By Mary Cremer, Guest Columnist
I love math. And I was thinking the other day that chronic pain patients are often left out of the equation.
Many of us have chronic health conditions. We spend hours each day scheduling appointments, being tested, having surgeries, getting injections, undergoing dialysis, going to chemotherapy, doing physical therapy and so much more. Let’s not forget fighting with insurance companies and the time that takes.
Many of us on are on opioid medication and sign pain contracts. We have to go to the doctor’s office and subject ourselves to drug testing. We have to pick up paper prescriptions, go to the pharmacy and hope they have our meds.
Some of us work, some of us do not. But honestly, being sick is a full-time job all by itself.
I think many chronic pain patients are too busy being sick to notice what is happening to our rights. I turned on the television recently and heard about the “opioid crisis.” To me, it was bothersome, as I think of it as an illegal drug issue.
I did some research on the leading causes of death in United States. Here are the top ten and number of deaths in 2015, according to the CDC:
- Heart Disease: 633,842
- Cancer: 595,930
- Chronic Low Respiratory Disease: 155,041
- Accidents: 146,571
- Stroke: 140,323
- Alzheimer’s Disease: 110,561
- Diabetes: 79,535
- Influenza & Pneumonia: 57,062
- Nephritis (kidney disease): 49,959
- Suicide: 44,193
But wait! Where are the opioid overdoses? They didn’t make the top 10! With the constant drumbeat in the news about overdoses, you’d think they’d be high on the list.
Then I found that the CDC reported 33,091 opioid deaths in the U.S. in 2015. But, that was ALL opioid deaths, including illegal drugs and legal medications. And many times, if someone had opioids in their system at death, they also had other drugs.
The hot topic from elected officials is how can we save all of these people from overdosing. But, why isn’t heart disease or cancer the hottest topic? Surely there are many other conditions that need attention. Could money be a factor?
Many politicians believe opioid medication is the problem and the solution is to restrict access to it. That’s the worst thing that could happen to chronic pain patients. Let’s be honest, drug addiction will always exist and illegal drugs will always exist.
There have been a lot of misconceptions, misinformation and lies about pain medication. We have been told new laws, insurance coverage and addiction problems are why our meds are being reduced or cut off. But, who is thinking of us? Once again, we’re out of the equation.
According to The Washington Post, more than 25 million Americans suffer with chronic pain. Some estimates put the number even higher. Why are our voices not screaming? Perhaps because there is a stigma attached to taking pain meds. Many of us are afraid our employers, friends and even family will find out we use them.
Some patients that still have their meds don’t realize how serious this issue has become. Others that have lost their meds may be speaking out, but few are listening. Again, we are left out of the equation.
One equation you can be sure of. When patients lose access to pain medication, there will be an increase in additional health problems that will cost this country more. Disability, unemployment and suicides will increase tremendously, and the doctor/patient relationship will be forever compromised. I predict a doctor shortage in the future.
The weakest among us now face the biggest fight of our lives.
In order to get us back into the equation, pain patients need to proactively contact our elected officials. We need to tell our stories from the heart. We need to present real statistics and facts. We need to be calm and hopeful. We need to ask elected officials for help. Let’s put ourselves back in this equation and fight.
Mary Cremer lives with her family in Missouri. She has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and Chiari Malformation.
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.