Oxycodone tablets, narcotic

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. Peggy

    I have suffered from scoliosis since I was 15 years old my curvature is quite severe my lower back curvature is the 80% and my upper back curvature is 40 I am now 58 and I have fought off taking pain medication all of my life until 5 years ago when the pain became unbearable and interfered with my daily life I finally went to a pain clinic and was put on a protocol of medication it didn’t take away all of my pain but made my daily life bearable in the past 5 years I have never asked my Dr for any more pain medication I have never taken more medication then I was prescribed in fact I have taken less then I was prescribed recently my pain clinic has moved an hour and a half away from where I live now that the new laws are coming in place I am having a hard time finding another Dr to treat me with the same protocol of medication now I am being told that if I do not agree to take injections I will not be able to get medication for my pain this makes no sense to me since the pain comes from the full length of my spine the pain I suffer moves around on a daily basis sometimes it’s my lower back sometimes it’s my upper back sometimes it’s my leg sometimes it’s my neck how is injections going to help that situation it is sad that I have to suffer injections or lack of medication because other people have been abusing drugs I have done nothing wrong yet I am being lumped together with people who have chosen to do the wrong thing where can I turn who’s going to help me what is going to happen to me

  2. Rich P.
    The Once Upon A Time United States

    First, and more than 38 years ago, a trucking company from another country, operating legally here in the U.S., caused a head-on collision that ruined my life. I suffered a severe head injury, multiple severe injuries to my head, face, and upper body, and a C1-C2 fusion. The driver was plastered and illegally drunk. As a result, I have had daily constant severe chronic pain from for more than 38 years to date (In the same collision two friends, 19 & 20 years old were killed, and we did nothing wrong as facts and police report showed).

    At first I was left/made to suffer the daily constant pain for more than ten years, trying everything that did nothing to ease my Pain except for strong narcotic medicine like Oxycontin or Morphine, but they would NOT allow me to use it. Every reason they gave me for me why I could NOT use it and why they said it would not work was nothing but total LIES! The pain in my neck, head, face, eyes, chest, shoulders, arms, and hands would get so bad that it would cause me to vomit.

    After more than ten years of daily suffering and not being able to continue schooling or work, just at this point where I was finally starting to lose my mind from the daily non-stop severe Pain, the U.S. Government finally started to allow pain doctors to treat people like myself for whom nothing else worked to ease the pain than the best narcotic medicine for a person’s particular pain and body. The Pain Doctor and Morphine literally saved my life, and gave me at least somewhat of a life that I do NOT have at all without the Morphine. Without it I suffer with tortuous life-ruining, pain that is NOT at all worth living for.

    Yet once again, people don’t care at all about our suffering, and are now punishing those of us with severe chronic pain because of drug addicts. I have nothing to do with them and don’t even know these people for whom I am now once again being punished and right here in the United States. I get NO Trial or anything. I am just made to suffer tortuous pain daily for nothing I have done. They care more for the lives of drug addicts than for the people with severe chronic pain. The U.S.

    Any U.S. State or the U.S. Government can make us to have to suffer torturous pain. It is just the same as legalized torture by the U.S. Government against U.S. Citizens.

    Yet after 25 years of taking a medicine I need to use, like Insulin is to a Diabetic, I am now denied the medicine I need for a decent quality of life. Morphine is a literal heaven-sent, miracle medicine, and a life-saver for many of us with severe Chronic pain. But the United States actually/obviously cares more about the lives of drug addicts than for those in pain. I have nothing about caring for drug addicts’ lives, as their lives should be cared for. My big question is why can’t the U.S. also care for the people like us and let us use what works the best and works well for many of us- I even can safely say for most of us!

    I was NOT at all just handed morphine on a platte. No. I was actually tortured, made to suffer every day for more than ten years just to start being treated with Morphine. Then another ten years or so until I finally received a working dosage. Then 12 or 13 years passed, and the government punishes me again, making me suffer again for other peoples’ criminal wrongs. I am serious, the word evil comes to mind.

    I found what worked, didn’t have one measly problem with what works, and nothing else works. Yet the DEA and the FDA just take away what works, and for NOT ONE sane, true, or honest reason. They insult my intelligence. Again, the best word for it is EVIL!

  3. Diana
    35 E Clarke pl 8F BX ny 10452

    I have a knee replacement that went wrong so my doctor who did the surgery gave me a prescription for chronic pain meds but and I can’t get any meds.

  4. rebecca
    united states

    Government agencies playing doctor is very unwise making those who need pain relief suffer. playing God or doctor is very strange

  5. deborah

    All this is going to do is force ppl to buy pain meds off the street, and not know what’s in it, that’s where some of the overdoses and deaths are coming from, it’s not fair to cut chronic pain sufferers off their meds

    • Maddy
      Ottawa (Cornwall), Ontario

      Has a class action suit begun in Canada because of this restriction on the use of opiods because ordinary people are being denied them? daily 24hr a day severe chronic pain, & at the point of deciding whether or not I continue fighting for my rights to have peace (am 71 years old), or do I just give up.
      Opiods have been reduced to the point of ridiculous. suffer constantly… wake up from .pain every half hour at night,… the day I suffer, and suffer and suffer.

      Are these new restriction fair to the ones suffering…never in my mind thought ever say the word “I would llke to sue” but right now if I am to survive I must fight for my right to live.

      The excruciating pain, the anxiety, the fear, the lack of money to hire help in my home, everything seems to be much too much, Even pain clinic at the Ottawa Hospital in Ottawa has a 2 year+ wait. I would be open to clinical trials, whatever it takes, just to give me a few hours free of pain but that seems a very very long time away… They say you know when you are going to die (not that I truly want it) but this pain is killing me…. I think of my dead parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles…. I am cleaning all my 20+ yrs of paperwork… my cupboards, …. putting aside momentos to my children and grandchildren… in my own ways saying goodby to my family…. and it is not as if I have a choice. I even went as far as asking to be admitted to the Royal Ottawa Mental Hospital as a last hope. Alas, after 2 months there, the conclusion was that it was not mental (seems I am being referred to as highly intelligent – at last a positive), not suffering from a depression but that it is PAIN with no relief in sight

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