By Pat Anson, Editor
Dozens of protests are being planned across the United States this Saturday to draw attention to the plight of patients suffering from chronic pain and illness.
The “Don’t Punish Pain” rallies were organized by a grassroots group on Facebook and quickly gained traction in the pain community – where there is growing frustration over reduced access to pain medication and medical care.
“One day we were talking and decided we could have a rally. And it went from there. It just exploded,” says David Israel, a 30-year old Michigan man disabled by chronic pain.
Israel says the group is planning rallies in 47 states – mostly at state capitols – and has obtained the necessary permits. For a complete list of the times and locations, click here.
The primary goal of the rallies is to get the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to change its opioid prescribing guidelines, which have caused many doctors to stop treating patients with opioid medication or to drastically lower their doses.
“There are millions of people that are being affected by this. Not only do we need to get the CDC to change but we also need to get help for the people who’ve been abandoned,” says Israel.
Israel was recently abandoned by his doctor and has been unable to find a new one, in part because of a disputed drug test. He suffers from hydrocephalus, a condition that causes spinal fluid to build up in his brain, leading to headaches and other neurological problems.
“I don’t have a doctor at all right now,” said Israel. “I need pain meds, but I don’t have any because there was a false positive last year that I proved was false, but the doctor said there was no such thing as a false positive. She dropped my pain meds overnight.”
Some patients have complained to PNN that the rallies are poorly organized and they don't know who to contact or where to get further information. Perhaps the best thing to do is to join their Facebook group by clicking here and see if the information has already been posted.
The Don’t Punish Pain rallies were organized in the last few months without support or funding from other patient advocacy groups. It truly is a grassroots effort, supported by volunteers like Rhonda Posey, a Texas grandmother who suffers from arachnoiditis, a chronic spinal condition.
“It’s been fun to be involved with it, but it’s been quite a job,” says Posey, who helped organize the Don’t Punish Pain rally at Dallas City Hall Saturday morning. She was unable to get a permit at the state capitol in Austin, possibly due to the stigma associated with opioids.
“We had to have legislator sponsorship (for a permit). And we reached out to probably a dozen people trying to get someone to sponsor us and nobody would do it,” she told PNN. “They probably didn’t want their name associated with something like that.
“Dallas has been very nice. Someone will be there with us the entire time. They’ve been real nice about everything, so it’s worked out well.”
Posey has also been successful in getting some advance media coverage of the rally from local newspapers and from KTRE-TV. Her group plans to bring 50 pairs of shoes to the rally to represent patients who have died from suicide or medical conditions caused by untreated pain.
She and Israel say it is time for different tactics by the pain community. Just signing petitions and writing letters to politicians about how the government’s response to the opioid crisis is hurting patients hasn't been effective.
“Nobody’s got the guts to standup and say wait a minute, there are other people suffering. It’s not just people that are suffering form addiction. It’s not just the families who are suffering from people who have died from overdoses," Posey said. “What about me? What about the millions of chronic pain patients that are suffering? What about us?”