Pain Patients Sound Off on Opioid Cutbacks

By Pat Anson, Editor

In our last newsletter, we asked readers if their doctors had recently reduced or stopped prescribing opioid pain medication, and to share their stories with us.

We heard back from dozens of people, all of them angry and frustrated with the state of pain care and the government agencies that regulate pain medication in the U.S.

“We are disgusted with the DEA and uneducated callous physicians' war on chronic pain patients and their doctors. Suicides are skyrocketing and lives are being destroyed,” wrote Connie Potter, a registered nurse in New Mexico.  “The number of people I see whose lives are worthless and destroyed is appalling.” 

Connie said that her husband, who suffers from severe back pain, dystonia and fibromyalgia, is being prescribed about a third of the pain mediation he used to get.

“No one wants to give pain meds in southern New Mexico. My friend with acute MS (multiple sclerosis) has had his already pathetic meds dosages halved,” she said.

Many pain sufferers are being told by doctors that they are required to reduce or eliminate opioid prescribing, even though guidelines released last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are voluntary, not mandatory.

“I was told in November that as of January 1, 2017 my medication would be reduced by half because the government is mandating this across the United States,” wrote 46-year old Cindy, who has suffered from back and pelvic pain since childhood. 

“I am still trying to grasp how this could happen!  I am every doctor's dream patient. I do whatever they ask whatever they suggest - anything!  How the hell am I supposed to make it through a day of work when I can't sit? This is crazy!  Do I seriously not have any recourse?”

“These doctors don't give a s*** anymore, all they care about (is) lowering their opiates prescriptions, so they don't have to deal with the backlash from our stinking government,” said David Cole, who has perineural neuropathy.

“I've been using opioids for the last 14 years to control to my pain and manage my life,” wrote Eli. “Then came the infamous CDC 'recommendations' and in March of 2016 I was cut down 50% on my dosage. Was difficult to do it, and couldn't have pulled it off without the help of cannabis.”

Even though medical marijuana is legal in California, where Eli lives, most doctors don’t want to prescribe opioids to someone using cannabis. So he's been tapered again to a lower dose. And he may be on his last refill.  

“My life began falling apart when they cut my dose in half, and hasn't been the same since. I've grown much more dependent on help from others and can barely shop. This anti-opioid madness has got to stop," he says.

Treated Like Addicts

Many readers say they are tired of being treated like criminals or addicts.

“Being treated like an incompetent, drug seeking/selling, whiny and lazy hypochondriac by non-medical and/or elected individuals is not an issue I anticipated,” wrote Ellen Rames, who is disabled at the age of 65. “It feels like the eyes of judgment are on me every day. It shouldn't be this way.”

“Twenty five years of taking opioids without a problem and now I feel like criminal trying to get them,” said Kaye Ingram, a disabled coal miner. “I (am) just sick of being piss tested every month and being threatened.”

“I'm tired of being treated like a druggie or addict when I ask for relief,” said Mike Schmidt, who has chronic pain after 15 surgeries on his neck and back. At the age of 72, the retired drug and alcohol counselor says he’s not worried about addiction.

“I have always taken medication at the prescribed dosage or less,” says Schmidt.  “I found morphine to be an effective pain relief for me after trying different medications and not liking the side effects.”

“It angers me to no end that I can't get decent sleep and that I spend most days in a chair because some people abuse medications that I legitimately need, and for which I have a proven record of responsible use,” said G.D. King, who has suffered from chronic back pain for over 25 years.

“Clearly I understand that the government doesn't want citizens dropping dead willy-nilly from overdoses.  But the fact that these deaths are the result of abusive and/or illegal activity for which I must pay a very steep personal price does not incline me toward sympathy for those who engage in these activities.”

Illegal activity is what some patients are considering to get pain relief.

“Pot isn't legal where I am so guess I'd have to break the law, or well, heck, since heroin is easier to get than a legitimate pain prescription, I guess that might be another choice.  Do these people have any common sense?” asked Donna.

Suicide is seen as an alternative by some.

The government needs to get out of our doctor’s offices and our pharmacies and quit attempting to practice medicine by lumping all persons into the same category.

“I feel that there needs to be more reporting on the suicide rate among chronic pain sufferers.  These people who are pushing for stopping opioid use to prevent overdose and death from opioids are only trading one form of death for another,” said Sam, a retired counselor who has worked with suicidal clients.  “I support euthanasia and the legalization of physician assisted suicide for the terminally ill, but I think it should also be allowed for those who suffer chronic pain that are not getting relief.”

Others believe the campaign against opioids is more about corporate profits, not healthcare or preventing addiction.

“This is strictly a dollars and cents issue, with the insurance companies not wanting to fulfill their contractual obligations. I know firsthand, as my insurer cut me off completely in 2016,” wrote Russ. “My family already is prepared that when I die because of their incompetence, the major lawsuits will begin unabated against any agency or company that was implicit in this conspiracy, and a conspiracy it is.

“The government needs to get out of our doctor's offices and our pharmacies and quit attempting to practice medicine by lumping all persons into the same category.”

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