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To the Rude Pharmacist I Spoke to About My Opioid Prescription for Chronic Pain

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About a month ago, my back went out. It usually does once or twice a year. This time, though, it went out hard. I hit a 10 on my pain scale. It lasted nearly two weeks compared to its usual seven to nine days. At the end of the episode, which left me unable to walk for three days, I noticed my pain hadn’t quite returned to “normal.” There was residual pain from the episode and it wasn’t traveling. It just stayed. Naturally, this increased my fibromyalgia pain and fatigue. So, I set up an appointment with my doctor to discuss a possible increase in medication.


My doctor (who it took me 15 years to find) was responsive and honest. She let me know I needed to continue looking into alternatives for my pain management. She also increased my oxycodone from three 5-mg. pills per day to four 5-mg. pills per day. She did this for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, she noticed I normally don’t even have to take three per day, but I’d had more days of lowered mobility due to pain lately which had caused me to need to take four per day for more than 10 days. It’s not something I’m happy about, but it was necessary to maintain functionality.

Secondly, she was able to physically feel an immediate spasm and noticed me nearly jumping off her table when she barely touched the left side of my back. The area from my mid-spine to my lower-spine on my left side has intensified in the pain category. It is sensitive enough that, 30 minutes after she did this, I developed welts where her fingers were.

Afterwords, when I was on my way to the pharmacy to fill my monthly prescription, I called the pharmacist to let her know the 90 quantity of my medication was incorrect and asked her to please put it back. I told her I did not need two bottles of oxycodone. She immediately became irate. She asked me twice to tell her what I needed done. After the final request for clarity, I told her very clearly to put the other bottle back. I informed her I probably won’t need four pills per day for any more than half of the month and to keep both bottles would be unnecessary. After she put me on hold for five minutes, she came back even angrier.

“OK, so, this is an adjustment and you need to understand this has to last you 30 days.”

I took a breath to calm down. My response was quiet and even-keeled.

“Yes, ma’am, I understand that. I’ve literally just come from my doctor appointment. This will probably last me longer than a month. I’m working on other things to combat my pain (such as swimming) and am doing what I can to avoid another back surgery.”

She sighed loudly and jumped in with, “Yeah, OK. I get it.”

I’ve been going to this pharmacy since we moved a couple of months ago and I’ve already had three negative experiences with the pharmacy staff specifically. I’m not sure why it’s happening at this point, but it left me with a feeling of pure anger.

She didn’t understand. She didn’t care to. She didn’t understand I actually managed to further injure my back just by sleeping. She didn’t understand I’m making lifestyle changes to prevent future use of opioids because I don’t like having to rely on them to function (this is a widespread feeling within the chronic pain community, I’ve noticed). She didn’t understand I had already had a spinal surgery and am desperately trying to not have another. She didn’t care to understand I cannot smoke or ingest marijuana because I, like many others, am in a contract with my primary care physician which prohibits me from doing so. She didn’t care to understand I’m still working on finding the correct dosage for CBD. She didn’t care to understand that so many people actually have to use both to find any kind of relief from pain.

No. She didn’t care. She was having a bad day and, I’m sure, had encountered someone who irritated her or she was annoyed by the fact I use opioids for pain relief. I’m sure she hasn’t actually looked into the majority of opioid users who, like myself, are responsible but in dire pain on a daily basis, just trying to function and survive.

Pharmacists, you should never demean or belittle a patient when they have been responsible, communicative and mature about any of their medications. I did not only the right thing, but the necessary-for-myself thing by telling her to put the second bottle back. I’m grateful I don’t need to take that much medication to function. I also feel deeply for those who do. I hope someone fills her and the multitude of other healthcare professionals like her in on the situation at hand. This isn’t just a matter of medication. This is a matter of survival, living and functioning.

This is our lives.

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Thinkstock photo via Wavebreakmedia.

Originally published: August 30, 2017
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