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My Frustration With How Opioid Laws Don't Seem to Consider Chronic Pain Patients

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I’ve been forced to fight chronic pain and withdrawal all thanks to the new opioid laws. Yes, I knew at some point I’d have to taper down as I understand the logic that your body adapts to the dosage and requires a higher dose to be effective. Early this year I began a slow taper every six weeks of my extended release pain medication. With my doctor’s approval I use my immediate release pain medication to get through the withdrawal symptoms and taper it back on my own after the first week. I know it’s my body and brain adapting to the new dose and I eventually get through it. I’m now taking half of what I was and my body is feeling the difference. I feel pain I’ve never felt, but I must continue on.

Recently, my Primary Care Clinic stopped prescribing pain medication and I was referred to a local pain management clinic that will take over prescribing and offers other pain treatment procedures. In the mail I received their new patient paperwork. It appeared as if I was registering for a drug treatment program, not a pain management clinic, to help me manage my pain! I filled out the many pages stating no, I have never run out of my medication early, had multiple prescribers, bought medication from others, had “cravings,” taken more than prescribed, etc. I thoroughly explained my debilitating conditions and described my chronic pain in detail. What makes it worse? Activity! What makes it better? Rest! And I do meet their disability and chronic pain questionnaire criteria.

At my new patient appointment I’m told I will taper down to my starting dose eight years ago, no matter the pain I am in, starting a new taper every month. I’m subject to urine tests at random as well as at each appointment. I can also have pill counts at any time – all of which is fine with me.

I later ask, what do I do during flare-ups? His reply: “You’re going to have to find a way to work through the pain. You can’t increase your immediate release pain medication any more to help.” Are you kidding me? Work through with nothing else to help a severe spike in pain that lasts days to weeks? Not to mention the increase in pain I’m already “working through” with every taper.

It seems the new laws and the “opioid epidemic” has been created for and is based upon people who abuse their medication, sell it, buy it on the street, cut or in some other fashion abuse extended release pills, doctor shop and/or take too many, all of which can kill you.

Where in these laws and policies are chronic pain patients mentioned and protected? We are real, we exist and we’re struggling! We take our medication as prescribed. I’m scared not to – I don’t want to risk any complications! We are not addicted to our medication. But, if we don’t get protection and adequate care, I am afraid we will see a rise in pain-related suicides.

If opioid pain medication isn’t the answer for helping chronic pain, what is? Doctors don’t seem to be able to answer that question. Until they can, they need to help, not cause harm. Isn’t that in their oath? Of course they do say exercise, physical therapy and pain procedures will help. My disease has progressed so far that each time I’ve tried various types of exercise and physical therapy, my body flares up. I’ll continue with the different pain procedures that work and pray for new ones that will help even more.

Most of all, I pray for chronic pain patients to be excluded from or have an added clause to the “opioid epidemic” laws and receive the adequate care we deserve. I didn’t ask for the illnesses causing my chronic pain and I know no one asked to live in chronic pain. I’m not addicted to my medication. Yet, every day it’s becoming harder to get adequate care and support around the nation from the medical community. We are supposed to see them for help, not to be placed into that category.

Sadly, I see my future becoming more sedentary and even less active and social than it already is until something changes or I find the right doctor to ease my pain. I don’t expect to ever be pain free. I just have days of manageable pain and a semi-quality of life that is slowly slipping away through the hands of the doctors bound by these laws.

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Thinkstock photo via BackyardProduction.

Originally published: September 19, 2017
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