Opioid. For many, the word elicits images of addiction, but that’s only one side of the story.
This is our side, the one that’s no longer socially acceptable, that shatters bias and stigma. It’s the side of the story that I live — that of the chronic pain patient (CPP), not the addict.
The vast majority of people who use prescription opioids never become addicted; they use their medication as prescribed. It facilitates their lives, and if it’s discontinued they will lose quality of life.
A different perspective: Oregon’s illegal drug users rewarded as chronic pain patients suffer
My mom worked at the United States Post Office, a job she loved. After a work injury and failed surgeries, she was left in pain, permanently disabled, and unable to function.
She tried every alternative, but nothing helped. Finally, she started opioid medication and began living again — raising her grandchildren, maintaining her home and life. Then her primary doctor retired. She was referred to a well-known Salem pain doctor who, despite 13 years of MRIs, other tests and records, insisted she either accept a diagnosis of Substance Use Disorder (SUD) and receive Suboxone or be tapered completely off medication, and receive nothing for pain. She did everything right, didn’t fail one drug urinalysis (UA), took medication as prescribed, but it didn’t matter.
She was stuck – unable to change doctors without a referral from her current pain doctor, who refused. She wasn’t an addict, didn’t have SUD, but was desperate to maintain her life.
Suboxone was ineffective for her pain — it isn’t even approved for pain. Without effective medication, my mom stopped living. She agonized in bed all day, every day. She’s not alone.
Today, a father is confined to his bed with untreated pain because his doctor was forced to taper him off analgesics. A parent looks down at the deceased body of their child who chose to die rather than face another day in horrible pain.
These stories are not unique or hypothetical — many are suffering.
Legislation, proposals and rules threaten this fate for every CPP. While opioids are not the answer for everyone, for some they’re a life saver.
Merging CPP with addict is a misconception not supported by data. It’s a tactic to blur the lines. It starts with a heart-wrenching story of addiction and ends with punishing CPPs.
Recently, there was a press release for the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program which began with a tragic account of addiction. The solution was to further restrict CPPs, instead of curbing addiction. This is a common tactic.
CPPs are shamed, suffer discrimination and stigma. We are guilty until proven innocent, and forced into highly regulated pain contracts, random UAs, and even with compliance, many are forced off their medication.
You’ve heard one person every three days dies of an opioid overdose in Oregon (not necessarily CPP). In those three days, over 15 times more people die of alcohol-related deaths.
Four years ago, a drunk driver permanently broke my body so now I’m a CPP, and yet he is free to drink as much as he chooses while I am in danger of losing my quality of life.
Wendy Sinclair, who lives in Adair Village, is co-founder of the Oregon Pain Action Group and Oregon Legislative Coordinator for The Alliance for the Treatment of Intractable Pain. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.