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How Will My Medication Be Affected by the Rumored 'Roseanne' Overdose?

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This week has been a rollercoaster ride in my home. My husband has tonsillitis and has been out for almost three days and, yesterday, I had my genetics appointment to determine the type of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) that my doctor suspects I have.

• What is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome?
• What Are Common Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Symptoms?

The geneticist, though scoring me low on the Beighton scale, made note of some of my mother’s history and some of my other symptoms. At the end of our appointment, without hesitation, he pulled out a pamphlet detailing the different known types of Ehlers-Danlos and circled one, saying, “That’s what you have, right there.” He had circled hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos (hEDS). He handed me an emergency alert tag for a keychain, a bracelet, as well as other signs and symptoms to watch out for as I go through different phases and events in my life. He put his hand on my shoulder and nodded when I expressed my fear of my foot going out from under me in the shower while my husband is at work and the thought of what that could lead to. He reaffirmed the lack of treatment and cure for EDS and told me that the best things I can do for myself are what I’m already doing: joint strengthening exercises and external braces, increased awareness of myself and care to avoid stressful situations. He handed me another page detailing pain treatments for EDS patients, all of which I’m very familiar with and have done or am currently doing.

Coming home from that appointment was strange. I was already almost completely sure of the diagnosis, but there was a catharsis from having it formalized. There was also a sadness because of the regret that we had not found it sooner in my mother. She had all of the typical hEDS symptoms, including rapid childbirth with me, subluxations, frequent bruising, sprains and extremely bad pain. Her pain was so bad that the local office of the medical investigator made a point to tell me that her pain had caused deterioration among her muscles and connective tissues.

As we got home and I was processing my diagnosis and grief, I saw this story from, detailing Roseanne Barr’s statement regarding her character on “Roseanne” saying, “They had her die of an opium — or an opioid overdose.”

My brain went into an almost immediate panic. What is this going to do to further damage chronic pain patients? What will the media say? How many more people will lose their medications because of this?

Then, I took a breath and reeled myself in. I realized a few things as I was in my panic.

First, Roseanne Connor is a fictional character. I know so many people are going to sensationalize her death and give each other and their chronically ill friends and family members the, “See? I told you so!” speech. They must realize that the “Roseanne” show, while very close to home and a childhood memory for many of us, is fictional. It isn’t real.

Secondly, they must realize that, at the end of the first season of the Roseanne revival show, Roseanne had been stealing pain medication and hoarding it as well as hiding it from her extremely concerned husband and family. This behavior lines up with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines as well as the knowledge within the chronic pain community.

In my research, I stumbled across this article written by Dr. John D. Lilly, MBA, in which he asked, “Does the ICD-10 code T40.4 (synthetic opioids other than methadone) include prescription medication as well as similar illegal drugs?”

The reply was, “ICD-10 code T40.4 classifies deaths due to poisoning by a class of similar synthetic opioid compounds, other than compounds classified by ICD-10 codes T40.2 (Other opioids) or T40.3 (Methadone), with no distinction on whether a compound or formula was obtained or manufactured legally or illegally.

Historically, deaths due to T40.4 have been almost exclusively due to prescription fentanyl. Since 2013, there has been a surge in illicit fentanyl.”

This is so important to realize. I’ve heard recently from members of the Don’t Punish Pain Rallies and even they have listed dozens of government sources stating the same. It is important to recognize how infrequently overdose deaths occur in the chronic pain community and those that do seem to, by and large, be due to a person becoming addicted, turning to street drugs (like illicit fentanyl) after losing their medication or stealing medication for those two reasons.

Yes, this is extremely controversial. It seems that the majority of the mainstream media and the public were frightened upon the release of the CDC guidelines recently and, instead of taking those guidelines as the suggestions that they were, they made those guidelines into rules and reasons to punish chronic pain patients.

What does this have to do with me? Well, looking at the fact that I have been diagnosed with hEDS at this point, everything. Every one of us can say we know someone with chronic pain…or we are someone with chronic pain. These facts need to be remembered when that panic comes our way or overtakes us. We need to be able to speak up and show these facts to those in the media and those in the well public that are frightened and easily swayed by the mass opioid panic that seems to have gripped our country.

This does not negate the lives lost to illicit fentanyl, heroin and improperly used prescription deaths. Each life lost was beyond precious and all were irreplaceable. What these numbers do is point to the real culprit. Hopefully, if there’s someone reading this who has just received a life-long chronic pain diagnosis like I have and who has been alarmed by ABC’s choice to kill Roseanne Connor with an opioid overdose, you’ll take a little comfort in knowing the truth. Hopefully, you can share this truth with others. We’re in this together.

Photo courtesy of the “Roseanne” Facebook page


Originally published: September 21, 2018
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