Opioids Kill Pain, Not People!

Opioids Kill Pain, Not People!

By Suzanne Stewart

I wanted to write something to enlighten the non-pain community as well as those who are in pain but are either new to the pain or have not had much of a relationship or experience with Opioids. Opioids can cause “dependence” just the same as many anti-depressants, blood pressure meds and Beta blockers.  Dependence is not the same as addiction and I will try to explain that in this writing. People who take opioids for chronic pain illnesses that carry a # of 43 on the McGill pain scale, for example:  CRPS or Complex Regional pain syndrome (and many others); do not get a “HIGH” from taking them.  When you have very extreme chronic daily pain, the Opioids just relieve the pain and do not give a Euphoric feeling whatsoever.  Of course, I am writing from my own experience and from the experience of being a patient health advocate since 2007 and a patient leader, as well as an administrator for several chronic pain illness groups.

Suzanne Stewart

Opioids do not kill people, but they do kill the pain for awhile. If you ask a person with chronic pain, if they enjoy taking these medications; they will all tell you “NO”! We do not like that we need or depend on these meds for relieving our daily high pain. We wish that we did not need the Opioids and we would prefer to just live pain free.  Many people that do not experience daily chronic pain, have the notion that Opioids are killing people.  This may be partially true, but not so, for the true chronic pain patients and the pain community. Those who die from taking Opioids are usually mixing it with other things from the “streets”.  They mix it with Heroin or crack cocaine or other “street” drugs; sometimes alcohol too.  Others, for example, celebrities who have passed away from taking Opioids, have mixed it with other substances. The news shows us that “another celebrity has died from an Opioid overdose”.  That’s not the whole truth, because that person had other substances in their bodies, we would later find out; after getting the coroner’s report.

In my research, I found an article on the website for RSDHOPE.org and it says this: In an article written by WebMD in collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic states, “Some medications used to treat pain can be addictive. Addiction is different from physical dependence or tolerance, however. In cases of physical dependence, withdrawal symptoms occur when a substance suddenly is stopped. Tolerance occurs when the initial dose of a substance loses its effectiveness over time. Addiction and physical dependence often occur together.”  People who take a class of drugs called opioids for a long period of time may develop tolerance and even physical dependence. This does not mean, however, that a person is addicted.  In general, the chance of addiction is very small when narcotics are used under proper medical supervision.”  The article goes on to say, “Most people who take their pain medicine as directed by their doctor do not become addicted, even if they take the medicine for a long time.”  You can read the original article in its’ entirety. (this was found on the RSDHOPE.org website here: @https://www.rsdhope.org/addiction-dependence-or-tolerance-to-opiods.html).  In that same article at RSDHOPE.org, they go on to explain that: “Another article, written by Leanna Skarnulis, states, “Chronic pain patients often confuse tolerance with addiction.  They become fearful when the dosage of a narcotic has to be increased, but it’s normal for the body to build up tolerance over time, says Simmonds, spokeswoman for the American Cancer Society.  “Patients don’t get a high, and they don’t get addicted.

I was researching for this article and I read about Elvis Presley, Prince, Michael Jackson and others who died from what was called  or labeled “opioid overdose”.  But if you read more and dig deeper, you will find that the larger percentage of these people and others, die because they have mixed a prescription opioid with other medications, drugs, street drugs and/or alcohol. I’m not saying that nobody died from taking opioids in an overdose.  I will defend my cause by stating that the every single person that I’ve come across within my own pain community (*which is a large number of people because of my being a patient health advocate, Ambassador for US Pain Foundation, mentor for newly diagnosed CRPS patients and a patient leader for WEGO Health and founder/admin. for 4 different kinds of chronic pain support groups) has told me that they do not take more than what is prescribed, therefore they are not “addicted”.  I will also state from my own experience, that people living with daily high pain illnesses, do not “crave” their pain medication.  I have never craved my medicines, nor do I seek them out or think about them every day or continuously. 

The chronic pain community has been talking about the opioids more lately and we have been afraid and worried.  This is happening because there are “people” with power who are trying to take away our small semblance of a “normal” life with lowered amounts of pain.  I understand that there are parents who’ve lost children and Children who’ve lost parents due to drug overdoses.  I realize that people who are uninformed or misinformed regarding chronic pain; think they are taking on a cause or “helping”others because of their loss.  I feel deeply sad for anyone who’s lost someone that they love from a drug overdose or for any reason, for that matter.  It’s a bit similar to what used to happen when we were children in a classroom at school.  The teachers would punish the entire class for something that one child did and he would not confess to doing it.  The entire pain community should not be punished because of the actions of some.  

There are some other reasons for The Opioid Debacle that’s happening right now around us.  There are those “persons” who make money off of our chronic pain and suffering.  People who make a fortune doing invasive and dangerous surgeries on the pain community.  Also the many different therapies and treatment modalities that insurance doesn’t cover, for the most part.  There are PROP physicians and others who say that Opioids don’t help chronic pain!  The latter is an untrue statement because I’m here today as a chronic pain patient who does NOT and has not gone up in dosage in many years.  I have experience being with many persons in the chronic pain community who will testify that taking a routine and regular dosage of Opioids, does help relieve their chronic pain.  We are not addicted, we do not seek out or crave the Opioids and we deserve to be able to just “take a pill” that has little or no side effects, for many. 

Lastly, I would like to say that there are advocates in physicians and others who truly want to help those with chronic pain.  One of our biggest advocates, is a physician named, Dr. Lynn Webster (www.LynnWebsterMD.com). He is someone who has been trying to help our community.  Dr. L. Webster, M.D., has a book out called “The Painful Truth” (www.thepainfultruthbook.com) and now there is a movie  with the same name on PBS also.  For anyone who is interested in learning more about chronic pain and how medications like Opioids can help; here is the link to the PBS broadcasting :  The Painful Truth .

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).

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Authored by: Suzanne Stewart

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I have been disabled due to chronic pain since a neck surgery in 2008. The surgery did not work and my surgeon, a neurosurgeon disappeared. His staff worked a few weeks (unpaid), then shut down. I have no surgeon that will touch my cervical area. One neurosurgeon I saw said there was nothing he could do and put me in pain mgmt. They started with decadron injections. Not only did it not work, it raised my blood sugar to levels over 300. Finally started me on opioid meds (hydrocodone). All this wasn’t until 2011. I suffered from 2008 (aug) until 2011 (nov). One year into PM, they decide to drop meds. I spoke with my PCP about what to do. The neurosurgeon who sent me to PM originally would not see me because he didn’t take my medicare advantage insurance. I needed a referral with my records, scans, MRIs, myelogram, etc.
My PCP said he would keep up my meds as soon as I cut loose PM. I did it. My PCP honored his statement. He told me if I could not move around with the pain my diabetes would get out of control. So I have been doing this since then. Until now. The meds are not working like they should and with all this stuff going on with these laws, rules, etc, I am a bit worried to let my dr know. I am worried I may get cut off completely. I just turned 60, was an electrical tech for 30 yrs, avid softball player, baseball coach, and husband and father to 4 for 40 yrs. The injury slowed me down a lot, these laws are going to bring me to a standstill.

Layla Rose

I just made an appt. with a new doctor, hoping to find a new PCP. Anyway they told me up front that if I’m looking for pain medication that they’d have to refer me to pain management. I wasn’t, but it was noteworthy that they start off with that disclaimer. I’d planned to go to Pain Management on my own. Things have been even harder since re-locating. I need a doctor to take me seriously. I need them to stop blaming my symptoms on nerves. My illness has progressively gotten worse in the past decade, at the beginning of which time I was in therapy & seeing a psych. regularly, but that place discharged me for not making my appts. I wasn’t making my appts. because I was getting worse. If all that psych stuff had been the issue, I wouldn’t have continued to decline.

So I’ve managed to get some pain meds, but am afraid to let the doctor know b/c he may lable me a drug abuser or something. It’s just tramadol, but was recently added to the controlled substances list. It’s so awful. I have a paradoxical reaction to opioids & opioid-like meds & sometimes they’re the only thing that means that I can get up, get dressed, get things done, & breathe w/o shortness of breath. It’s so scary. I am afraid that I’m going to wind up in some horrible facility or something and lose all my freedom and independence. I didn’t clean my apt. for over a year. Things are so bad for me.

Sandy Auriene Sullivan

“do not get a “HIGH” from taking them. When you have very extreme chronic daily pain, the Opioids just relieve the pain and do not give a Euphoric feeling whatsoever.” Was just explaining this to someone else nearly word for word who wasn’t a CPP. While also explaining that *anything* that gives one ‘euphoria’ can be addictive; even things we need like food. If food, shopping, church/religion, gambling - all things that are acceptable in society [and needed to live like food] can give one a euphoria; then they run the risk of addiction. Many addicts have been known to swap one type of drug for religion. They can still ruin their life with it; if abused and used to hurt others, family or friends? Is there a difference? No. Not really. Further, addiction isn’t a moral failure - it is genetic and can happen to anyone. See: Euphoria! Pain medications help me cope with pain. They work for me on the brain. Im pro-choice in medications. So when Florida had legalized medical MJ [still working on the details of it and legalization is next up on the ballot due to bungling to date] I had the opportunity to try an Indica [noted for its pain and anxiety relieving properties] RSO vaporizer cartridge. The affect wasn’t immediate. No giggles or a ‘high’ there either. What I did notice was the way it hit my damaged nerves on the left side. Very spotty areas of numbness and greatly reduced sensation with a simple feather from one side to the other. During the vaping process - the left side started to tingle in the nerve endings of the splotchy areas on my thigh, arm, foot and face; the tingling was not unpleasant [entire left side is atrophied and CRPS suspected - I call it FM on steroids because FM doesn’t progress but CRPS does! Swelling in the ankle with a dropped foot, redness on bottom of foot and hands that can turn bright red when it flares] If scifi nanobots existed; that’s the only way to describe it. Felt like it was really doing something akin to healing. Told my doctor it worked on the body and the brain! More than coping. But that wasn’t the most impressive part. The following morning I woke up and felt the most normal I have in over 20 years! Clear head, no stiffness in fingers, neck, pelvic bone didn’t ache. [deep bone ache has started there - believed to be part of the lumbosacral nerve damage causing atrophy but doesn’t go to the nerve root at the spine. It’s crushed in the pelvic region or left bum cheek - deep down. It floats in and out causing random paralysis for up to 6 mos and MRIs often too late to detect what an the EMG does] Even depression had lifted for the first time in 2 years. The affect lasted almost 24hrs! When the pain came back; I cried. [and I still had to take… Read more »

Sandy M.

Suzanne, Great writing, as usual and thank you so very much for all your support for each of us. Drew, you said you had surgery in your thalamus, did you have a hemorrhagic stroke in the thalamus? That’s what happened to me, except I didn’t have surgery. At the time, I was with a website group and one of the friends I had made there, had surgery done at a Hospital in Chicago, same place my Pain Management Dr. wanted me to go and have same surgery. He was going to use me as a guinea pig I knew, so I told him No way!. I certainly didn’t want to go thru the surgery, and my friend got an infection after her surgery, it was just a shame, and her pain syndrome was even worse. He tried to give me opioids years before when I was still trying every medication available that might help my pain. Well, none of it did. I would think your sister being a nurse would understand what the thalamus does. It’s so hard to describe to anyone. I’m not sure of your situation, but I’ve had this horrific, stabbing, burning, absolutely indescribable pain for years. My face down my entire left side is effected, but to look at me, you would never know I had anything wrong with me, people say, oh you look great, but you can’t see “PAIN.” I had knee surgery a year after my stroke, and I’ve had ear surgeries and have always been one not to lay around. My neurologist told me I had to, I was hurting myself even more. I did finally give in to a small amount of one opoiod, along with my Neurontin and Zanaflex which gave me a little relief, it’s only for breakthru pain anyway, but after I learned more about the thalamus and what part it plays in our everyday lives, it’s unimaginable (don’t know if that is a word, but it works for me), like my Neurologist told me, it’s rare, a lot of people have strokes in the thalamus, but not all get this pain syndrome. I had back problems for years even before the stroke, and went to several differrent pain managment clinics and all they did was shoot me up with injections, I have a list of the injections and clinics and none of them helped my back. Finally, I went to a spinal specialist and after a wall full of x-rays he showed me my back. It looked just like a backward letter “C”….I had Scoliosis, from March until August it went from 26 degrees to 54 degrees, so along with the thalamic pain syndrome, I had been in terrible pain with my back with each clinic telling me it was a herniated disc of one or two different ones. None of them mentioned Scoliosis. My Neurologist who has now retired said he only had perhaps 2 patients, other than me in his over 40 years of service… Read more »

Melanie A Barrett

My sisters and I suffer with immune deficiency disorders. Two of us have fibrolyalgia and chronic migraine (as does my youngest daughter) and the other serious chronic fatigue. As now known life traumas are a factor and we certainly fall into that criteria. Our lives have been a challenge of finding doctors to take us seriously and sign on to providing real support. A patient with my neurologist for over seven years and on the exact same treatment plan for fibro & migraine management for over eighteen months, my doctor just told me I must transition to a pain management clinic. My youngest sister has never found a doctor to adequately support her physical or emotional pain. My middle sister had a very interesting (take note for your own protection) and very unfortunate thing happen, when in her routine monthly visit the nurse swapped her own compromised urine with my sister’s non compromised urine. Now my sister has a record of being a marijuana user (which she has never been) such ‘seeking narcotic drugs’. Just imagine her now unable to get any relief at all! I very much appreciate this article. Chronic pain suffers want nothing more than the ability to achieve quality on the day to day.

Debbie De Anda

I believe your the author of this site or the person to contact.
Is there anyway we can get as many as we can in pain to go talk to the president and the council in control of Opioid addiction or as we say “dependency”? We need to so that we ppl that have chronic pain can be understood. Please respond so I can do what I can.
Thank you
Debbie DeAnda


The media fixation on “the opioid crisis” and “the rise in opioid deaths” along with the widespread lack of knowledge and ignorance surrounding “opioid addiction” and chronic pain causes many people much more harm than it does most people any good (in my opinion).

Thank you everyone as usual you are so kind to me! Scott and Robert I would like to address your comments. Scott you asked “how does this help us though?”. I hope that it helps to give people an understanding between the “addiction” and “dependence” words. People think because we are dependent on something that we are also addicted. I wanted to make that distinction and I think I did. That’s how it will help us. Robert S. I wanted to let you know that I’m not a medical person I’m just a pain patient myself who’s trying to write because I enjoy it and hopefully help somebody in the process. I don’t have medical experience I am an Ambassador for the U.S. Pain foundation a mentor for Rsd, newly DX patients, & an author/writer/blogger. I just do the best I can try to help whoever I can. Yes, for you Steven, I can’t really tell you what to do. I know that 1 1/2 years ago my doctor left suddenly and I was left with no pain medication after being on it for 12 years. I went through wit drawls and I was very sick. I did it at home with my husband and I already had a previous stroke and a heart attack so it was really scary. But I didn’t want to go anywhere any anywhere to get help because I didn’t want that red flag on my chart for the rest of my life. You have to do what you have to do for youself. I can be there for you to talk to talk with you but I can’t really do it for you…… you have to go through it yourself. If I were you I’d try my hardest to find a pain doctor to help you because I did that. I went and found a pain doctor when he helped me and though it was still hard but I did it myself. I’m not telling you to do it yourself! it’s not safe,& it’s not something I would advise anyone to do. But I also didn’t want to have that in my record following me around . I wish you peace and luck and health and if you need me you can find me on my blog if you’d like it’s listed above. I’m glad that the links helped everybody I hope that that also will be something of use to the people who said how can this help us? The links are very good and there’s more knowledge there if you go and check them out. Thank you again everyone you’re awesome people . I hope that I can help ease your pain somehow. I hope that I can give you something interesting to read and know that someone is on your side. I did shorten my letter to the POTUS - to one page and I resent it to the president and to Tom price at HHS. I also made a petition… Read more »

Thank you for this. As a chronic pain patient I know first hand that this fits my profile. I have never gotten high, misused or wanted more than i should have. I’ve had an almost 20 year relationship with Vicodin. I’m hoping when my second knee replacement happens in 6 weeks after my recovery I won’t have such pain. But for those that do, I hope they will get access to all they need.


Thank you Suzanne for another wonderful article and speaking up for us all. Of course I am dependent after all these years of being on hydrocodone but at least I am alive and able to function enough to live at home. I am not ashamed of it. They tried all sorts of the heavier drugs on me but I didn’t want them. I like being well aware of everything and feeling drugged out which hydrocodone has never done to me. In fact I have the opposite problem of it keeping me awake. I have never abused it or combined it with any other drugs and never would. I am just grateful that I have it to help me control the pain as much as it can. I still use essential oils for everything else and make my own inhalers and roll on’s, lotions etc.

Robert Schubring

Well-written, but overlooks the reason why a doctor increases the dose of pain medicine.

Most often, the chronic pain patient’s illness can get worse, causing additional pain.

This should not be surprising.

A heart patient whose arrhythmia gets worse gets stronger medicine to keep the heartbeat normal.

A pneumonia patient whose breathing is worse, is given a higher oxygen dose.

We increase dosages of every medicine, when the present dose proves inadequate.

If someone’s pain is worse, their illness is worse. That’s why they start hurting more and needing more medicine to relieve the pain.

There is absolutely no mystery to why this happens. People who insist that there is something sinister about the fact that a patient got worse and started hurting again, needs to be corrected…And ridiculed, if necessary.

Singer Prince had a painful joint condition that he treated with drugs. His fans should have recognized the toll it took on him, to perform, and should have accepted that he needed time to heal himself between performances. No one invited him to put his health first and now he has died. Fans need to admit that they helped him to work himself to death, and resolve not to do that again. Blaming his medicine is completely unfair.


The pharmacy tech, on my last visit, told me that they didn’t have enough medication to cover my prescription and to come back in four days. I asked if they had some to give me, she said yes but I would forfeit the rest of my prescription and needed a new one for the rest, which I knew. THEN, she said that I wouldn’t be able to get the refill on the usual date, the 24th of April. That I would have a gap to wait until the end of the month, so I asked her to get the pharmacist, who said that it would be no problem, just get the second prescription, and gave me his card to clear it with the clinic, and I could get my next 30 day refill on the normal date. I said thank you. The technician couldn’t look me in the face after lying to me for 15 MINUTES over and over about this.
The pharmacies chased me out of Florida because they quit filling my prescription two years ago. The pharmacies are told to lie and tell you at they don’t have your medicine in stock, I saw the memos that Walgreens and CVS worked from. It just never ends with these people, we’re doomed. How do we change it???


Suzanne, as always… Excellent job! Thank you for your writing and continued hard work and support for us fellow warriors! May God bless you with healing days! Maureen


Thank you!! It’s about time people understand I’m not a junky because I’ve been on pain medication for years now. I wish you could come with me to the doctors office to give me a voice that is heard. I wish you could come with me to New York State Workmans Compensation court to give me a voice that is heard. I was furious my last doctors visit to hear a “Peer review board” of doctors who have never seen me in person. Never asked me a question or examined my body to see me wince in pain are telling my doctor I need a drug rehab program and to start lowering my doses until there are no more. I asked how can this be? It’s ludicrous! She said call your attorney. Upon calling my attorney to ask what was going on he informed me peer review boards in a Sedgwick office miles away can dictate my care. I asked why would you reduce the medication even though the last year my pain number goes up? He said every NYS Workmans Compensation patient had to endure what seems like cruel care to sift out the one bad apple. I sat astonished that I had to go though this just to be in more pain so you know I’m not the bad apple. I was infuriated when my attorney told me thats strait across the board for everyone. I worked my body past its limits for my former employer McKesson to make standards to get a good review or bonus. It’s ironic that 2 glass bottles of oxycontin caused my accident that’s what I have to go without and have little quality of life.
Thank you for being our voice. I just wish you were my advocate.

Wanda Heberer

I am 84 yrs of age. I have been taking hydrocodone since 2001 and to this date have never felt “high”. If they are to be withdrawn from my life i may as well end my life as it would not be worth living for myself and those around me..you are judging me as an addict which could not be any further away from the dependency of this drug.please make it easier to get our drugs and PLEASE do not increase prices. On set income which does not cover extras. As it is now doctor can only prescribe 30 days at a time verses 90 days in past and I have to call doctor each month to get reorders and that can take couple days as insurance also has to approve. Feel like an addict, also we required to periodically to take drug test to make sure y drugs are being taken by the purchaser. Thank you

steven r wilson

After being humiliated lied to and dumped by three pain management doctors cuz they no longer want to prescribe but you $10,000 cancer-causing injections I have 5 days left of medicine before I go into detox what do I do

Angelica Heavner

Thank you. I get so tired of hearing the same thing “you need to be careful or you are going to become an addict”. I absolutely hate having to take these meds and push them everyday past the time I am supposed to just to see how far I can. All it does is raises the pain higher for me and I know better but do it anyway.
Like many I have lost friends and family due to drug overdose. Do I blame the meds or doctors, no. Its their fault for doing them. They all new what they were doing.
So thank you for speaking up.

Michael G Langley, MD

Thank you, so much, for the links! Having been the victim on two sides of this craziness, I appreciate seeing the perspective of us chronic pain patients explained.

scott michaels

Great. How will this help us though

Denise Bault

Thanks for clarifying for the morons out there who don’t have a clue nor the availability to find one, Opioids have helped me tremendously! I believe I would have killed myself by now, had my pain mgmt. doctor not put me on them. Great article!

Thank you Suzanne. Every word you wrote is the Truth!!!!!


It’s just crazy how the media latches onto false information and joins in on the “opioidphobia”. I’m a chronic pain patient and have been for five years following brain surgery on my Thalamus. Recently, I had surgery to correct a broken wrist. My own sister, a RN, refused to go to the pharmacy to pick up a perscription for pain medication for me (I don’t drive) because she said that she was “concerned” that I would become “addicted” to pain medication because opioid problems were all over the news. This was a post-surgery prescription written by my surgeon to treat acute pain, but my sister thought that my chronic pain medication was “more than enough” to treat my acute pain also, and that I shouldn’t need to take anything else. I argued that my surgeon was fully aware of my chronic pain status and treatment, but it fell on deaf ears. What is concerning is she is a RN! I thought, how many people in hospitals suffer needlessly because other arrogant RNs decide that they know more than MDs know about the treatment of pain.