100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Nearly 1 in every 3 Americans. Of that 100 million, approximately 10 million are treated with long term pain medications via pain management physicians.

According to the CDC article “Drug Overdose Deaths Hit Record Numbers In 2014” there were 5,500 opiate pain medication related deaths, this was twice the number recorded in 2013.

However, conspicuously missing from the report were the answers to the following crucially important questions, answers that when given will show a very different perspective.

Of the 5,500 opiate pain medication related overdose deaths, how many of those deaths were due to a combination of opiates and other drugs? How many were combined with alcohol?
How many deaths were patients who were prescribed the medication?
How many obtained the medication illegally?
How many died from taking the medication alone, exactly as directed by their physician for the treatment of chronic intractable pain?
Once these questions are answered and those who obtained and took the medications illegally are subtracted, as well as those who took them in combination with other drugs and or alcohol, and those who took the medications other than as directed by their physician are all subtracted from that 5,500 number, you will be left with a number that constitutes less than one tenth of one percent of all chronic pain patients who take long term medication as prescribed by their doctors.

While I realize Drug addiction, diversion, and misuse is a growing epidemic within our country, and I certainly do not discount the need for responsible steps to be taken to combat it, I completely disagree that those steps should in any way impact legitimate pain patients by limiting the amount of medication we are allowed to have.

Pain is subjective. What is minor to me, may be unbearable for someone else and visa versa.

The majority of chronic pain sufferers who require long acting pain medications have been through months or years of more conservative alternative treatments and medications.

For example, I have tried over 160 different modalities, treatments, trials and non opiate medications over 18 years time.

I am not alone.

Most chronic pain sufferers have laundry lists of tests, treatments, doctors and medications that were tried and failed.

But regardless of the mountains of “objective proof” we provide in the way of medical records and documentation which without question shows clearly the reasons for our pain, and justifies the use of large doses of pain medication, we are regularly made to feel like common addicts, labeled “drug Seekers” and have been humiliated by emergency room staffers who demoralize us by refusing to adequately treat our pain based only on the fact that we take long term pain medication. This is happening to the point where no matter how badly we feel, or how sick or injured we are, we WILL NOT seek emergency care because of it.
We have been ignored, our pain and presenting issues down played, unaddressed and untreated due entirely to preconceived opinions based solely on the fact that we are treated for chronic pain with opiate pain medications which exist to do exactly that, treat chronic pain.

Most of us have NEVER done illegal drugs, smoked pot, or come up positive for illegal substances on a drug screen.

We take our prescribed medications exactly as directed. We use one pharmacy, see our pain management doctors every month as directed, never skip appointments, refuse drug tests, loose prescriptions or request early refills of them.

We submit to random pill counts, urine and blood drug screens, and even background checks for drug related altercations and arrests, not because we are bad people, have criminal histories, or have done anything wrong at all, but rather because we have disabling conditions, injuries, and illnesses that result in chronic intractable pain which requires long term opiate pain medication.

We have no rights, we have no recourse, we have no choice but to submit and deal with it because if we object, if we refuse, if we even do something as small as tell a new doctor the name of a pain medication which we know works for our pain, we are immediately labeled “suspect for drug abuse” and cut off of our needed medications.

As if all of this, and the fact that we live every moment of every day in often excruciating pain, unable to function like we want to, participate in family activities, work, or have any moments, no matter how small, that are not clouded or to some degree diminished by pain, now, we have to fight for what little relief we can get from pain medications developed to help us.

Rather than our care, treatment, and medications being determined by ourselves, our families and physicians, we are now placed in positions each month where we are forced to endure unrelenting anxiety because we never know when our medication dosage will be reduced again. Or cut off completely, and we’ll be forced to limit our function, and be robbed of still more quality of life, not because our physicians feel it’s best, or because we’re feeling better, but rather because some government entity has decided they know better than our doctors do, and have judged us unworthy of having the one thing that helps control our pain in the amount required to adequately treat it.

I and those like me who suffer illnesses and conditions causing chronic intractable pain are a protected class under the Americans with disabilities act. The U.S. Government, CDC, DEA etc. are robbing us of our ability to live with any degree of functionality or quality of life due solely to the acts of individuals who divert, steal, sell and use opiate pain meds as a recreational drug of choice.

Further the government is unjustly grouping legitimate pain patients who must take long term pain medications to live their lives, in with users of illegally obtained drugs, addicts, traffickers, abusers, those who choose to mix prescription medications with illegal drugs and alcohol, and most egregiously, in with Heroin addicts and users.

Chronic pain patients should NEVER be referred to or in any way grouped in with those who illegally use and obtain drugs of any sort. And yet we are.

Because we are, we are punished for the crimes of others. Tell me, in what other instance perfectly innocent individuals are punished for the crimes of others within our society? I believe this is expressly forbidden in our constitution, and yet it is happening and hurting millions of American citizens who just happen to suffer from Chronic pain, and the physicians who treat them.

Pain patients pay huge insurance premiums, co-pays, deductibles, and taxes. We visit our physicians monthly, and follow the instructions we’re given by them.

The government has no right to dictate what medications we get or how much of those medications we need.

Our doctors who are best in positions to determine such things should never be threatened or treated like common criminals, forced to open their records and betray the trust and privacy of their patients, or withhold medications and doses of those medications their patients need out of fear of being investigated, arrested, and having their careers ruined in the process.

Some academic from the CDC, or agent from the DEA is not my doctor, and certainly have not suffered through 18 years of hell living in my body and therefore have no right making any calls or blanket decisions regarding my medical care, and yet, that is exactly what is happening.

While pain is in fact subjective, in most cases the conditions that cause that pain are not. Most chronic pain patients have thousands of pages of medical documents which support their need for pain medications, MRI’s, CT scans, Biopsies, and a long list of others.

We have all the objective proof we need to justify the use and dosages we require, and yet…

And yet our government rejects all of this as well as the expert opinions of our physicians out of hand, and prohibits us from obtaining the medications and amounts we need out of some misguided misdirected sense of “The Greater Good” by lumping us in with those who steal, lie, cheat, deal, traffic, and use such drugs illegally, and would throw away their own lives as well as anyone else s to get and use them purely to obtain a high.

While the criminals individual rights are protected, they are given their day in court, drug rehab treatment, and all the medical care they need while in prison including all medications they need in adequate doses, we legitimate chronic pain patients are not!

We are denied what we need to have some amount of daily function and quality of life. We are denied the dosages we justifiably need to live.

We demand to be afforded the same respect, treatment, and consideration the government would give to a cancer patient and their Oncologist, epileptic and their neurologist, diabetic and their endocrinologist or heart patient and their cardiologist.

Were your loved one stricken with Ebola, suffering horribly from it and you knew full well that a full dose of the cure would quickly end that suffering and return their quality of life to them, but the government stepped in and said, ummm we know your loved one needs and wants the full dose, and that it will make them feel better and have them back on their feet and feeling better in no time, but we’ve decided they only need half the dose. It will make them feel a little better for a little while, but before long they will be right back to feeling miserable again, and we’ll give them another half the needed dose then too. We’ll just keep playing this completely futile game and making your loved one suffer until we get tired of giving them any medication at all, at which point we’ll simply turn our backs on them and let them suffer, what would your response be? Would it matter at all to you that others had misused the antidote so your loved one was only entitled to half the needed dose?

Similarly, No one would dream of limiting anti seizure medication, Insulin, chemo therapy or blood pressure medications for those patients, nor unfairly targeting the doctors who prescribe them, so what justification is there for doing so to chronic pain patients and their physicians?

Had CDC academics come up with some hair brained poorly reasoned and unfairly arrived at conclusion limiting those medications and putting the lives of those who need them at risk, they would be fired and their conclusions dismissed out of hand. The American people and the media would be outraged, they would demand accountability for the CDC’s illegal actions, why than is this any different?

Emergency room doctors and nurses would never dream of ignoring those patients, sending them home untreated after making them wait hours, suffering unattended to while while they rolled their eyes and made disparaging remarks about the epileptic patients “fit throwing”, the diabetics “failure to respond to them”, the cancer patients “vomiting” or the heart patients “gasping for air”. They would be fired, and certainly sued for their lack of action.

Why than, is it perfectly acceptable behavior when it comes to chronic pain patients in need of help?

Lest you try to reason that in those cases the drugs are not being diverted, stolen, used to get high, or recreationally, I argue that in the case of chronic pain patients and their physicians, this isn’t the case either. So again I ask, why is this protected class of disabled American Citizens being singled out, made to suffer, and forced to pay for the crimes of others which they have nothing to do with?

Refusing to allow chronic pain patients the medications they need at dosages appropriate for them, making it impossible for them to find physicians who will prescribe them for fear of investigation and losing their practices. Forcing patients to suffer unrelenting pain for weeks, months, or years at a time has done one thing, it has driven many of those chronic pain sufferers to find relief anywhere they can including, but not limited to dangerous street drugs, alcohol, heroin and even suicide.

Finding an answer to the illegal and prescription drug epidemic is important, critical even, but doing it at the expense of the lives of the innocent people suffering chronic pain and the doctors who care for them is not the way to do it

God forbid at some point in your future you become a chronic pain patient or someone you love does and you are forced to stand by watching the life drain from them as they linger unable to engage with family, friends, and loved ones. Unable to work or enjoy anything that once put a light in their eyes or joy in their heart, all the while knowing full well there are medications readily available that are safe and effective that could give them some relief or quality of life and bring them back to you.

While you may not be experiencing this now, you can bet that before too long you or someone close to you will suffer from chronic pain. Do you really want to be the one who refused to recognize the injustice of this or refused to do anything to put a stop to it? What will your response be when they point a finger at you and place the blame squarely on your shoulders for their inability to obtain adequate pain relief.



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