By Sandie Hamilton, Guest Columnist
I am 62 years old and a full time worker employed in the social services area. I am a mother, grandmother, registered voter and taxpayer. I support this country and everything she stands for. I believe in our Constitution and in our Bill of Rights, which contain the basis for my point today: the pursuit of happiness.
I have been diagnosed with degenerative arthritis of the spine. The pain it causes makes doing my job, sitting through a movie or Sunday service, and driving in a car nearly impossible. I cannot sit for more than 20 minutes at a time, nor stand for prolonged periods of time. If it weren’t for my prescribed opioids, I would not be able to sit at this computer long enough to write this.
Opioid pain medication was not the first thing my doctor prescribed. It was the last. I did spinal epidurals, nerve blocks, chiropractic manipulation, physical therapy, ultra-heat therapy, deep tissue massage, and yoga (which sent me back to the doctor). I also used topical creams, ointments, essential oils, lots of prayer, and of course NSAIDs -- until peptic ulcers led to stomach bleeds and vomiting.
Then my doctor put me on a low dose of opioids. I am now able to continue working, sit here and write this column. And all the other little things most folks take for granted.
My dose could be a little higher and probably needs to be adjusted, but I don’t dare ask my doctor. He told me once that “they” have made him feel like a criminal for what he does do. It’s a shame that I can’t talk to him and he is afraid to do more to help me because of this crazy manufactured opioid crisis. Not to say prescribing hadn’t gotten too liberal, maybe it had. But that was before I needed help.
I seriously believe the liberal prescribing days are over. Way over. Where I live most people aren’t getting anything, unless they’re dying. And that is excessive. Because of opioids I am a productive taxpaying citizen, not a housebound miserable invalid drawing my little disability check and getting free medical care.
Because of opioids, I am not a burden to the state. I am able to exercise my right to the pursuit of happiness, which for me means getting some relief from the constant pain. More could be done, but I am afraid to ask and my doctor is afraid to offer. That is wrong.
Something within reason needs to be done for the millions of pain patients who live in fear of losing or who have already lost their one lifeline to normal living -- a prescribed medication that works. But that’s not possible with all the tightened opioid guidelines and the number of drug overdoses rising.
Hopeless people unable to accept their pain have committed suicide. And I understand why. Others have turned to the black market and are trying things coming in from Mexico that can kill them. Of course, a lot of people choose to do drugs to get high, and it is their misuse and abuse of our medication that has caused a lot of the issues and overdosing.
We are being called addicts and drug seekers, and lumped right in there with the thrill seekers, which we aren’t. We are people with varying conditions that cause pain. Chronic untreated pain kills people too. It has been documented the effect it has on the brain, the stress on your heart, and the drain on your emotions.
Did people take advantage of opioids and turn from medicinal to recreational use? Yes they did. But the overprescribing has stopped. In some hospitals, you can’t even get opioids now if you’re having surgery! That’s ridiculous.
If we are diagnosed by a physician who wants us treated with opioids, we should be able to get them in whatever degree we need them. People are different. What works well for one may work differently for another, but the doctor should be able to determine what his patient needs and prescribe accordingly.
Please stop this war on pain patients. I want to be able to talk to my doctor and not live in fear that what is working for me today might be taken away tomorrow. There should be pain management specialists, pain sufferers and patient advocates on government commissions that deal with pain. How can you possibly decide what we need or don’t need if you aren’t talking to us?
Please hear us. Restore some reason and sanity to prescribing regulations and give us back the doctor-patient relationship.
Sandie Hamilton lives in Oklahoma.
Pain News Network invites other readers to share their stories with us. Send them to: editor@PainNewsNetwork.org.
The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.