Opioid Medication Made My Chronic Pain Worse

By Robert Gripp, Guest Columnist

After 18 years of largely untreatable chronic pain, I found myself with an intrathecal pain pump delivering huge quantities of fentanyl to my spine every day. And I was still in debilitating pain.

I was on my second pain pump (they have to be replaced about every seven years) when the pump began to act up and I started into withdrawal. I immediately saw my new doctor, who had taken over my care when my original doctor retired at age 75.

He had the pump manufacturer’s representative there to help figure out what was going on. It turned out the pump was unreliable, and the doctor recommended it be powered off. I was sent home with minimal meds to detox.

Detox was the absolute most horrible experience I have ever encountered, but at the end I was virtually pain free. The reason was that I had developed opioid-induced hyperalgesia (OIH), which increased my sensitivity to pain.



OIH is a well-documented syndrome, but my doctors had missed the hallmark signs of it, which are changes in the location and characteristics of your pain, as well as little or no relief from pain when the dosage is increased.

I am now 63 years old and have a new life. I have some pain, but nothing that is not well controlled with little or no opioids.

I do not believe that all patients who take high doses of opioids experience hyperalgesia, nor does the literature support any such conclusion. My purpose is to caution anyone on high doses for an extended period. If it is not helping you or your pain is worse after increasing the dosage, you should be aware of this condition and its potential.

Overzealous lawmakers and over-reaching insurance companies who want to limit opioids due to the addiction crisis don’t have a clue. Limiting opioids is making it harder for pain patients who really need them. But my experience is also something that needs to be better understood and the condition of hyperalgesia needs to be more publicized.

Our tendency is to believe more pain medicine is better when our pain worsens. I have to wonder how many people are out there in tremendous pain being caused by the very medicine given them to abate it. I am afraid it is way too many.

I hope my story helps someone get a new life, without having to stumble onto it as I did.


Robert Gripp lives in Texas.

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.