Enter the War on Drugs –
The Crack Down On Pain Medication
Enter the War on Drugs – The Crack Down On Pain Medication – (For part one click here)
I was working as a CFO for a group of private companies for 8 years. That includes almost 2 years after I woke up that terrible February morning. About a year after I woke up that morning I started to have difficulty getting a prescription for what my doctor had prescribed for me the first year of having CRPS. My doctor decided to retire when the DEA began raiding doctors offices based solely on the fact that they prescribed opiates to their patients. I was able to find another doctor who prescribed about 50% of the dosage that was working for me. I soon found out that the prescription was just a worthless piece of paper when I went to 20 or so different pharmacies who told me it was not in stock, they don’t carry it anymore, they would not fill it because I didn’t have health insurance (I had to wait 2 years for Medicare to kick in and I lost my health insurance because I was on my ex-husband’s policy while I was working and he removed me when the divorce was final.) or the pharmacist was “not comfortable” filling my prescriptions.
I was thrown into withdrawal more times than I can count when I finally found a mom and pop pharmacy who tried to fill my RXs each month but the shipments from distributors were not a guarantee. The DEA levied big fines on distributors and scared them into shipping very reduced quantities of opiate based medications to the various pharmacies. The DEA figured that they could stop people from abusing pills if they significantly reduced the amount of these pills available in all the pharmacies. They did this without regard of how this strategy would affect people whose option of last resort is opiate based medication. People who have had multiple surgeries on their back and they are not fixable by any surgery and not helped by anything else. People who have rare disorders, often neurological in nature, such as CRPS. This condition is not well understood and not profitable enough for Big Pharma to try to find effective treatments.
The level of pain I was in without the medication and even with the medication (reduced to half of what was working for me) I was under-treated for pain. It is no surprise that I could not do the job I had been doing for the last eight years. I was let go. This situation directly led me down the dark path of thinking that I had no value to even my son. I was couch bound and not even able to take him to the park or watch his baseball games. I could barely take a shower once a week. I was able to do these things before my medication was cut by half. For people who do not suffer from chronic pain imagine if someone gave you a sliver of a Tylenol tablet for a bad headache. It wouldn’t do anything for your headache at all. It would be rendered worthless.
This led me to question how one government agency can get away with increasing the suffering of millions of chronic pain patients who benefit from opiates. Their excuse is that it is abused and is a gateway drug to heroin. They are screaming “epidemic deaths from opiates“. They demonize them as if they offer no benefit at all to those who take them for legitimate reasons. Is this humane? Moral? What about all the injured soldiers returning from the middle east with limbs blown off? They serve our country, get injured severely, and are told to meditate and try non-narcotic medication along with physical therapy for their pain. This would be funny if it was not so tragic and so wrong.
You cannot think this pain away or do physical therapy to get rid of it. Drugs like Neurotin and Lyrica do not reduce the pain at all for most people and they have serious side effects along with detrimental effects on brain plasticity. The anti-depressants they want to give you can make you feel suicidal and can actually make you feel crazy. For most people, these drugs do not reduce the pain at all AND they cause harm. The NSAIDs they suggest do not even touch the type of pain I endure 24/7/365. And they were not designed to be taken 4 to 6 times per day everyday because they do indeed damage the liver when taken that frequently.
The numbers are beginning to show a decrease in deaths involving opiates and a huge spike in overdose deaths related to heroin. I knew that this would be the outcome. More lives lost to drugs because all the people who were taking them without having a legitimate chronic pain condition simply made the switch to heroin. It is cheaper, normally stronger, and more easily available for those whose motive is abuse. The pills, one could argue, actually saved lives because they always knew the strength of what they were abusing and they knew that their was no other drug or dangerous substances added to the mix. Remember that the statistics state opiate related deaths without breaking down how many had died from the lethal cocktail of opiates, benzos and alcohol. I doubt that any chronic pain patient ever died from a simple opiate overdose.
26,000 deaths attributed to opiates, albeit an inflated number, and even using their inflated number 26,000 deaths annually not an epidemic make. 400,000 people die per year from preventable medical mistakes. More people die related to alcohol than die from opiates. More people die from OTC medication than die from opiates. More people die from antidepressants than opiates. It is a media created epidemic with a sinister motive of profiteering and it is going to affect many of my chronic pain warriors now that the CDC has decided to issue guidelines that will have an enormous negative impact on those whose lives are made a little more bearable with the benefits of opiates.
The FDA wisely refused to issue such guidelines in the past because they know that everyone is different genetically and metabolicly. The bell curve applies to opiates. There will be outlines on the low dose side and the high dose side. Cookie cutter guidelines do not work. But after the CDC got involved in issuing these guidelines the FDA has jumped on the wagon too. Only the NIH came out and spoke the truth: These guidelines are an embarrassment to the government. Those are strong words. But they know better than the CDC or the FDA about all the rare disorders and chronic pain conditions that they research and issue grants to study cures or effective pain relief. This will leave people like me with NO effective option for reducing our pain level and do things like shower. We are getting our oars taken away from us and we will be left to drift in our raft without the benefit of having oars! What will happen then?
From my experience I had turned to alcohol when I had no medication and I had to go grocery shopping or had been without sleep for more than 72 hours. Grocery shopping involved waiting for the liquor store to open at 10 am, going to the bathroom and downing a pint of vodka, waiting 10 minutes and then shopping because it was the only way I could tolerate any weight on my foot. Handicap scooters do not help much if you have to go full on grocery shop because of the small basket, not to mention every time you want something you have to get up and stand up and grab your item. It was actually easier to get a regular cart and use it as a walker.
I don’t know what decision I would have made had I known where to purchase heroin. I probably would have taken it to be honest. It may be helpful for healthy people to understand that CRPS has the nickname “the suicide disease” and its for very good reason. CRPS rates higher than all other diseases on the McGill Pain Scale. But there are many other diseases, conditions and syndromes that have very high pain levels. CRPS is not the only one. That level of pain could easily lead to desperation and desperation never leads to good decisions. I never even kept alcohol in my house and only drank on special occasions prior to being under-treated and untreated for CRPS. I was 46 years old when this disease hit me. So I had a very long track record of not abusing any substance whatsoever.
The anti-opiate hysteria was almost single handedly a result of one persons effort to demonize, yell that the sky is falling, (epidemic deaths from hillbilly heroin!) use people who lost a loved one to addiction and refuse to put the responsibility where it clearly belongs and to demand that the government do something about all these heroin pills. Dr.Koldoney is his name. And he stands to profit handsomely when chronic pain patients end up coming in to detox from the medication because they have been reserved only for active cancer and end of life care. He is the founder of the troubled Phoenix House addiction treatment centers and PROP. One pill and you are hooked they say. How many grandmas have you see addicted after hip or knee replacement surgery that were given an opiate RX to control the pain after they were discharged from the hospital? Yep. I thought so.
I could go on and on because there are many layers to this onion. I can’t fully educate you on all of the issues in the space of a mere article. But I can tell you to expect the fight of your life in 2016 due to the CDC guidelines being pushed through after a dog and pony show. But please get educated before that happens. I recommend the publication put out by Pain News Network and the site www.pharmaciststeve.com. Also the national organization called US Pain Foundation. Try joining other groups who are fighting to maintain access to these necessary and life saving medications.
There are over 100 million people in the United States who suffer from chronic pain. I don’t know what percentage of them take opiates for pain, but if you assume that at least half of them do that is 50 million people. I do not want to see the suffering and suicides that will be the certain result of these horrific guidelines. They truly did not consider that opiates had any benefit for anyone unless they were dying or had active cancer. While cancer and the symptoms can be classified as chronic pain there are many more people that suffer from non-cancer chronic pain. I’m not sure why only cancer gets all the attention when in fact it represents a small percentage of the total population of chronic pain sufferers.
Let us speak united with one loud voice now to oppose these harmful CDC Guidelines.