription. Once the prescription is ready, only the patient or their designated caregiver can pick it up.
These new rules cause extra stress on patients, because we have to do more work and depend on more people to get the medicine we need to live a productive and pain managed life. It also means more stigma of being considered a drug addict.
In order to get hydrocodone we have to make constant phone calls, send emails and talk to judgmental medical professionals countless times. Some pharmacies claim they no longer have hydrocodone in stock, forcing many patients to drive many miles and go to multiple pharmacies to get what they need.
I suffer from cerebral palsy and over 35 chronic pain conditions and illnesses. Hydrocodone is one of the only pain medicines I am not allergic to nor react to in a negative way. So it is vital that I get the pills so I can go about my daily life.
I brought up the rescheduling back in July with the nurses at my primary care doctor’s office. Those nurses did not know anything about the changes that were coming, but promised to let me know when they knew more.
Only on October 5, the day before the rescheduling took effect, did I get an odd mass email from the doctor with an article explaining the new rules.
At the time, I was running out of medicine and needed a renewal of the prescription. My pain was spiraling out of control as I was rationing meds to prevent being out of them.
I contacted the doctor via email and called several times. It took them 4 weeks to finally get the hard copy prescription for me to pick up, which we dropped off at the pharmacy.
We then get a call several days later from the pharmacist saying they were out of hydrocodone and did not know when they will get in a new supply. My mom then had to get the hard copy prescription from the pharmacy and take it to another one.
That pharmacist told us that the prescription was filled out incorrectly and they could only accept it this one time, and that I would need to notify the doctor of the error.
When I addressed the errors with the nurses, I was accused of being pushy and wanting more medicine – which I felt was an implication that I was a drug abuser.
I do not want to take these pills and I would do anything to not have to live with these chronic conditions. I also wish that medical professionals would stop accusing people when they do not understand what each patient goes through.
I understand that DEA is trying to make sure that people do not abuse hydrocodone. But it is really hurting those of us that need the medicines and have to deal with extra stressors we shouldn’t have to.
If you login into any chronic pain support group online you can see many heartbreaking stories of people suffering from the new rules. I wish the medical community would see the human side of treatment and help erase the stigma of chronic pain patients abusing medicines.
Rebecca Fortelka lives in northern California, where she is a freelance writer and web designer.
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The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.