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How the Stigma of Opioid Medication Hurts Those With Severe Chronic Pain

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I understand why the news talks about the opioid crisis in the way it does. It is very real, very serious and needs to be addressed.

However, they are doing a disservice to patients who require opioid pain medication just to make it through the severe pain they have every single day.

Not all patients abuse, misuse or turn to street drugs.

I have required narcotic medication for more than a decade. I have never doctor-hopped. I have never been a drug-seeker at hospitals. I’ve never abused my medication or taken more than I am supposed to. I am responsible and take it as prescribed, just as I take my other medication for my health issues.

The chronic pain specialists I have seen have said that the 30 percent pain relief I get from narcotics is the most I can ever expect to get. Because kidney pain is just that bad. Opiates can’t even help 50 percent of my pain. But, with how painful chronic kidney stones are, you can bet I am extremely grateful for that 30 percent of pain they ease for me.

Most people have heard about how painful kidney stones are. I have a kidney disease that I was born with which causes me to constantly make kidney stones. I pass an enormous amount of tiny ones on a regular basis and have needed emergency surgery on some larger ones.

I also get chronic kidney infections, which are extremely painful as well.

As it is, even with strong pain medication, I have days where I just can’t handle the pain. I truly don’t know how I would have made it through the last decade without pain control. I would not have wanted to live. The pain is unbearable. It is so severe.


Not everyone is irresponsible with their medication. Some people are. They need help and understanding. But, patients like myself who are not abusing these medications are being treated like addicts by the people who watch a news program or read an article that talks about how every patient is an abuser.

I don’t tell people what meds I take because I’ve sat in a room with acquaintances, listening to them all talk about how no one needs opioids. That they are never necessary. That all patients abuse them and turn to street drugs.

A stigma has been created and is being nourished. I have to hide that I take medication, lest I be judged and treated poorly. Yet, none of these people talking down about patients who take narcotics have any clue that I take pain medication. Why? Because I am never high. I despise feeling loopy or out of control. I don’t take enough to impair me. I take enough to take the edge off of my severe, daily, constant pain.

Please, the next time you go to judge all people who take opioid medications because of something you saw or read about, think about what you are doing. You may be talking down about someone who is sitting right beside you.

It’s happened to me.

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Thinkstock photo via smartstock.

Originally published: May 31, 2017
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