Opinion: The Battle Against Opioids Could Mean Misery for Patients in Pain

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While the United States is distracted by politics, a human rights battle to the virtual death is being played out in Oregon and no mainstream media outlet is covering it. The ramifications of ending Medicaid coverage of prescribed pain medication for chronic illness except for a very narrowly defined list in Oregon will affect every American whether they realize it or not within the next decade. The effects will be disastrous if it goes the way the bipartisan players desire.

Please consider the following:

You have been taking an antidepressant for over a decade with success. One day, you go to your physician for a refill and are informed that you are receiving one 30-day supply of the drug and no more, because people have been using it recreationally, so your physician is discontinuing writing prescriptions. You are dumbfounded. You didn’t do anything wrong. You always took your antidepressant as prescribed. You recall the horrible days before medication — agoraphobia, black thoughts, suicidal ideation  — and you feel sick with dread. You ask the doctor what his treatment plan is. He says you should exercise more, lose weight and get out in the sun at least 30 minutes a day.

If that doesn’t work, there is another drug you could try, but it’s used for epilepsy and has some nasty side effects, hasn’t really worked well for depression, however, several depressed people have had little choice but to try it. You leave the appointment feeling dazed and sick.

After your prescription runs out, withdrawals begin. You knew this was coming and had tried to taper off the medication you had left, but 30 days is not long enough to taper off an antidepressant. Anyone who takes a medication long term will go through withdrawal without a planned long taper. Dependence is a far different animal than addiction. People go through withdrawal when they start a ketogenic diet and stop eating sugar and carbs, commonly called “carb flu.”

Brain zaps, insomnia, muscle aches, diarrhea, weepiness and the depression comes roaring back. You try supplements recommended online, but they are little help. You knew they wouldn’t help. Your sense of helpless futility is mounting because you already tried everything before asking for an antidepressant because of the stigma of depression.

One dark, hopeless night, in desperation, you go to the ER. The physician rolls his eyes and can’t mask his disdain when you explain yourself. You hear him clearly telling the nurse in the hallway that you are a drug seeker trying to score depression meds. You leave empty-handed.

You are forced to quit working. You lose friends because of your decline, have to move into a very different neighborhood because of finances. A 12 week trial of the epilepsy drug proves disastrous — horrible side effects, no help with your depression and it triggers another incredible round of withdrawal. Your physician is indifferent to your deterioration. Other conditions emerge, hypothyroidism and high blood pressure.

Suicide begins to become a very real and appealing option. One year ago, you had a bustling, thriving life, full of vitality. Now you exist. You did nothing wrong except require medication that others have abused. Your medical needs were weighed and determined to be of less value than those of an imaginary group of potentials who could become recreational users of medication you require to be a participant in your own life and do not abuse.

Replace the word antidepressant with opioid and depression with painful disease, and this is the true story of more than one patient I have spoken to this year in the United States.

Now Oregon is preparing to make thousands of people face this exact scenario.

We must step away from this rhetoric and wonder how and why the word opioid became weaponized.

Opioids are simply a class of medications to treat moderate to severe pain. They bring life and function to hundreds of thousands of people who suffer incredibly painful chronic diseases. You pass by people every day who use opioid therapy. You have people in your workplace who use opioid therapy. They do not advertise it and they are not addicts.

Opioids used by a chronic painful disease patient do not cause a high or euphoria as they do recreational users who are not in pain. They do bring moderate to severe pain down to a manageable level so that patients can work. They can take care of their children. They can clean their homes. They can have something that approaches normalcy.

Why do politicians, the media, and certain incentive-driven physicians strive so very hard to stigmatize and downgrade a large population that requires a medication to manage their chronic conditions? We all fall for the rhetoric. “Opioid” as it stands has successfully been negatively engineered to mean addict, dirty, unclean, bad parent, prisoner, felon, lawbreaker, thief.

In reality, over 95 percent of people who use prescription opioids prescribed to them by their physicians are responsible adults who have productive lives, only because they have their opioid therapy. Those statistics deservedly give opioids a positive name for thousands.

Keep this in mind as one looks into the players and machinations moving behind this opioid crisis and how politicians, drug companies, and very evil people are using this manufactured crisis for social engineering, profiling, records search without a warrant, certainly in part as a test drive for the implementation of socialism. After all, one of the pillars of socialism is one gives up theirs for the “good” of all.

That is exactly what chronic pain patients are being told to do — give up their prescribed pain medication for the good of society. These patients did nothing wrong to deserve having their medication taken away. Yet they are expected to willingly give up their pain medications for the common good.

Practitioners shame them, telling patients they have no compassion for their neighbor when they protest the loss of their life-saving prescribed medication.

The common good has shown that the forced compliance of giving up pain medication to stave off prescriptions on the loose is clearly not helping stop the rise of overdoses.

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