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.
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).