I Was Fired for Being in Pain

By Deann Goudy, Guest Columnist

I'll start with all of my health issues, every one of which causes pain.  

I was first diagnosed with sciatic nerve pain, followed by scoliosis, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, arthritis, and bone spurs in my neck. I also have ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and ulcers in my intestines, stomach and all the way up to my throat.  

The ulcers were caused by taking over-the-counter pain medication.  I was in constant pain at work and took bottles and bottles of Aleve and Advil. Sometimes I'd mix ibuprofen with Tylenol, hoping it would help the inflammation and pain.  Nothing helped.

I never realized anything over-the-counter could cause such damage to my stomach, until one day I fell out of my chair while at my desk, bleeding.  The next day I was in emergency surgery to get the bleeding to stop.  I was given orders to only take Tylenol.  I knew that would not help, so I went to a pain doctor to find out why I hurt so much. 

That is when they found my back and neck problems. Degenerative disc disease does not get better over time, only worse. 

I went through several steroid shots, physical therapy, and was put on hydrocodone.  The shots made matters worse. The pain management doctor would only give me shots in my cervical area and refused to help with my lower back.  Later I found out you are only supposed to have no more than 3 of those shots a year and if they do not work you should consider other options.  I was given 7 shots in one year. 

The shots accelerated the degenerative disc disease in my neck.  That is when the bone spurs grew and started pinching off the nerves in my neck, which were already being crushed by the spinal stenosis. 

DEANN GOUDY

DEANN GOUDY

I was put on every medication they could think of, including Lyrica, gabapentin, tramadol and Suboxone. I wanted to die due to the side effects, mostly from the gabapentin and Lyrica.  I passed out, saw colors, and felt dizzy and disorientated.  The tramadol gave me so much anxiety I thought my heart was going to burst.  I was shaking uncontrollably. 

I quit taking all of them and found another pain management doctor, who told me he would do one shot in my lumbar. If that did not work, then I would have to rely on pain medication. I went through with the shot and, as hopeful as I was, it still did not take. 

I was referred to an internal medicine doctor who actually listened to me.  He got me on a regimen of half the medications, mostly taking only hydrocodone and oxycodone for severe pain.  This finally gave me my life back.  I was able to go back to work.  I was no longer immobilized and struck down by pain so hard core I would lose control of my bladder. 

I was not completely out of pain, but it was tolerable, and I was finally able to have some quality of life. 

Then a pharmacist decided to cut my opioid medication in half without permission from me or my doctor. It took 3 months to fix this and find a pharmacy to fill my medication. I couldn’t control the pain and was recently fired for taking too many breaks while at work. All I was doing was getting up to walk and stretch to relieve some pain and pressure, and to calm the spasms down.

Now I’m being forced onto disability. It’s hard enough for a chronic pain patient to get a job without being discriminated against. 

I am not addicted or feel withdrawals or cravings, I am just in intense pain.  If my medications are taken away, I will not resort to the streets.  I will ask everyone in my family to not be selfish and let me go.  All I am doing is breathing and being a burden. I'd rather be dead and ask God to understand and forgive me. 

Our government has decided to play God and take away all our rights and pick on the weak and innocent.  They’ve demonized and tortured us.  For the first time in my life, I'm ashamed of the country I live in.  The corruption is everywhere, the money-making schemes, the fake opioid crisis, the lies and deception. 

I say get the facts straight before you make life altering decisions for thousands of chronic pain patients. Do a better study of where the problems are, not fake your data to make yourself look good and cash in on our lives.

Just remember lawmakers, you are only one accident away from this happening to you too.  What will you do when you’ve gotten rid of the medication that could save you?  Or do the same laws even apply to you?

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Deann Goudy 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.

Does Excedrin Reduce Empathy?

By Pat Anson, Editor

A popular over-the-counter pain reliever may do more than just relieve minor aches and pains. Ohio State researchers say acetaminophen -- the active ingredient in Excedrin and hundreds of other pain medications -- can also make us feel less empathy for the physical and emotional pain of others.

"We don't know why acetaminophen is having these effects, but it is concerning," says Baldwin Way, an assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center's Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.

“Empathy is important. If you are having an argument with your spouse and you just took acetaminophen, this research suggests you might be less understanding of what you did to hurt your spouse's feelings."

Acetaminophen -- also known as paracetamol – is the world’s most widely used over-the-counter pain reliever. The study findings were published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

Way and his colleagues divided 80 college students into two groups, giving half of them a liquid containing 1,000 mg of acetaminophen, while the other half drank a placebo solution that contained no drug. The students didn't know which group they were in.

After waiting an hour for the drug to take effect, the students read eight short scenarios in which someone suffered some sort of physical or emotional pain. For example, one scenario was about a person who suffered a knife wound and another was about a person whose father died. Participants were then asked to rate the pain of each person on a scale ranging from 1 (no pain at all) to 5 (worst possible pain).

Students who took acetaminophen rated the pain of the people in the scenarios to be less severe than those who took the placebo.

"These findings suggest other people's pain doesn't seem as big of a deal to you when you've taken acetaminophen," said Dominik Mischkowski, co-author of the study and a former PhD. student at Ohio State, who is now at the National Institutes of Health.

In a second experiment, students met and socialized with each other briefly. Each participant then watched, alone, an online game that purportedly involved three of the people they just met. In the game, two of the students excluded the third person from the activity.

Participants were then asked to rate how much pain and hurt feelings the students in the game felt, including the one who was excluded.

Results showed that people who took acetaminophen rated the pain and hurt feelings of the excluded student as less severe than the participants who took the placebo.

"Participants had the chance to empathize with the suffering of someone who they thought was going through a socially painful experience," Way said. "Still, those who took acetaminophen showed a reduction in empathy. They weren't as concerned about the rejected person's hurt feelings.

“Because empathy regulates pro-social and anti-social behavior, these drug-induced reductions in empathy raise concerns about the broader social side effects of acetaminophen, which is taken by almost a quarter of U.S. adults each week.”

An earlier Ohio State study found that acetaminophen also dulls emotions.

The pain reliever has long been associated with liver injury and allergic reactions such as skin rash. In the U.S. over 50,000 emergency room visits each year are caused by acetaminophen, including 25,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths.

Surveys Find Most Americans Not Worried About Painkiller Risks

By Pat Anson, Editor

Health officials, regulators and politicians have been warning for years about the so-called epidemic of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. But two new surveys show that most Americans are not as concerned about the abuse of pain medications and don’t want the government to restrict access to them.

A survey of over 1,000 Americans by the National Safety Council found that only 1 in 5 (19%) consider prescription pain medication a serious safety threat. Two-thirds of those taking opioids are not worried about side effects and only 12% are concerned about addiction.

The survey found broad support for opioids among those who take the medications.

  • 78% believe opioids are the fastest way to treat pain.
  • 71% believe opioids are the “best overall solution” for pain.
  • 69% believe opioids are the “most appropriate solution” for pain.
  • 52% believe opioids are safer than other pain medications.
  • 42% wrongly believe it is legal to share opioids with family and friends.

"Forty-five people die every day from overdosing on prescription painkillers," said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. "These medications are federally controlled substances and gateway drugs to heroin. Sharing drugs is never worth the risk, especially when non-addictive, over-the-counter pain relievers are often better options."

A second survey of 1,600 Americans, conducted by the non-profit Alliance for Aging Research, found an overwhelming majority opposes the government restricting access to medication that contains acetaminophen -- the world’s most widely used over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever.

Over 50 million people in the U.S. use acetaminophen each week for pain and fever – many not knowing the medication has long been associated with liver injury and allergic reactions such as skin rash. Over 50,000 emergency room visits each year in the U.S. are blamed on acetaminophen overdoses, including 25,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths.

The Food and Drug Administration has considered requiring a doctor’s prescription for acetaminophen products such as extra-strength Tylenol.  But the vast majority of survey participants disagree with the concept of restrictions.

  • 75% of those under age 60, and 70% of respondents over age 60, believe the FDA should not require a doctor's prescription to buy extra-strength Tylenol or an equivalent store brand.
  • 52% of those under age 60, and 45% over age 60, believe that requiring a prescription will make it more difficult to obtain safe pain medications.
  • Only 11% of those under age 60, and 19% over age 60, would go to a doctor for a prescription for acetaminophen.
  • 77% of those under age 60 and 68% of those over 60 prefer consumer education to government restriction as a way to protect people from acetaminophen overdose.

"The aging of our population means that more Americans will be faced with persistent pain," says Cynthia Bens, Vice President of Public Policy for the Alliance for Aging Research. "Potential barriers to OTC medication access may have unintended health consequences for seniors who rely on OTC pain relievers that contain acetaminophen to reduce their pain and maintain their quality of life."

The survey also offered insights into the amount of pain people experience:

  • More than 18% of respondents age 60 and over have bad or severe pain, while 37% have daily pain.
  • 70% of those aged 60 and over use OTC pain medication.
  • For those under age 60, bad or severe pain is experienced by 15%, while 25% experience daily pain.
  • 81% of those under age 60 use an OTC pain medication.

The FDA recommends taking no more than 4,000 mg of acetaminophen in a 24-hour period. In 2011 the agency asked drug makers to limit acetaminophen to 325 mg per tablet or capsule. The FDA also required a “Boxed Warning” label – the agency’s strongest warning – which is used to call attention to serious risks.