Where do Pain Patients Fit into the Opioid Crisis?

Where Chronic Pain Patients Fit Into The Opioid Crisis | Here & Now | from NPR on WBUR

Kudos to this radio station for keeping pain patients in the public consciousness when so many other media outlets have ignored our plight.

Here & Now has reported extensively on the opioid crisis, the increasing numbers of people becoming addicted to prescription pain pills and heroin, and the spike in overdoses.

Often drowned out in the conversations about the current epidemic, though, are the experiences and voices of chronic pain patients, many of whom say opioids are the only drugs that help them live with near-constant pain.

Here & Now’s Robin Young talks with one of those chronic pain patients, Christie Annos of Portland, Oregon, who wrote to us last month after our story on a study that found 91 percent of people who overdose on opioids are able to get another prescription. Annos says her opioid prescription has been reduced to the point that her pain is not being managed.

How do you deal with the pain?

“I cry, I try to distract myself. You know, before this started I had a really big toolbox of coping strategies; things that I could do and now, I can lay in bed on a heating pad. My back is burned from being on the heating pad all the time. I really – I try to watch TV or read to distract myself but it’s just always there. It’s the topmost thing on my mind at all times.

How is a doctor to know the difference between someone who is addicted and someone with chronic pain that needs to be treated?

“I think the big difference is that I adhere to my opioid contract to the letter. I never went in for early refills, I never asked for a dose increase, I never went to the ER, I never got prescriptions from multiple doctors; I followed all the rules.

Addicts build up a tolerance, and a lot of chronic pain patients do too, but my dose was my dose and it stayed the same for 12 years.”  

Well, we hope it doesn’t come to buying heroin

“I really doubt it. It’s never been in my wheelhouse of experience but, you know, I think about suicide too, which I really 99.9 percent think I’ll never do but

every day I think ‘God dang I wish I wasn’t alive.’

So it’s really a desperate situation
that I have no control over
and I see no way out of.”

This is exactly how I feel as the noose around opioid access for pan patients tightens with each victory of the anti-opioid propagandists. They have relentlessly pushed and popularized a cultural meme:

“taking an opioid medication = depraved drug addiction”

Now, even facts cannot break through.

More than one person has pointed out the sad truth that when “fanatic believers” are presented with contrary facts, they only dig their heels in deeper.

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