Pain Pills: Chronic Pain Sufferers Speak

"Pain Pills: Chronic Pain Sufferers Speak" #Pain #Meds #Health #Cancer #Spoonie Art Print by Flat Earth Designs on Etsy. Nathaniel Bibaud. "Pill Rat"

Flat Earth Designs: Etsy

There is a great debate in America regarding prescription pain medication. From someone who hears this issue from fellow chronic pain sufferers regularly, we have a dog in the fight, too.

Those with chronic, non-cancer pain have been criminalized in the last 10 years along with their doctors because of the medications being prescribed…wait, no…flip that, reverse it. In the last 10 years, because of individuals abusing their pain medications, addicts buying opioids on the black market, and doctors over-prescribing irresponsibly, chronic pain patients, and their doctors have been treated like criminals.

Founding a support group for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome: known as the most painful condition one can endure, let me be clear that even people with the worst possible pain do not want to take pain medication. Why not? When they are screaming, crying, homebound and barely holding on, why won’t they take 1 tiny little pill? For one, they are afraid of becoming an addict! They are worried their family will think less of them. They are anxious that if their doctors prescribe it once and it helps, how will they ask for a refill without sounding like the “pill seekers” they hear about on television? Too many times people are nervous about taking their prescribed medication for severe chronic pain because of what they have seen on talk shows and read about on the internet.

Well, here’s something else to read…

A study in 2007 sampled 15,000 veterans with chronic pain (Edlund et al.). They were all given opioids, and only 2% abused his or her medications. I have read other studies like these for chronic and cancer pain in which the addiction or abuse rate is always extremely low. Apparently, people in excruciating pain, 24/7, every single day for years are managing his or her pain medication AS PRESCRIBED. This may shock some of those television personalities.

Why is it that those with chronic pain are much less likely to become addicted? In those without chronic pain, opioids cause a sense of euphoria. For those WITH chronic pain, the medication does not match or overcome the pain. A neuropathic pain study published in 2003 by the New England Journal of Medicine found that opioid pain medication only gave 36% pain reduction at the highest dose possible before side effects of the drug were intolerable. Those with such extreme pain continue to feel pain; therefore, how can there be a medicated euphoria? Maybe this is why there is a much lower rate of addiction in chronic and terminal pain.

Many of those I encounter are so conservative with their medications. They take as little as possible, even when pain is high. When pain is low enough to tolerate, most don’t take any pain medications. No one wants to take any type of medications. Those I encounter do what is available to them to manage pain: treatments, therapies, procedures, etc. Pain medication is seen as a means to an end. A short-term negotiation until there is a better pain relieving strategy. But for many, it is a necessary part of living, coping, and functioning with painful neurological disease.

Doctors who treat chronic pain exclusively are held to increasingly high protocols by the government. There are more changes all the time concerning how they can and cannot care for their ailing patients. With more government restrictions, more paperwork, more required seminars for doctors and nurses… Do you think MORE attention and time is being given to patients, or less? If you are a patient who sees a pain management specialist, you would be expected to sign a patient contract. The doctor has communication with your pharmacist, and you would be expected to furnish monthly urine and/ or blood depending upon which state you live in. Because of the current climate regarding these “controlled substances,” those with painful chronic illnesses like RSD, Peripheral Neuropathy, and Trigeminal Neuralgia who go to a hospital for an emergency may be treated like a criminal until their pain doctors can be contacted. Imagine if you were the one having a medical emergency!

Just a side note, in my research I learned that a doctor’s office can be thought of as a “pill mill” if 50% or more of its patients are treated for pain management, even if they offer physical therapy, biofeedback, counseling, acupuncture, interventional pain therapies, etc. If the doctor is chief at the local hospital, she still runs a “pill mill” up the road because she primarily treats people with chronic pain or cancer pain. Nice, right? CDC Pain Clinic Regulations

Whether you are judging someone else with chronic pain for taking pain medication, or if you are judging yourself because you think it means you are somehow weaker for taking your meds, please ask yourself a couple of questions. If you had another condition… cancer perhaps, would you feel guilty or like you had caved in by starting on the prescribed chemotherapy protocol? If you had diabetes, would you deprive yourself of your insulin, only taking half the dose, when you are on the verge of going into a diabetic coma? Do you feel shameful about the other medications and treatments you are being prescribed currently for pain?

If you are taking your medication as prescribed, then is your concern about becoming addicted, or is it the social stigma you worry about? For those judging, if your sister, son, or elderly grandfather were suddenly touched by crippling degenerative neurological pain, wouldn’t you want them to have the best Quality of Life possible while they explore ALL available treatment options? If every treatment they tried in the next 5 years failed to help, but you knew pain medication would keep them functioning through the pain, would you still want them to suffer the next 5 years without pain medication?

Pain medications can be dangerous, yes! They ABSOLUTELY should be taken with caution, with respect, and with the same seriousness with which you regard your disease. Along with all of the voices yelling about the pain medication issues, people who have chronic pain tend to have quieter voices, but please remember, we are still speaking.


More resources:

DEA Rescheduling Hydrocodone

The Doctor’s Dilemma: opiate analgesics and chronic pain

How Does Chronic Pain Management Work?

art print by Nathaniel Bibaud. Flat Earth Designs on Etsy.

“Pill Rat”

Flat Earth Designs on Etsy. “Pill Rat” art print by Nathaniel Bibaud.

Thank you so much Nathaniel. Go buy something awesome from his shop!

About abodyofhope

I do not know why it is that we must wade through tragic circumstances to find truth. We nearly drown! But under the water, there are pearls. I hope in writing this blog, more will come to the surface. Over the past 15 years living with chronic pain, patient advocacy has had a powerful effect on my life through meeting so many remarkable teens, women and men: SURVIVORS. These individuals are HOPE personified. I wish to honor them in the same spirit they have encouraged me to press on. Eight years ago, I became bed-bound from a variety of secondary chronic illnesses. A procedure meant to help the pain condition I had been managing for several years- went bust #BIGTIME. Over the years, my entire life has changed. I have changed, but I am still striving to live my best life possible. Along with sharing inspiring pieces about spiritual wellness and finding quality of life inside of ongoing illness, I also share health research, awareness information, poetry, memes, art, and this blog is also an attempt to put my own pieces back together. Welcome to A Body of Hope, and thank you for visiting. [Complex Regional Pain Syndrome/ RSD, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), Dysautonomia, Chronic Intractable Migraine, Cluster headache, Trigeminal Neuralgia, Occipital Neuralgia, Hypersensitivity to Sound & Light, Fibro, CFS/ME, Cerebrospinal Fluid Imbalance......blah, blah, blah] >>> P.S. My headgear is protective for pain. I just rock it hard ;)

Posted on August 27, 2014, in Cancer, Chronic Illness, Chronic Pain, Health, Medical Research/ Treatments, Pain Medication and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. I apologize… I wasn’t able to read this blog in its entirety, however, I felt the need to comment. I have 2 blown shoulders due to work related injuries going back as far as 1998. With 4 surgeries on the left, doctors were still not able to fix my shoulder. Now they want to try the same on my right shoulder. Well, because I’m right handed, a single mom and just can’t afford to be out of commission for any length of time, I have chosen NOT to be a lab rat and hope that this surgery works. In the meantime, my doctor has had me on vicoprofen (similar to hydrocodone but with Motrin instead of Tylenol). I have been through physical therapy, tried heat and ice compresses. NOTHING works. So, yes, I rely on my pain meds on really bad days. Now, I have been on these meds on and off since 1998. I am drug tested regularly to make sure I am not abusing them (to prove I am in fact taking them and not selling them), but I don’t take them everyday. Only on bad days when the pain is unbearable. I can’t tell you how many different names I’ve been called because of this. My ex told my 11 year old son that I’m a pill popping drug addict. He’s throwing false allegations about medicines I’ve never heard of out there for the world to see. Bottom line? Pain sucks. If your life is good and you are happy (pain aside) I don’t think addiction would be a problem. I’ve got an almost full bottle and might be able to skip a month with the doctor, as I don’t need a refill. There is so much more to addiction than people realize. Addiction is hereditary. If a parent is an addict or an alcoholic, the genetic make up of his or her child would set the stage for the child to follow in their footsteps. I am not addicted to my meds and could go without them if need be. However, my son’s father was addicted to crack and he’s still an alcoholic. I do worry about my son and hope that he retains all that I teach him about addiction as well as what he learns in school. This seems to be a problem growing WAY out of control, and for those of that truly need the meds, we cannot let one bad apple spoil it for us. All the best…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for your comment, Kate. You said it well. I’m very sorry about the pain in your shoulders. Take care of yourself.


  3. Excellent, Mary. I’ve had it thrown in my face many times by even my own “family” (those…. People…. To call them something nice, Have since been removed from my life in a process I call “taking out the trash”) that I’m a junkie, addict, attention seeker, etc., even after I show a 3/4 full bottle of all opiate, benzo, and muscle relaxant meds. I HATE the way our RSD feels but I also hate the way the meds make me feel. I feel like crap for sleeping all day and like I’m robbing my fiance of a normal life. He’s amazing and fully understands and we’re fortunate to have financial trusts that allow both of us to not work but still… I just want to be able to get up and move downstairs without needing to be carried or medicated first. I avoid my meds as much as possible because of the side effects and what I know is said. I’m over the gossip being four years into this journey but I can’t say it doesn’t still play in my mind at times. If those who judge us had to live five minutes in a full out flare, they’d shut the heck up. Maybe that’s what they deserve for being so hateful. Well said and well written as always! *gentle hugs*

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Heather, I am so sorry about your RSD/CRPS pain and also your family’s hurtful reaction. If only they knew that by taking your meds and with their support, they could actually be spending time with you. As far as your fiance’, it’s impossible not to feel like a drag when one is chronically ill. For myself, I’m trying to trust my husband when he says I’m not a burden- “trying.” Thank you for the very thoughtful comment. Soft Hugs back @ ya!


  5. I have chronic pain. I have gone thru all kinds if therapy. From pool therapy to being stuck in the spinal column. Nothing works. Pain meds take the edge off, so I can at least move. The pharmacies make me feel like a criminal cause I use pain meds. They also tell me they can fill certain drugs together. I have been on these meds for a long time niw they say I’ll go to jail if I get them filled from another pharmacy. So I took all my meds to another pharmacy . I’m trying to be productive person. But making harder for me to get my meds is outrageous

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judy,
      you should not be criminalized and have so much added stress when YOU are the one who is ill. The system should work to make things easier for the person who is in pain and ailing; but it is fighting against us and our doctors to get us a tiny bit of help and some quality of life back.
      I’m so very sorry you are put in such a terrible position. We didn’t start this problem yet we are the ones paying for it.
      Hang in there Judy. Thank you for your comment. I hope what you wrote helps to educate someone out there.
      -A Body of Hope


  6. Such great style!I have suffered from chronic pain for close to 20 years. No cures at present for my condition but by using narcotics I am able to leave my bed and enjoy a small part of life. Taking away the pain relief is taking away what 98% I have left. I wish sanity would return and the DEA and police would concentrate on criminals and dealers while leaving patients,pharmacies and doctors alone. Wishing I could share your upbeat talent. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for sharing your personal story as I feel people really need to hear the voices of all of us living this life. We are not invisible and our lives are just as valuable and just as important as everyone else’s, so I’m honored to hear from you. I’m so sorry for all of the pain you are facing, and the long road you have already traveled. Yes, you are spot on: Very well-said! The DEA and police are focused on the wrong people right now. We are not criminals at all. Thank you very much for taking your time and very precious energy to post here.
      You have been a true blessing to me today and have left me feeling less alone. Blessings to you on your journey, friend.


  7. This post popped up when I was reading your newest post, and I have to say that this is more relevant to me than ever. I was just prescribed tramadol, and while I do worry about getting addicted (which is silly, as I’m on a very low dose and I have the opposite of an addictive personality. When I decided I wasn’t going to drink soda anymore, I quit cold turkey. Same with many things.) Still, I realized it’s more the social stigma that worries me- and the thought that I’ll be viewed as an addict even if I’m not. People really don’t understand pain medications until they’re on them.


    • I’m so glad you read this! I read your latest blog post and tried to leave a comment, but my computer was giving me trouble… I saw this is something you’ve been struggling with lately.
      You are completely right- people will judge something until they know it for themselves… And that is what ignorance is. But meanwhile, what price should we pay because people don’t understand chronic pain? Aren’t we the victims?
      I also had a very hard time conceding to taking pain meds- like yourself. I was what my friends called a “health nut,” so taking something I saw as so unhealthy for my body was something I couldn’t imagine. I guess when the pain got bad enough, it was between my own survival or medication that I despised. So I researched it.
      And what I found went against everything society told me.
      Now, I think it’s more important for people in pain to put quality of life above stigma or shame. How many people do you know drink beer or wine? How many of those people feel terribly worried they might become an alcoholic each time they take a sip? I don’t drink, but I feel they can be comparable if we are talking about addiction.
      I know you are struggling with this. Each of us has to make decisions for ourselves about treatments. I hope this at least helped in seeing some of the research that isn’t made readily available in society.
      Thank you so much for your comment.


  8. I hope that some responsible people in pain out there come up with a way to turn the tides on law makers with some class action law suits for cruelty to people in chronic pain. I have back problems. I have refused for years to take anything more than Tramadol and hydrocodone only when the pain is excruciating, (i.e. after surgery or painful procedure). I am the type of person that would be given 60 Tramadol and keep them for 3 to 6 months, only using them for when I really need them.

    I work in a factory and I have to keep my head at work. I have been on ibuprofen 800 mgs 2x a day since my back surgery and have done well on that. I hardly ever need to take a Tramadol. Unfortunately I am afraid that my ibuprofen regimen has become intolerable to my heart. I am now experiencing exceptionally high blood pressure and chest pains. I have been trying to cut my ibuprofen in half, but have found it not working so well. I have to work to keep insurance and a roof over my head. I can barely work. No one should have to work in pain or worry that their NSAID is going to kill them. I would much rather take a Tramadol during flare ups and be pain free for work. Incidentally, the pain I experience raises my blood pressure too.

    I have given my kids instruction that if I should die because of my pain and high blood pressure they should try to find a lawyer that will get a class action lawsuit together of people that have been adversely effected by these new drug laws. No one should have to live in pain. Everyone should be able to work without pain if they need to. No one should have to die in pain when there are opiates out there that work. These laws criminalize everyone, even my sister who was dying of cancer. She had but a few months to live and was in a nursing home, yet they refused to give her one of her big pain killers because she was showing signs of addiction. PLEASE, SHE WAS GONG TO DIE, WHO CARES HOW ADDICTED SHE WAS AS LONG AS SHE WAS COMFORTABLE.

    I personally am looking into how to start a class action suit and who to go to or through to get that accomplished. They should be issuing exceptions to these laws for responsible people who are not addicted and not on drugs on a regular basis. If I cannot get a class action started I hope some of you out there can


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