Rebutting Media Hype About Opioids

By Angelika Byczkowski

Open Letter to the Media:

Angelika Byczkowski

Angelika Byczkowski

Ever since you started writing about the “Opioid Crisis in America”, you have ignored the millions of us that suffer with serious and incurable, but treatable, pain. You ignore or distort scientific facts and propagate manipulated statistics that conflate pain treatment with addiction.

You are being duped by the addiction treatment industry and used to promote their agenda. You accept and publish their information and admittedly corrupt data without question and don’t bother to dig deeper to find the subterfuge.

You have become a mouthpiece for the grossly distorted “information” and questionable agenda of the politically powerful Addiction/Recovery Industry. The situation is frighteningly similar to the McCarthy era, when the media was a willing participant, and even advocate, of the judicial witch hunts for supposed communists lurking in the shadows everywhere.

Then, as now, the media found it profitable to kindle this destructive drama and then feed its flames as long as possible. Have you no decency, no conscience?

You present the horrors of addiction and overdose as inevitable consequence of any opioid use, and fail to distinguish between supervised medical use and recreational use.

You rely on the opinions of self-declared experts as truth, brushing aside inconvenient facts:

  1. Less than 5% of legitimate pain patients become addicted.
  2. Most opioid overdoses are not from an opioid alone, but from a combination of drugs that enhance the effects of the opioid, like alcohol or tranquilizers.
  3. The vast majority who overdose on opioid pain medication do not have valid prescriptions, but are using forged prescriptions or drugs bought on the street (which often contain lethal doses of fentanyl)

Your articles so completely demonize opioid medication that you lead readers to believe there is no legitimate need for them at all.

I wonder how many of you would be as vehemently against opioids if you developed chronic pain. It’s easy to say “no opioids” until you’re the one in agony. Many of us end up in so much pain that we’d rather die.

I’ve been taking opioids daily for over 20 years and they still give me relief. Most pain patients like me have tried absolutely everything else and only use opioids as a last resort, but your articles stigmatize us all as drug-seeking addicts.

You seem unaware of how careful we legitimate patients are with our medications.

We don’t dare risk our standing with our pain doctors, who can cut us off upon the slightest suspicion of misuse. We don’t dare abuse our pain medications because the quality of our lives depends on their effectiveness; many of us cannot live without them.

You neglect to mention an essential fact: Dependence is NOT addiction!

Dependence is a purely physical phenomenon as the body adjusts to an altered environment, while addiction is a bio-psycho-social issue. Many other substances cause dependence: antidepressants, sleeping pills, cigarettes, even coffee. Heart patients and diabetics are completely dependent on their medications, which can also cause death upon overdose.

You never mention that opioids are still by far the most effective pain relievers known to mankind.

While you insist chronic pain can be better treated with other non-opioid pain management medications and treatments, our experience is usually different. At best, these other medications and methods are just marginally helpful, so we can only use them to minimize, not prevent, our need for opioids.

You consistently imply that opioids cause addiction, even when taken for legitimate medical reasons. This is simply not true; addiction is in the psyche of the person, not in the drug.

While opioids can be addictive if misused, they have been proven effective and without long-term damage for thousands of years when taken properly as medication. We don’t outlaw alcohol or guns just because some people use them abusively, so why should I be denied the use of prescribed opioids only because other people abuse them?

Like many other socially acceptable substances and activities associated with risk, opioids only become dangerous when abused. Some people will always be driven to excess, and we can’t simply outlaw everything risky to save them from themselves.

Please make your reporting more factually accurate and unbiased; show the tragic misery of pain patients, not just addicts; publicize the suicides of people who could not tolerate their pain any longer.

I beg you to end your unjustified “War on Pain Patients”.

Until she was disabled by progressive pain and fatigue from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, Angelika was a high tech IT maven at Apple and Yahoo, and a competitive endurance athlete. 

When her pain allows, she spends her limited energy researching and blogging about Chronic Pain, EDS, and Fibromyalgia at and writes poetry to sustain her sanity. 

Her essays and poems have been published in the New York Times and several healthcare blogs, including Stanford University’s Scope BlogKevin, and the National Pain Report.

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