Jeff Sessions, Aspirin and Toughing It Out

By Crystal Lindell, Columnist

My first reaction to reading that Attorney General Jeff Sessions thinks pain patients should just “tough it out” was probably not appropriate for this publication.

My second reaction probably wasn’t either.

If you haven’t heard, Sessions hates drugs. Like a lot. He literally once said, “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

And now, he apparently thinks good people shouldn’t use opioid pain medication.

"I am operating on the assumption that this country prescribes too many opioids," Sessions said during a speech at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Tampa. "People need to take some aspirin sometimes and tough it out.”

Okay. Look. Setting aside the fact that data consistently shows that most people do not start heroin because they received a legitimate hydrocodone prescription, let’s talk about this whole idea of “toughing it out.”

Because that’s the thing about pain, when it’s not yours, it’s incredibly easy to endure. All you really have to do is throw around clichés about being a strong person, and maybe sprinkle in some lame advice about yoga and acupuncture.

Depending on your mood, you might even add in a few judgmental asides about avoiding gluten and getting enough exercise. And just like that: Voila! You’ve dealt with it! Problem solved.

But when it’s your pain. When it’s eating away at your soul, it’s never that easy. And it never gets easy.

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Left untreated, the pain that wraps around the right side of my ribs has left me dreaming of drowning in a bottle of Drano just to make it stop. It has buried me in bed and left me for dead, so heavy on my chest that I can’t get up. It has stolen my nights and destroyed my days. And it has done its very best to rob me of my hope. 

In short, it’s been hell. And the words that would make you truly understand how awful it has been do not exist.

But thankfully, I found a doctor who has helped me get through hell and manage my constant pain with opioid pain medications.

And it’s because of those medications that I can live. I can work. I can be a friend, and a sister, and a lover, and a writer, and daughter. I can be connected to the magic of the universe again.

There is so much we can do to fight the opioid epidemic. Those suffering from addiction need long-term treatment that includes professional psychiatric help. They need to be offered medicated withdrawal when needed, and given a strong support system. And they need empathy.

In fact, it’s the same empathy pain patients need, just applied differently.

I don’t expect a man like Jeff Sessions to understand this. He has never been in horrific pain. And honestly, as much as I hate him, I hope he never is.

But if he does wake up with pain one day, and realizes how important it is to treat that pain, I hope he looks back on his life with regret and remorse, as he realizes how incredibly wrong he was to ever suggest that people in pain “tough it out.”

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Crystal Lindell is a journalist who lives in Illinois. She loves Taco Bell, watching "Burn Notice" episodes on Netflix and Snicker's Bites. She has had intercostal neuralgia since February 2013.

Crystal writes about it on her blog, “The Only Certainty is Bad Grammar.”

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.