A Pained Life: Time for a New Direction

By Carol Levy, Columnist

I keep reading comments and articles from those who live with chronic pain, or care for a pain sufferer, decrying the lack of treatment for chronic pain, and what is going on in the academic and regulating communities regarding opioid prescriptions.

It seems to me there is a major component missing: the term “chronic pain,” even if it is a disease unto itself, is a disputed theory and possibly a term in search of a meaning.

I am not a doctor or medical person. I am merely someone who has lived for decades with chronic disabling pain.

Some surgery worked, but most did not. Medications, including opioids, worked somewhat, slightly, or not at all. One reaction to the drug that worked best, a precipitous rise in my white blood count, was so potentially harmful I was told never, ever to take it again. So where does that leave me?

Where does that leave any of us when all the various medications do not work or we are unable to take them?

More importantly, where does it leave the pharmaceutical industry, particularly in terms of research and development?

Why do we keep seeing newer forms of opioids at the same time they are being denounced as evil and the cause of the "painkiller epidemic"?

Why condemn opioids when it appears no other drugs, with different forms of action against pain, are being created or brought to market?

There are drugs for the various miseries that cause pain, such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, trigeminal neuralgia, rheumatoid arthritis and so on. The one commonality is they all cause chronic pain, but the pain is not a common ancestor, if you will, that links them altogether.

So why should all of us benefit from one specific drug?

Is there ongoing research to try and isolate a pathway, a chemical release, or a biological, neurological, and anatomical mechanism that may be specific to all the disorders that cause chronic pain? I don't know. I do know that if there was, I’ve never heard about it.

Craziness is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

We keep banging our heads against a wall, crying out: stop regulating, stop calling us addicts, stop saying that opioids are crutches and of no real help.

I think it would help our cause much more if we did not focus on opioids or the problems we have getting prescriptions written and filled.

Instead, I think we need to redirect our energies and demand that research be devoted to finding non-narcotic pain relievers that have the same level of benefit that many opioids offer in reducing the pain.

Opioids cannot be the only answer.

Our voices are ignored when many of us say we hate the feeling of being narcotized. We need and want drug options that do not leave us feeling cloudy, cotton mouthed, and detached.

Only the pharmaceutical industry can change this. I believe that is where we need to direct our energies.

Carol Jay Levy has lived with trigeminal neuralgia, a chronic facial pain disorder, for over 30 years. She is the author of “A Pained Life, A Chronic Pain Journey.” 

Carol is the moderator of the Facebook support group “Women in Pain Awareness.” Her blog “The Pained Life” can be found here.

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.