The Mighty Logo

People With Chronic Pain Are Sharing Their Experience Taking Opioids to Fight Opioid Abuse Stigma

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

There’s a new social media trend of publicly shaming opioid users. In the past two weeks, at least two photos have been publicly shared on social media by police in Ohio and Massachusetts of parents passed out on opioids in front of their children. While opioid abuse is a real problem in the U.S., shaming people who use opioids hurts the millions of people who have been prescribed opioids to treat their chronic pain.

“Opioids are not like traditional meds such as an antibiotic or cough suppressant,” said Alan Brewington, who takes opioids for chronic pain caused by arthritis. “Every chronic pain patient has to consider the moral, ethical, side effect, short term benefit versus long term destruction to the body and cost each and every time we take a pill. Stigmatizing us for this only makes the decision harder and less likely the pill will work.”

Now, people who use opioids for chronic pain are sharing their experiences on social media using the hashtag #opioidawareness to try and combat the stigma opioid users face.

Over 100 million Americans live with chronic pain, many of whom use opioids as a way of managing their pain or minimizing flares. Of those who use opioids to treat chronic pain, many wish there was a better or more affordable alternative to opioids.

Opioids are pain-relieving and mood-enhancing drugs, which range from prescription painkillers like codeine to illicit drugs such as heroin. Even though both are opioids, being prescribed codeine for chronic pain is not the same as using heroin illegally – it’s a distinction, patients say, people fail to see when they talk about opioids.

“People don’t seem to realize how many lives opioid medication saves,” Anne Turner, who lives with fibromyalgia, told The Mighty. “With chronic pain there’s no escape from the agony and for many, opioids are the only way of achieving some kind of relief. Without them, I can’t work, I can’t look after my home, I can’t even look after myself. With them, I have as close to a normal life as I can hope for. This truth seems to be lost in the current opioid debate.”

You can join in raising awareness by sharing your experience in the comments below or on social media with the hashtag #opioidawareness.

Originally published: September 25, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home