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My Response to Jeff Sessions' Remarks on the Opioid Crisis as a Chronic Pain Patient

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This story reflects an individual’s experience and is not an endorsement from The Mighty. We believe in sharing a variety of perspectives from our community.

As Attorney General, it is your job, Jeff Sessions, to publicly comment on national epidemics, one of these being the opioid crisis. Hearing that you planned to speak to this crisis recently, I was skeptical. This administration has constantly attacked those taking pain medications — including those taking them legally. I was concerned that you would make an insensitive comment, but nothing could have prepared me for what was actually said.

• What is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome?
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On Wednesday, you stood up at the US Attorney’s Office in Tampa Bay, Florida, and you completely disregarded the medical needs of all chronic pain patients – myself included. You said that people should just take aspirin, get some more sleep and “tough it out a little,” rather than taking prescription pain medications or medical marijuana.

Mr. Sessions, I am 16 years old, and I live in chronic pain every day. As I write this article, a wrist and knee have already fallen out of the socket due to my condition, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Every day, hundreds of joints sublux and dislocate, constantly moving in and out of place. Some days are better than others, but every day, I will experience pain from these dislocations just like anyone else would. I have personally tried just about everything for my pain.

You said aspirin? I’ve taken four a day and am now on an NSAID that is much stronger. News alert: it does not do all that much for chronic pain. You said maybe try to sleep more? I have gone through weeks that I sleep 10-14 hours a day because of exhaustion from the pain. Yet, I don’t think the dislocations went anywhere for the hours that I was awake and moving. Lastly, you said I need to “tough it out?” I do that every day because I am one of those unlucky Americans that does not process pain medications. As I just said, I do not personally take pain medication beyond my NSAID. Yet, if I knew of some medication that would work, I would most certainly be taking it every day.

So, as I write this to you, I advocate not for myself, but for my more fortunate friends who do benefit from medications daily. Not all chronic pain patients are addicted to their medication. When you have lived constantly at a five to eight out of 10 on the pain scale for a year, then we can talk. When all of the joints in your body dislocate, then we can talk. Even when you sit down and talk to a group of people who benefit from these medications, then we can talk. Until then, remember that there are people who benefit from these medications. While they may be a small minority, they do exist.

Additionally, let’s address your views on marijuana. Your speech contained a highly negative connotation when speaking to marijuana. What you do not realize is that medical marijuana helps thousands of Americans daily. While I cannot attain this medication in my state, many EDS patients like myself who do not process prescription pain medications do process medical marijuana. For these people, medical marijuana is nothing more than another medication that helps them through the hard days, not the highly-addictive monster you make it out to be.

Moreover, I implore you, Mr. Sessions, to consider your words next time you speak to this crisis. Sure, chronic pain patients are a small minority, but that does not mean we are invisible. We are Americans too, and you are supposed to be speaking about America as a whole – that includes us. Consider a small disclaimer about those who do benefit from these medications. Consider the possibility that some of us cannot just tough it out with aspirin and more sleep. Consider the entire American population.

Lead photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr

Originally published: February 19, 2018
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