How is it that a doctor can prescribe a medication that alters your brain chemistry, causes dependency and addiction, and they prescribe these drugs without any type of treatment plan discussed, or worse, without a plan to gradually wean the patient off the medication once it is no longer needed? That doesn’t jive with the “cause no harm” motto that the medical community lives by, yet this is exactly what has happened for years.
Over the years, pharmaceutical reps have wined and dined doctors to get them to prescribe their medications, reaching the point of lying about the addictive nature of the medication they are pedaling (read HERE), so the doctors would prescribe them without reservation. At one point, they even attempted to make certain opiates available over the counter! Their deceptions didn’t last though, and that never happened, thank goodness, but it didn’t take long for crap to hit the fan. Next thing you know, people started dying. Not just a few, but many, and the governments knee-jerk reaction was to direct their attention to the doctors writing prescriptions for opiates, shutting down the pill mills that popped up all over the United States. Those pill mill doctors were a disgrace and they needed to go, no doubt about that, but the government didn’t stop there… they next directed their attention to Primary Care, Urgent Care, and Pain Specialists as well, and the result has been nothing short of cruel.
Suddenly, doctors who were attempting to truly help their patients were in the line of fire so-to-speak, and they stopped prescribing opiates to patients who never abused their medication, never sought out meds through various docs or illegally, and never failed drug tests, etc. They were model patients, but that didn’t matter to the government, and since shit rolls downhill, those docs had to do as they were told or risk prosecution. The result?? Record numbers of people living with chronic pain were now unable to get the medication that helped them to live productive lives. Not only were the doctors reducing the number of opiate prescriptions issued, they were drastically cutting down the dosages of patients already on opiate medications. Do you have any idea what happens when opiates are stopped suddenly? It is a horrible, horrible process. Not only does the patient have a drastic escalation of pain, but they are now trying to live with severe pain, and in opiate withdrawal which causes even more pain!
How can a medication suddenly be stopped, especially when doing so causes so much more unneeded physical and mental pain? How is it not considered cruel to take away the only medication that helps some people get out of bed and take care of their families, and live productive lives? We wouldn’t dream of taking away someone’s heart medication, seizure meds or their insulin, but because opiates can cause addiction, those patients aren’t worth the act of being “humane”, and in the very least, weaning these patients off their medications… this is insanity!
What caused this reaction by our government? Fentanyl. However, not the Fentanyl prescribed by pain doctors, but rather, it is Fentanyl ILLICITLY manufactured (not diverted medical Fentanyl) and added to other drugs of abuse (like Heroin)- poison.org
So the opiate epidemic is not from prescriptions of Fentanyl, but rather, from street Fentanyl that is added to other illegal, illicit drugs! The ‘model’ patients I am talking about do not get their opiates from the streets, they get their prescriptions from doctors who specialize in chronic pain. Think about this for a moment… these are very different circumstances, yet they illicit the same exact treatment from doctors, and pharmacists alike… treating all as though they are just drug seekers ( another topic surely to come), instead of seeing them as patients in serious distress.
Unfortunately, though the number of prescriptions written from 2012-2016 has gone down 4.9%, the number of opiate deaths have NOT gone down, and in fact from 2015-2016, deaths from Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids more than doubled (core.rems.org). We have to wait for new stats to come out, but it doesn’t look like the changes are making much difference in the amount of deaths.
The governments knee-jerk reaction has not come without consequence, and though we are going in the right direction, the way this has been carried out is very wrong. People with chronic pain cannot seek pain relief and many have had a drastic decline in quality of life, leaving them in constant pain physically, and causing such mental distress that the government has now issued a new recommendation, telling doctors they should not stop anyone’s medication, but rather to wean them down slowly from their current dose. It only took a few suicides of those suffering in such chronic pain that their only option was to seek drugs on the streets, or choose to end their lives, and they chose the latter. The unbelievable inhumanity of just stopping someone’s medication is unfathomable… it is heartbreaking… it is cruel.
As can be seen by the statistics, the opiate epidemic is less about the number or prescriptions out there, and more about addiction. Yes, some people prescribed opiates have become addicted and have passed away, but they are not the majority. The graphs below show that overdose deaths for prescription opiates is 17,029 for 2017, and for any opiate, the number jumped to 47,600. As is obvious, most people seeking help for chronic pain are less likely to die, while people seeking drugs illegally (usually injecting Heroin that is tainted with illicit Fentanyl, not the Fentanyl prescribed by legitimate pain doctors) are passing away in large numbers. We need to focus less on those who are managing their pain medications, and more on properly weaning patients off these addictive opiates when they are no longer needed, and offer counseling and other types of programs focused on mental health issues to help prevent addiction!
We are totally missing the mark on this, and are doing more harm than good until we shift our focus. Let’s be humane and not refuse someone their right to a pain free life by imposing someone else’s morals, and refusing to give them the medication that can give them their life back, while at the same time help those with addictions to combat their disease, and help them to get their life back as well! We are in the greatest country on earth, and more than capable of helping both to becoming the very best they can be within their limitations… we should all be part of the solution, not a part of the problem. We can do this!
If you are suffering with chronic pain, or support someone who does, please speak out and join the conversation we need to be having to help those who are needlessly suffering from a lack of proper care. Research and start practicing mindfulness as a way to help combat the problems arising from this “opiate epidemic”, and try to reduce the amount of stress this is causing. It will not last forever… so hang in there, and do all you can to live your best life, continue working on “YOU”, and know that no matter the obstacles, you alone determine what Becoming the very best you entails, and if it includes pain medication to live the most productive, best life, then so be it. That doesn’t change who you are… and it certainly has no bearing on Becoming The Very Best You. You got this!