Warning: This is a very angry essay about how the campaign against opioids could push someone to suicide.
I used to think I was the only one wrestling with these thoughts until I lately discovered other like-minded folks. I wasn’t sure whether to post it, but then I saw a question on the Inspire.com Pain and Pain Management forum about this very idea, and this is my answer:
Pushed Beyond Hope
Over the last few months, the accumulation of forces against opioid prescribing has pushed me over an edge, pushed me past my sense of self-preservation and into a fundamental shift of my expectations of life.
I’ve come to realize that if the increasingly anti-opioid, anti-pain-relief, and anti-factual campaign succeeds, I will not die of old age. I may get lucky and suffer a fatal accident or disease before then, but if I don’t, I’ll have to take matters into my own hands.
There is simply no way I can live another 20-some years in my deteriorating, increasingly painful body. Opioids have kept me afloat so far, but I can see that the movement to deny these medications to pain patients will eventually claim me as its victim too.
I’m already broke. I invested most of my savings in an extensive, expensive, decade-long medical search to find the cause of my increasing chronic pain, assuming that my pain could then be cured. Thousands of dollars later, I learned that this would not be the case.
So I followed every lead and tried every non-opioid treatment suggested by any doctor I was seeing. I further drained my savings just to discover that my intractable pain only responds to opioid medication.
I was decimated by this discovery. I do not want to take opioids. I do not want to be dependent upon pills and our broken medical system to save my life.
My pain comes from the known connective tissue defects arising from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Because this is a genetic flaw, there is no possible cure or remedy for the pain from having defective tissues throughout the body.
With this incurable and untreatable diagnosis, I realize my symptoms will only increase as I age. Fortunately, my doctor has been prescribing me opioids to control the inescapable pain and this has allowed me to retain a relatively decent quality of life and functionality.
However, my access to pain relievers is increasingly threatened by the current campaign to restrict opioid use only to cancer patients and a short post-surgical period. There is no differentiation made between addicts, abusers, and pain patients; all long-term opioid use is viewed as unnecessary and even abusive.
Sadly, there is no scientific evidence for the effectiveness of long-term opioid therapy for chronic pain and, due to ethical issues in pain research, there may never be. Yet the anti-opioid campaign twists this into a statement implying such research has already been done.
The anti-opioid zealots state that, “There is no evidence that opioids are effective long term”, ignoring that the opposite is true as well: “There is no evidence that opioids are NOT effective long term”. The malicious intent of stating only the first half of the conclusion is clear.
Though my pain has worsened over the last couple of years, I don’t dare ask my doctor for an increase in pain medication. I fear any change could trigger outside scrutiny, which could result in an arbitrary decision by some bureaucrat to deny me these medications entirely.
The crusade against opioids is known to disregard a personal doctor’s years of judgment, assessment, and treatment of their patient’s pain. There are no reasonable exceptions or limitations to the simplistic goal of preventing all long-term opioid use.
The anti-opioid campaign has no understanding, no sympathy, and absolutely no mercy for suffering pain patients. I fear it is only a matter of time before I am cut off and left to suffer untreated pain for the rest of my life.
Without the pain relief of opioids, the rest of my life will be dominated by endless torment, and I cannot imagine allowing my pain to run rampant “forever”. The increasingly strident calls for a complete halt of opioid prescribing for chronic pain will be my doom.