Oxycodone tablets

Watch the news on television or read a newspaper and you will likely see a story about the dangers of opioids. Here is just the latest sampling:

  • “Lawmakers Seek Crackdown on Opioids” WRAL.com, Raleigh, NC
  • “7 in 10 US Workplaces Hit by Opioid Abuse” WebMD
  • “Opioid Rx Abuse Probe Sees A Record 31 Doctors Hit With Sanctions in New Jersey” FOX News, U.S.
  • “Dentists Work To Ease Patients’ Pain with Fewer Opioids” NPR – Weekend Edition Sunday
  • “Should You Fill That Opioid Prescription?” U.S. News & World Report

People In Pain Deserve Relief:

When something goes wrong in your body, the signal you get is pain. Whether it’s an emergency like a broken bone or appendicitis or something more chronic like degenerative back disease, pain is usually the common denominator.

A Short History of Opioids:

Before there were modern pain relievers, humans relied on the natural world to ease suffering. The Sumerians were using opium from the poppy plant by 3,400 BC. They shared the pain-relieving potential of this plant with the Assyrians, who passed it along to the Egyptians. Eventually Alexander the Great took it with him to India and from there opiates spread around the world.

Today, this category of drugs has captured national attention. The opioid epidemic has caused untold misery, and politicians have weighed in on measures to prevent abuse and the deaths that result from it.

The DEA’s War on Opioids:

The Drug Enforcement Administration has cracked down on the medical use of synthetic narcotics such as oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydrocodone, found in Lorcet, Lortab, Norco and Vicodin. Although such drugs have led to addiction and death, they also remain among our most powerful and effective pain relievers.

There was a time when physicians were trusted to use good judgment in the prescribing of hydrocodone and oxycodone. No doubt some were far too promiscuous in prescribing such powerful pain relievers. But others were very thoughtful and cautioned patients about abuse. These doctors prescribed opioids judiciously.

The DEA changed the rules in October, 2014. That was when the Drug Enforcement Administration moved hydrocodone combination pain relievers (HCPs) like Lortab, Norco and Vicodin from Schedule III to Schedule II. That meant no more electronic prescriptions to pharmacies. And doctors could not call in a prescription either. Each prescription was good for only one month. That meant it was much harder for patients suffering from severe chronic pain to access opioids.

Many Physicians Now Worried About Prescribing Opioids:

The media spotlight on the epidemic of opioid-related deaths has scared many physicians away from prescribing such medications. Pharmacists worry about dispensing them, and some patients are too anxious about possible addiction to take these drugs at all.

Most experts recognize that opioids play a key role in easing pain for people at the end of life, particularly those whose pain is related to cancer. Surgeons continue to prescribe such drugs following a major operation.

Chronic Pain Patients Are Suffering:

The controversy is focused on the treatment of chronic non-cancer pain. Doctors have been told that such drugs are inappropriate for people with persistent pain, and CMS (Medicaid and Medicare) has drafted a policy that would make it difficult or impossible for many patients to get prescriptions for such medications.

What impact will that have on their medical care? We have heard from hundreds of patients who are now feeling desperate. Here are just a few examples:

D.M. in Baton Rouge, LA, shared a poignant story:

“It is really a shame how a physician who took an oath ‘To Do No Harm’ out of medical school can bow down to a government that has no business meddling in the practice of medicine.

“I was injured twice in Vietnam, and in 1988 a backhoe drove over me. I’ve had four back surgeries as a result, but am left with chronic pain. I haven’t told the VA that this 65-year-old soldier who proudly served my country in time of need often thinks about taking my own life. It is truly sad that the very country I went to war for is the one that is going to be the death of me.

“I will fight this pain with all I have because I care about my family. But since my dosage of Oxycontin was reduced, I have a hard time getting even two hours of sleep a night. I can not find a position in which I am not in pain.”

Many other chronic pain patients who never abused opioid pain relievers are now at the end of their rope. Many have suffered unbearable withdrawal because they can no longer access medications that allowed them to function. Others, like this Vietnam vet, are becoming suicidal because the pain is so excruciating.

Other Stories from People In Pain:

Jan in Plano, IL, is also at the end of her rope:

“I had a crush injury to my feet and legs 17 years ago. All my nerves died. I have been on everything, but mostly just Fentanyl patches every other day.

“A neurologist who knew nothing about pain stopped my Fentanyl when I tried to have a spinal stem implant. I felt like Joan of Arc burning at the stake. I couldn’t lift my head off the bed, and vomited till taken to the hospital.

“The pain was excruciatingly unbearable!! If I couldn’t get my Fentanyl I would have to find a way to end it. So the deaths from drug addicts that the DEA is trying to prevent will just be made up in suicides from people in severe, unending pain! The government needs to stay out of our lives.”

Rose in Cape Vincent, NY, is also desperate:

“I injured my back at work 8 years ago. I have herniated, bulging discs and scoliosis as a result of my accident. I have Protein C deficiency, a blood clotting disorder, and therefore am not a candidate for surgery.

“I’m 42 and live with horrific pain. I’m on disability and walk with a cane. My quality of life continues to deteriorate every day. I spend much of my time in bed and am no longer able to enjoy the things I used to do.

“Because of the Protein C deficiency, I am not supposed to take NSAIDs or steroids. These drugs can cause fatal bleeding problems. Last year my pain management physician was arrested. At that time, I was prescribed morphine. After his arrest, I ran out of medication and suffered terribly from withdrawal.

“I’ve suffered so much since then and I’m no longer able to live alone. I was taking copious amounts of ibuprofen, despite the risks of internal bleeding. I was recently hospitalized for chronic pain because I could not get out of bed and could not walk. I spent 8 days in the hospital where my pain was controlled for the first time since my former doctor’s arrest.

“While I was hospitalized, I was referred to pain management. I was given enough pain medication to get me through until my appointment. The medication barely makes any difference whatsoever in controlling my pain. I never abused, misused or sold my pain medication. I don’t understand why I’m being punished, along with so many others who suffer from chronic pain.

“I’m so miserable that I wish I’d get another DVT [deep vein thrombosis] or pulmonary embolism and just be put out of this misery. Animals are treated more humanely than those of us who suffer this way. I really believe the CDC and DEA are depending on all of us to kill ourselves. I believe that they want to eliminate all of us who are disabled and rely on SSD or other forms of government assistance because we’re “burdens” to society. I know this must sound crazy, but why are those of us who suffer so terribly being treated like drug addicts?”

“Perhaps if we all joined together, we could stop this horrendous patient abuse. I only want some quality of life back.”

The Terrible Dilemma:

There are few medications that work as well as opioids to control severe pain. That is why surgeons still prescribe drugs like Vicodin after a major operation and why hospice workers rely on narcotics to ease the pain of terminal cancer patients. Medications like NSAIDs or tramadol just do not work as well and they carry their own risks.

It is not clear that the war on opioid medications will reduce the death toll. Some drug abusers will turn to heroin or other illicit drugs instead of prescription narcotics. It does appear that these policies have left millions of chronic pain patients abandoned without much of a safety net.

If you would like to read more about how patients are coping with the new laws, here are some links:

Patients in Pain Are Outraged about New Hydrocodone Rules

Will People in Pain Suffer Because of FDA’s Scary Opioid Warnings?

What do you think? We would like to get your perspective in the comment section below.

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  1. Art
    New Jersey

    If you have been on narcotic medication for years and have never failed a test, or pill count, or run out before your refill date — Why can’t they trust you? You think people in chronic pain take these strong drugs because they are fun? Quite the opposite. They make your brain foggy, make you feel tired all the time, and other painful side effects. But nothing compared with the pain you experience if you do not get pain relief drugs. Who wants to be a problem to the people we love — our relatives, families, friends? It makes suicide a viable alternative that one soon finds himself fantasying about. But that is the last decision a person can make. Until then, we just pray that a system will be put into effect that prevents people that would abuse drugs from getting them, but not by punishing chronic pain sufferers. Life everyone in this world, you really don’t sympathize with anyone until you find yourself in the same boat. I don’t wish that on anyone.

  2. Sandra M

    From the time i began in pain management until now my patient experience has been nothing short of demeaning, disrespectful and disgusting. The office staff at numerous acted like I was an inconvenience instead of a person I am an x-ray tech.

    I have 4 children, a greenhouse business I am attempting to begin and a life to live. I understand the opioid addiction problem is a real issue in the united states. But the opioid addicts are going to get what they want no matter what. The only people suffering here are the pain patients.

    I have herniated disks from t3-t4 disk space down and through my spine. Bidirectional scoliosis, levoscoliosis, degenerative disk disease, osteophytes, sciatica, arthritis, SI joint disfunction, and hip popping syndrome to name a few. I’m 33 years old.

    I see the doctor to get relief. I’ve done everything they recommend for back pain. Now it’s they’re turn to help me out. They changed my medication to xtampza 9mg. Why I’m not sure. But the pharmacy doesn’t carry it and it won’t be in for a week. I tried and tried to get a hold of someone at this office, and no-one would call me back. So I eventually went in. It was Friday and I was scared to end up with no medication for the weekend.

    After sitting there for a couple of hours listening to other pain patients horror stories about this office, they gave me a coupon. For the very medication the pharmacy has to place on special order. So, I’m out of medication, sick and in pain and They don’t care. And they have the nerve to ask if we are depressed? No we are in pain and no one will help us!!!

    All I want is to be able to work and live with a quality of life that allows me to live my life a little bit. Because this isn’t living. It’s existing. Being scared month to month because we may or may not get medication from The doctor – or we failed one of the millions of hoops that we have to jump thrpugh. Or The pharmacy doesn’t have it, or won’t let us have it, or The insurance company won’t authorize it.

    And then The doctors’ office does not assist with any of the pharmacy issues. They wouldn’t change my nerve pill from lyrica ($600) with my insurance – to neurontin ($6) with my insurance. Why? They just won’t.

    The front desk staff looks down like they are better than every patient here. I can hear them laughing and saying they would never wait and cant believe people would wait this long for a script. Obviously there is a disconnect between patient and medical staff. How can they treat pain if they don’t understand what we live with.

    People in chronic pain are dying. People are committing suicide. And the cause of death will be listed as suicide. Depression. No. They died because they couldn’t live with the daily minute to minute pain. No one can live with it. And when the physicians won’t help or listen – someone should be held accountable.

    Someone has to speak up for chronic pain patients. But we have no voice. And that my friends is the most depressing thing of all.

  3. Nan

    First of all, I hope everyone who is in chronic pain and did absolutely nothing wrong and took their medication properly and became injured, to not give up and try to find help through another pain management practice. I was profiled for being in pain management, and my hospital file is filled with the fantasies and lies of doctors that accused me of being a drug abuser simply because I was trying to come off of pain medication for legitimate reasons. I have been treated terribly ever since by every new doctor I see or whenever I wind up in the hospital. I have stage IV cancer now and I suffered for three years before I got desperate enough to go out and find a pain management place that wouldn’t judge Mel and who would believe me when I told them what I was put through. I was dropped by my old pain doctors after being a patient for 7 years and accused of either abusing or selling my medication!!,,, to the ignorant pain management equals drug abuse. Of cours this makes no sense. I was so terrified that I went through a detox at a hospital because I was so ill I didn’t think I could find another doctor to help me because I could barely get out of bed. I wanted to die every day for 3 years. So now that I have cancer it is a little bit easier to get the help I need, but far from easy. I am still a suspect to ANY doctor who digs through my files. I am abused at my local hospital as well. How this can happen to all the innocent law abiding pain patients, I will never know. The drug addicts who caused this entire mess and crazy propaganda still get what they want when they want off the streets and steal, commit crimes to get what they want. Normal people and legitimate pain patients would be seriously harmed trying to get pain medication from the streets. I am not Street wise and would be scared to death to do anything illegal. How much more can all the “good” people take. We are just trying to have what little life we have left pain free. Why is that to much to ask?

  4. ccridah
    los angeles

    I was prescribed Vicodin 5/500 in the 90’s for carpal tunnel in both wrists.Back then ,drs & dentist prescribed these meds,willy nilly and some got hooked, others didn’t. Fast forward to 2017, I have had many accidents,slip and falls, that has come along with age. What I take now is 1 1/2 7/325 norco twice a day with food.

    It took me a long time to finally come to grips with my need for this type of pain management without being addicted. Some Dr’s suggested gabapentin, nortripline for me to go nutty on it, and worse. Others wanted me to go to a pain psychiatrist to see if I take these meds when I am upset, lonely or desperate.

    I dont. I ONLY take them as needed for back pain and not only does it help,Iam taking less than I had been 5 yrs ago.The issue with ADDICTION is being OBSESSED with being in a altered state. I don’t wake up, nor go to bed taking it. Twice I had more acute pain, and was ‘upgraded’ to Oxycodone 5/325, only to drop BACK to my Norco once healed.

    I am one of those with chronic pain, and take these meds responsibly. I don’t share them, I dont ‘party’ on them. For people like me? This new ‘war’ is a mess, cause there are some/many of us who need these meds to get thru our day. It’s NOT one big party!

  5. linda

    I have a herniated disk from being rearwnded in 2003, the person who said animals are being treated better than cronic pain patients is 100 percent correct!we need a class action suit.

  6. Pat

    Help! I am a retired RN and have administered pain medications safely for over 30 years. Now I have parkinson’s disease and horrific spasms in my rectum about 2-3 times a day. I cannot sit or stand when these attacks occur. I have to lie down now!

    For 5 years I have been taking hydromorpone as a last resort when all attempts to ease my pain failed. I never took more than prescribed and I never asked for early refills. My doctor encouraged me to take the pain med at first, then last year he began to say “you need to get off this opioid”
    Yesterday my doctor told me she could only prescribe one pill a day or she would be “in trouble. ” What is going on here?
    I always believed that when I got old and sick at least I would not have to die in pain. I cannot live like this. I spend most of the day in bed. I have an incurable brain disease and it will not be getting better. I am ready to take my own life.Please help!

  7. K

    Why is the government able to make decisions for doctors! My husband was recently told that his brain will reset when he comes off his meds! What the hell Is that? My husband shouldn’t be a Guinea pig or test subject. I want the doctor to come and live with him while he withdraws and even worse when he is in so much agony! He doesn’t sleep as it is since they started decreasing his dose. These patients families suffer too!

    What happened to being involved in your own Heath care decisions? What he was taking at least provided some relief. He never got high or abused his medications. They are in a lock box since he is a responsible person.
    I am so afraid of what will happen. He won’t be able to work or sleep or watch our kids’ games, even.
    What are we suppose to do? Why is he being punished?

    Don’t they realize that people will resort to other methods to ease that pain? At least they have a little control when writing prescriptions. When people who wouldn’t dream of it start going to street drugs it will be too late. Their experiment will have failed!

  8. Steven

    Dear Lord I just pray for these people in the name of Jesus that you will heal them not only for themselves but also for their loved ones and especially little children. In the wonderful and glorious name of Jesus Christ, I hereby ask for a full recovery from the pain for all those who have shared their stories on this web page. Thank your Lord Jesus – amen.

  9. Cheryl Conklin
    Austin TX

    My quality of life is over because of the sharp and drastic cut in my pain medication. I have scoliosis with scarphosis (humpback) and am in CONSTANT DEBILITATING PAIN! No let up. Sleep is just a memory so I am exhausted all the time. I was also forced off a benzodiazipine that I’ve taken since the early 90’s for panic attacks. The withdrawal was unreal. Need I go on? I can’t stand the pain and it is highly probable that I will have to miss my only son’s wedding because of it.

    These are guidelines, not laws. Chronic pain sufferers are being punished, period. I relate to the people who are thinking about suicide because I think about it far too often! The only thing that holds be back is fear of going to hell.

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