As our nation faces the difficult reality of drug abuse, I struggle with my very own opioid crisis. I’m sorry for the families who have lost loved ones due to addiction and overdose. However, I’m just as concerned about those of us who suffer from acute pain and are not abusers in any way. How will the proposed restrictions on pain medication affect those of us who suffer from acute pain and are in no way abusers?
For more than 40 years, I’ve experienced excruciatingly painful myofascial muscle spasms. When they occur, the pain is so strong and so severe that it moves my body involuntarily and completely eliminates my ability to function. (Thank you, fibromyalgia.) Unfortunately, because of the location of my particular pain, I am not eligible for trigger-point injections, which are commonly prescribed to prevent and relieve this condition. Initially, these episodes occurred only once or twice a year. If I were lucky (that’s a relative term here), the spasm would last only a few hours, and it would subside on its own. Other times, I wasn’t so “lucky.” Those times, the pain was stronger than I was, and the emergency room was my only option. Over time, the length, severity, and frequency of these episodes increased.
I was then referred to Kaiser’s pain management program (which I highly recommend). In addition to learning many pain-relieving techniques that I now employ regularly, I was prescribed a variety of narcotic pain relievers until finding one that did not produce the intolerable side effects I’d previously experienced. Now, instead of an hours-long wait in agony at an emergency room, I can take a pill and experience relief within minutes. I’ve regained a sense of control over the pain that I came to fear worse than death itself, and my quality of life has substantially improved.
But I’m concerned about the future. I’m concerned that the discussed prescribing limits will hinder my doctor’s ability to decide how much pain relief I require. I’m concerned about the effects such limits will have on physicians. Will they refuse to adequately medicate pain patients, worried about compromising their medical licenses if they do? I’m concerned that plans to protect the general public from drug abuse will result in a lack of pain control for those who really need it.
It’s not that I want to take these therapies. I’m fully aware of the negative effects they are having on my internal organs. However, it’s the only solution available for acute pain right now. More funding and research on new and different ways to alleviate pain are desperately needed. I’m hopeful that in the face of our current crisis, we will apply more collaboration and creative thinking. I look forward to being pain-free in the future without the use of dangerous treatments.
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