The People's Perspective on Medicine

What Is the Other Side of the Opioid Crisis?

Why is the opioid crisis getting worse? People in chronic pain are suffering because they can't get opioids. Why are so many others overdosing on fentanyl?
Close photo of prescription bottle for Oxycodone tablets and pills on wooden table for opioid epidemic illustration

The opioid crisis keeps accelerating. While watching NBC News last night we saw yet another heartbreaking story about the devastating impact opioids are having across America. Three people in Dayton, Ohio were brought back from the brink of death thanks to naloxone (Narcan). Many other people aren’t so lucky. There is no doubt that opioids have caused countless overdose deaths and untold misery.

Controlling the Opioid Crisis:

If you follow the news you have seen it called the opioid crisis, the opioid epidemic and the opioid emergency. Politicians bemoan the ongoing disaster but seem stumped about what to do about it. Every day emergency medical teams across the country have to rescue people from opioid overdoses.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Three years ago the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) clamped down on prescription pain relievers containing opioids. Prior to 2014, hydrocodone (Lortab, Norco, Vicodin, etc) was a Schedule III drug. Doctors could fax or call in a prescription or refill to a pharmacy. They could also write electronic prescriptions that went straight to the pharmacy computer.

Physicians must now write a paper prescription that is only good for one month at a time. There are no refills. The FDA and the CDC have also warned physicians to be extremely cautious about prescribing opioids like hydrocodone and oxycodone (OcyContin). And many pharmacies have made it much harder for patients to get access to such medicines. And yet the opioid crisis worsens.

What Went Wrong?

Despite the DEA’s war on opioids, the epidemic has seemingly worsened over the last few years. If physicians, pharmacists and drug companies are making it harder for patients to get powerful pain relievers, how come so many people are overdosing and dying?

Illicit Fentanyl:

Part of the answer seems to come from China. Synthetic opioids like powdered fentanyl (and chemical cousins) are flooding into the country. These illicit, manmade compounds are far more potent than heroin. Sometimes they are made into pills that resemble weaker prescription analgesics. But these potent chemicals are killers.

According to NBC News:

“The death rate of synthetic opioids, which includes fentanyl, rose more than 72% from 2014 to 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

NBC News attempted to order fentanyl using the Internet:

“Attempting to order fentanyl online from China came with a dose of customer service — complete with smiley face emoticons and an explanation of paying with bitcoin. NBC News did not go through with the purchase of the drug, but the Drug Enforcement Agency says mainland Chinese companies are known to manufacture and distribute fentanyl and other illegal drugs using e-commerce.”

Pill mills, where unethical doctors wrote huge numbers of prescriptions for opioids, have mostly been shut down. But that has not solved the opioid crisis. The current epidemic seems to stem more from illicit manufacturing abroad than the diversion or abuse of legally prescribed opioid analgesics at home.

The History of Opioids:

While federal officials focus on the devastation caused by opioid abuse, they seem to be ignoring the suffering of people who no longer have access to the pain killers they need to function.

People have been using opioids for more than 5,000 years. That’s because the active ingredient from the opium poppy remains one of the most effective pain relievers known to humankind. From the ancient Sumerians, Assyrians and Egyptians to today’s manufacturers of oxycodone and hydrocodone, humans have found ways to use-and abuse-opioid compounds.

The Opium Wars:

Nineteenth-century China had its own opium abuse crisis. Both the British East India Company and American traders found it profitable to ship opium into southern China, even after it was declared illegal. The British and the Chinese fought two wars over this trade.

Opioids for Pain:

No health professional disputes the value of powerful opioid narcotics for treating severe pain. Such drugs as hydromorphone (Dilaudid), methadone (Dolophine), morphine (MS-Contin), oxycodone (OxyContin) and fentanyl (Duragesic) are all used to control intractable cancer pain.

Patients in hospice or hospitalized cancer patients are still treated with such medications. But people with chronic, non-cancer pain are now feeling abandoned. That’s because the measures taken to control the opioid epidemic have left many of these patients without recourse.

One reader shared this sentiment:

“Isn’t it time people like me who are disabled and suffer from severe nerve pain fight back? I can’t function, walk, sleep or cook for myself without opioids for my pain. How many thousands of legitimate chronic pain sufferers are being adversely affected by the opioid crisis?”

Phyllis in N. J. is desperate:

“My quality of life is horrible now without my pain medication. I guess the government is now in the business of practicing medicine. I’ve written so many letters, comments, tweets, editorials, signed petitions, you name it to get this law overturned. I hope it is in our lifetime, mine and yours, fellow sufferers, that we are treated more fairly. Our doctors have had to watch us suffer unduly. May God help us all find relief in getting back our medicine or getting something better that no one can take from us.”

S. in PA is also beyond desperation:

“From the time I needed pain management until now, my patient experience has been nothing short of demeaning, disrespectful and disgusting. The office staffs at numerous clinics acted like I was an inconvenience instead of a person. I am a health professional myself–an x-ray technician.

“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. I also have bidirectional scoliosis, levoscoliosis, degenerative disk disease, osteophytes, sciatica, arthritis, SI joint dysfunction, and hip popping syndrome to name just a few. I’m 33 years old.

“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 through. Or the pharmacy doesn’t have it. Or won’t let us have it. Or the insurance company won’t authorize it.

“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.”

Another reader shares:

“I’ve been through six failed lower back operations resulting in damage and scar tissue on the nerves. In my upper back I have multiple bone spurs sticking me in my nerves and two bulging discs in my neck. I need to have both knees replaced. I’m at the very end of my rope. My pain management doctor has cut my pain medications way back and I just can’t take it. I’m thinking of ending my life.”

We have heard from hundreds of desperate pain patients who can no longer access medicines that allowed them to function. Most insist that they have never abused the opioids their doctors prescribed. Yet many are now faced with suspicion from physicians, nurses, pharmacists and insurance companies.

Can We Solve the Opioid Crisis?

Well-meaning federal officials thought they could overcome the opioid crisis by cracking down on prescription opioids like hydrocodone. If anything, the crisis has gotten worse since the DEA changed the classification of this drug.

We need to find more effective strategies to stem the tide of illicit fentanyl and other synthetic opioids flooding into the country from abroad. We should not make chronic pain patients suffer because of this growing illegal drug trade.

Equally important, the pharmaceutical industry needs to develop safe and effective pain relievers to replace opioids. NSAIDs, antidepressants and anticonvulsants are not the answer. And regulators need to make sure that their policies do not punish people in severe pain unfairly.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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Due to what’s going on, with the opioid crisis, I won’t live much longer, don’t want to die, just can’t live in the severe great pain I’m in every second, all my doctors say we know your in very great pain, not to talk bad about them, I don’t believe they do, every day I keep thinking of ending my life, not because I want to die, but because I can’t live any kind of life when my pain so great its all I can think about, since this so called opioid crisis started after four major surgeries, two neck fusions, left arm, spine below fusion, and 12 yrs of treatment that did nothing to relieve any pain, my pain doctor,and the doctor who did neck fusions put me on oxycontin 30mg’s 3 times aday it took away 1/2 of the great pain away,after 12yrs i had a part of my life back that was taken away the feeling of being human being it last almost an yr took my pain doctor was shut down they said for over medicating patient’s,looked it up the way they said it made my doctor sound like an pusher of street drug’s,and i found out they looked at me and name a drug addict,with out any proof of that,what did that mean for me,with medical proof i was in very great severe pain 24/7 they started lowering my medicine’s and told doctor they where allowed to tell me i had 3 strokes my health got so bad i couldn’t sleep,or eat,i didn’t found out this till i seen another of my doctor’s old patient at an gas station,he said the doctor was within the law.

I am a 59 year old female who has had multiple cervical disc surgeries and a lumbar disc surgery. I have also been diagnosed with permanent nerve damage. Two months ago I got shingles, it’s now 2 months later and I am still experiencing severe nerve pain. I have been in chronic pain for over 20 years I have been prescribed vicodin 10/325 3 times a day for the past 17 years. I am also a nurse and realize that there is a problem with opiates but I also know that there is a difference between addiction and abuse.

Many people are prescribed meds that are not opiates but are addicted to them but do not abuse them. I have never over taken my medications so what happens to people like me that really need these medication and have to suffer for what another does. These meds were created to help people like me. I want to stand up for those of us who do follow directions of our physician. When you have chronic pain it steals your life away. What happens to our quality of life.

With all this opiate news doctors no longer feel comfortable prescribing anything and therefore many people are suffering in pain. Yes there is a problem, but many abusers are using medications that are already illegal.

When it comes down to it for me, I will be making a statement on this issue if I am forced to take my life to avoid suffering from intractable pain.

If my death can help others, then that is the best that I can hope for.

But I suspect someone will beat me to it.

The only questions are: How can I make sure that my death is high-profile enough, and obvious enough to the reasons for it that it calls this whole endeavor into question for people who need opiates to function?

I broke my back in 1981 at 21 years old. I was in the hospital for 8 days throwing up in traction. I had no insurance so I had no surgery. I wore a hard plastic back brace for 2 years. I never took painmeds after I left the hospital. It always hurt. It never stopped hurting but I was young and wore a back brace off and on. It would slip and I would be in bed for 3 or 4 days then back in a back brace for a few weeks. That was my life for the next 14 years.

I had never been able to work long enough to get insurance because it was a prexisting condition because I had only been able to work for 2 months after college. I went from days of throbbing pain to days of not being able to move or breath without throbbing. I still never took painmeds. I went back to college again and took Electronic Technology and took a job off my feet and didn’t go to Doctor for 2 years until it was no longer a prexisting condition.

I had insurance for the first time in 14 years since I was able to work. I had a spinal fusion that took 9 hrs. I took painmeds for 6 weeks. A low dose 5 mg hydrocodone for 1 month. Then Davocet for 6 weeks. I was back in the back brace from my knee to my boobs. I wore that for 11 months. With no more painmeds. I could only lay down or stand up until I got the leg piece off. I had no idea what was done to me except what I was told. Well the lay down or stand up thing didn’t register.

I got the brace off and told I was well and off to work I go. Still no more painmeds after the hospital bed was gone. I only sat down in the car on the way to work and back. I didn’t sit down cause that still hurt so I stood up for the next 6 years. Then I started hurting standing up and back to the throbbing. I had 3 ruptured disk ruptured that was never removed from the previous back problems. I had a nervous breakdown from the back pain that just became intolerable after all the years of being in pain and just couldn’t take it anymore. But hey I didn’t take pain meds for years.

I am on painmeds now that work but since people were taking them illegally and dying I am labled as a drug user because I have cronic pain. I am being -forced to pay for the sins of others. I finally got over the breakdown but am being forced back into the the dark days and nights of what is abuse of patients.

My experience was that the physician’s assistant to my spine surgeon, in charge of my aftercare, did not seem to be aware that a 68-year-old woman might not do well on six weeks of around-the-clock oxycontin. There were some bleeding complications at the surgery, and I was in pain for several days afterwards. When I called to say that the oxycontin pills he had prescribed were not doing all that much for the pain, he said to just take more. He said that I could take them for 6 weeks. When I stopped after only a few days, as I just didn’t like taking opioids that were not even helping that much, I felt nauseous and sick. I realized that I was having withdrawal symptoms, after only maybe five days of taking them! If I had taken those pills the way he offered to prescribe them to me, I would be a major addict today. Shameful.

I have been through 10 back and neck surgeries. 2 of those were for implanting a spinal cord stimulator, that failed miserably, was finally taken out, and left in it’s place a rather large Seroma, that the Dr.’s are NOT worried about. They have been cutting down on the pain medications in this state, and it’s disgusting! I was told by the Facility Director, a licensed physician, who proceeded to tell me, “WE are cutting back on EVERYONES Pain Med’s, and if you don’t like it, then find another Doctor!” I told him that I don’t know who he thinks he is talking to. I’m not a child, nor a drug abuser, and from that day on, it’s been NOTHING but a huge MESS!

The “Legal” dose they are telling people they can receive is 20mg, but they would rather see you off of them. I was on a 40 mg pill, no breakthroughs, and they went right ahead, and cut it down to a 20 mg, and I couldn’t move. The pain was HORRIBLE, worse than the original injury. It felt like my back has been smashed in by a sledge hammer! It’s funny that when this “Crisis” started pain clinics started popping up all over the place! And in the states that legalized marijuana, it seems like they are going after these patients the HARDEST!

The Insurance Companies, and the Pharmaceutical Companies are just getting more and more of what little money people have, and they don’t care about YOUR ACTUAL PAIN! I find this so disgusting, in the Land of the SUPPOSED FREE. What is FREE? Death? Nope, you’re charged an arm and a leg for that too. Believe me, suicide has crossed my mind on several occasions, especially this last time, when MY LAWYER told me to ONLY take the 20 mg and call for an Ambulance, and tell them how you feel. For what? To be locked up in the Psych Ward for a week or so? I had to PAY OUT of pocket, and Workman’s Comp. is supposed to be paying for this, $1800.00 for a ONE month supply of my pain med.

I am FURIOUS with our Government, for OVER-REACTING. Our NEW clinics that don’t care, Doctor’s who broke their oaths of “Healing thy Patient”, to the Insurance Companies, and Pharmaceutical Companies who have destroyed the decency of a Human Being! We should SUE ALL OF THEM, and DENY them the FREE CARE that they get off of our Tax Dollars, the Rich can get a hold of ANY DRUG they want, why can’t we? Not only is there a Separation of Wealth in this Country, there is a separation of who can get the correct med’s and those who can’t, which is 95% of America! Let the DEA, FDA, and who ever else wants to contact me, contact me, because they will be embarrassed to NO END, by the time I got done with them!

We need Doctor’s and Lawyer’s WHO ARE HONEST enough to stand up for their clients, and take on this HUGE mess, yet created by the Government, to distract us from the other crap they are pulling behind our BACKS!

Everyone is only a fall or car wreck away from being in chronic pain !

I too could share the long list of medical problems in my life that causes me to need opioids to get me through the pain of each day. Two different doctors in different specialties turned me over to pain management. I was warned by my neurologist to change my very active lifestyle or I’d get to the point where NO pain med could help me. No, I’m not an adrenalin junkie, but a housewife, mother, grandmother.

With the tight law changes on opioids, the government has assumed the position of doctor and with some, (which may rise), executioner; they are now in the business of torturing their citizens.

I believe the opioid laws will be as effective for illegal use as gun laws have been at stopping murderers.

I too have been a chronic care disabled patient after a five car accident that left me severely injured and after 15 years of every procedure available I was told I would be on pain meds the rest of my life by a neurosurgeon who is the best in my state!

I attempted several times to detox with professional help and went through withdrawals only to get put back on my pain meds because I had a child to raise alone and could not get out of bed to care for her due to my pain.

I am going through a very difficult time right now in finding my meds and my Dr has been trying to reduce my quantities so it will give my body a chance to handle pain. I have been doing this slowly but I can’t sleep anymore and I am finding that without my usual dosage I can’t handle doing everyday chores and my quality of life is deteriorating again.

I had it under control until all this DEA baloney and their ridiculous restrictions started. I understand that they needed to get rid of the pill mills and Drs that prescribe and profit off patients that do not need this medicine. But the patients that truly need these opiates like oxycodone and OxyContin to live somewhat of a normal life are suffering tremendously.

I am disgusted that the DEA is penalizing us for the negligence of stupid kids and drug addicts that are finding ways to get this medication. The Drs that prescribe these drugs should NOT be allowed to prescribe to anyone unless they have a medical necessity for them. They need to ask for recent MRI’s to show that their pain is legitimate.

I am so SICK AND TIRED OF searching every month to find my medicine. I am looked at and judged by the pharmacists as a drug addict when I try to fill my two scripts. I go to the same Dr. I have been on the same pain medicine for many years. I don’t Dr shop and I don’t ever exceed my dosage. I have established a repor with the same pharmacy for years but if a new pharmacist comes in they set their own rules and I get turned away. This is unacceptable!

There needs to be something done about these pharmacies and the DEA is making it harder every year for them to fill scripts. They are playing Dr and only fill for people they know. They pick and choose who they will fill for. They tell you they can’t order the medicine either so what do you do???? I have ended up in the hospital several times because I could not find my medicine.

It’s the major chain drugstores that set their own rules and are only allowed so many pills per month. They claim it’s a first come first serve regulation yet they will only fill your scripts if they have any pills left over after selling them to their other preferred customers. Whatever that means! This is truly a problem and it’s illegal and discriminatory!

Something needs to be done soon. Chronic pain patients are dying because they can’t get their medicine. Let the people who want to have a happy life after an injury or illness get their medicine and enjoy their lives. Amen.

one word- marijuana. Everybody on any prescription drug, or needing relief needs to do the research. It is out there- on the internet. This plant is very helpful in a wide array of dysfunctions, diseases, pain control, and emotional/mental health issues. Use your internet and your brain to help yourself. The doctors (mostly), the government, and big Pharma do not care about you. Think I am a conspiracy nut? …do your own research!

I undersrtand that NBC wants to inform viewers, but they are not including anything about those like me living in excruciating chronic pain that do not self-medicate, that follow doctor’s dosing orders and must have this type of pain reliever to function diue to severe chronic pain. I already had undiagnosed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia in 2001 was hit in the legs by a pickup truck that did not stop and hit me a second time.

I was thrown across the pavement over 20 feet. Mutliple torn nerves and muscles, knee blown out, more. I am in debilitating pain daily. I take four hydrocdodone daily and that just takes the edge off so I can at least do dishes and laundry, bathe myself, and re-heat my hisband’s cooking. I cannot stay on my legs long enough to cook, vaccuum, etc., even on the pain meds. If I didn’t have them, I could not get out of bed except to use the bathroom.

The opiod crisis reprting, in the fashion that it is done, causes a knee-jerk reaction in those who’ve never needed such pain relievers, making people think we should just stop making them or limit their use. The problem is not the US drug mnanufacturers. That’s pretty clear. Biased reporting doesn’t give one the full picture.

I have had 2 stents put in and had a quadruple heart bypass. I have degenerative disc disease from an auto accident when I was broadsided. I have back pain (especially severe low back pain) so bad I have to lean on my left elbow on counter to fix dinner or do dishes. I was given Oxycodone with Tylenol 5/325 for the pain & I cut them in fourths (Oxycodone 1.25 – Tylenol 84.00 mg) to make them last as they won’t refill them. They sent me to a pain management Dr. ☹️ Which doesn’t solve the problem. I’m 81 yrs old (25 yrs old in my heart) have a loving husband of 58 yrs. who feels helpless because of my pain ☹️ I’ve never abused drugs, have taken very few over the years. Why doesn’t the AMA or someone regulate pain meds so patients who REALLY need them for serious pain get what they need?

I recently heard about ear neurostimulation. My mom is trying it now, so too soon to see results.
It is non-invasive. Looks kind of like a hearing aid you wear for 2 weeks on, 1 off and repeat two more times. It is FDA approved, so Medicare and some insurance companies cover it.

It works by stimulating your vagus nerve, which releases endorphins to alleviate pain naturally.

I am a psychotherapist who has treated substance abusers, among other clients. Dependence and addiction are not synonyms; they are quite different. One can be dependent upon a drug and not addicted to it. If one takes an opioid long enough, one is likely physically dependent upon it and might well suffer some sort of withdrawal syndrome if one abruptly discontinues it. One, however, is not necessarily addicted to it. An addict centers his or her entire life around the obtaining and use of the opioid; he or she lets other responsibilities slide, bills go unpaid, and often engages in illegal activities in order to obtain and use the drug. Those who use an opioid as prescribed (in the correct amount and dosage) for chronic pain do not fit this picture.

Prohibition didn’t work! The “War on Drugs” has been a dismal failure for decades, and will continue to be a failure because the demand for narcotics continues to escalate by many people who don’t know what chronic, unrelenting pain is like. I, too, am a retired RN, who after 25 years of working in a Level I Trauma Center, began having back issues. I’ve had numerous procedures/tests/scans/etc. While nothing has totally eliminated the pain, I do okay as long as I can take my pain medicine, which for me, is a low-dose Codeine-containing tablet. I have a pretty decent life. I have a wonderful, supportive spouse, walk 3-4 miles a day (most days), and really try to make the most of my life.

I have a great job, working in logistics for a transportation company. The problem with pain is that there is not a medical device that we can be hooked up to so our pain can be MEASURED! I too am increasingly frustrated with the way many medical providers treat us like criminals. I have never abused my medications, and I would never wish for my worst enemy to have to walk in my shoes for even 24 hours. I am frustrated with the DEA, with pharmacies who choose not to fill certain prescriptions, and I feel frightened constantly that I may not be able to continue to have a decent quality of life if my medication changes from Schedule III to Schedule II, or if my doctor just decides that he no longer wants to prescribe narcotics for me. Have there been people who misused the system? Absolutely! But LISTEN: I believe there is power in numbers, and those of us who are legitimate pain patients must not be silenced!! PLEASE, don’t give up on finding relief, but LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD!! We deserve better treatment, no ifs, ands or buts!! You’re ALL in my thoughts and prayers!

I have a series of conditions, some of which have caused debilitating pain for almost a decade. It affected my marriage, now divorced; it affected the ability to work because I could no longer handle the pain in my back, my wrists and my lungs.

So I went to visit Colorado this summer. I was able to go without many of my meds thanks to the legalization of cannabis creams that I place on my areas that were hurting the most. Incredible relief! Now I am careful not to overdo some of the things I did when I was much younger, but all-in-all I am able to function. The FAA would have had a field day with me if I had carried some back in my luggage so I did not risk it. But I am willing to drive my car all the way out to Colorado and back to get a box of the CBD cream that helped me so much and allowed me to temporarily get up some of my meds as well as enjoy movement in life again!

Why can’t the Feds see the value in cannabis? I was not an old hippie–though I am almost 60 years of age. I just was desperate to get out of pain which in turn, allows me to be a nicer person to others and to sleep at night.

Thank you for listening!

It is quite perplexing that the government tried to make things better but they actually got worse. Usually a government fix works like a charm. Maybe a few more laws could help.

Why can people in charge of options not understand that the majority of people who need them are not abusers? I have had both knees replaced, back surgery which needed metal plates to stabilize. My bones crumbled when the doctor tried to screw them in. I have degenerative bone disease, arthritis, and idiopathic neuropathy in both legs and feet. Also, diagnosed with chronic pain disease. I do take oxycodone limited to two per day, fentanyl patch every seventy-two hrs., and robaxin six per day. Doctor changed last med listed to three per day because a side effect was falling. I had not fallen. Each day is a trial to walk with a walker. As a senior citizen, one finds doctors do not care.

When are we going to address the entire healthcare system + the causes of addiction and pain, and stop blaming other countries, e.g., China!?! We are responsible for our situation.

I keep wanting to find a way to stop advertising by the drug companies on T.V. It makes me furious, and always ends with, “Ask your doctor about……” We are the only country in the world doing this. What can we do to stop it?

I have been taking Vicodin for many years. I have RA [rheumatoid arthritis]. My hands are crippled, my legs hurt when I walk, my right ankle turns sideways. I have had 3 broken bones in my foot in the past 7 months.

If I didn’t have 3 Vicodin a day I could not function. I can’t see how people taking only 3 or 4 Vicodin a day can get high. All it does for me is take away some of the pain.

It is difficult to get someone to go to the Drs office every month to get the prescription. I do not drive any more because I’m afraid I will kill someone. I must depend on others for my daily needs. I believe it should be up to a Dr that knows you well how much if any pain killers you get not a government agency. I am 77 years old and would at least like to spend my last year’s in comfort.

I have a very rare form of arthritis in my hands and feet. My fingers are swollen, twisted joints, and excruciating pain. I can’t write or even tie shoelaces. My feet hurt so much I have trouble walking, and don’t do any of the things I used to.

My rheumatologist told me there was literally no treatment except pain relief. He referred me to pain management. Her solution, after filling out forms that looked like they were written by a child, not to mention a hefty copay, was Tylenol. I had already tried every OTC pain reliever, not to mention the rheumatologist said they were useless. She said she “didn’t do opioids.” How is that pain management? She was nothing more than a snake oil salesman, billing hundreds to recommend Tylenol.

If other countries treated you like a person and I was physically able to do so, I would leave the US in a minute.

It makes me wonder why these drugs are so attractive in the first place and if they are so lethal, then why do people keep taking them? Who are the biggest abusers?

I remember being in high school and watching a movie on smoking pot. Maybe there was something on LSD, as well. Part of the problem was what we were being told didn’t fit into our own experiences. No one looked in the mirror after smoking pot and saw themselves as a monster. So pretty soon you thought these people don’t know what they’re talking about. On the other hand, most of us were terrified of heroin because there was enough legitimate information out there to scare us away.

I’m not saying we didn’t have drug problems then, but this seems a lot worse. And making it hard for the people who really need them is inhuman.

I’m in Pain Management – a patient – and they’ve done procedure after procedure on my back – all of which gave me various degrees of relief. My pain issues stem from a fall I sustained in December of 2014 and from an earlier fall back around 1999-2000 – I don’t remember exactly when but I remember the event. They found I had 2 compression fractures in my thoracic spine – one for each fall.

Because of other medical issues, I seem to be limited to either RS Tylenol and/or Tramadol plus certain muscle relaxers and versions of Lidocaine. I’ve asked if there’s anything else they can give besides these and the answer has basically been no!

I’m afraid of getting addicted to a pain drug because because I lost a cousin to a drug overdose. He was 37 years old and left behind a young son who is growing up without his Dad. Other men are filling that gap but it’s not the same without his Dad being there.

As always, when government restricts the innocent get hurt and the illegal goes on. I know of someone who has been in constant pain for years and can’t get her meds. Her kids told her to “go to the street corner” to get what she needs. She is NOT doing that…yet.

This crisis was made by doctors and Big Pharma – and can be solved by them. Take the opioids off of the market NOW!

David in Florida: obviously you have never suffered unrelenting pain. Be careful what you wish for because you or someone you love could need opioid meds in the future & if these drugs are taken “off the market NOW” you might be in for some unbelievable & unnecessary suffering.

Let’s see. Restricting the market hasn’t solved the problem…in fact made it worse. So it’s hard to see how removing them altogether will solve anything.

I must use morphine daily to be able to function, not because of addiction, because of the searing pain in my head after a TBI and carotid artery dissection. I must travel overseas to see my family and to save money I stay a few months. I can easily get one month prescription from my provider but must find a helpful doctor while overseas. This means that more than one doctor is prescribing which is generally a bad idea when it comes to opiates.

There can be no “one size” program. The people who are addicted need help, but those of us that are not addicted and need to function daily need reasonable access and management of our medication.

I thought this article on opiates (pain medicine) was great!!! Said what needed to be said just with out enough gusto!!!!

We need help NOW!!!!!! NOT NEXT YEAR… NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’ve NEVER abused meds and except for when my EX-husband stole my meds I’ve never had a problem keeping up with them!!! The government needs to WAKE UP NOW AND GIVE US SOME MUCH NEEDED HELP WITH OUR PAIN!!!!!!

So people committing suicide because they can’t live with horrendous chronic pain are now less important than a drug addict? Why aren’t BOTH important? And if a doc refuses to prescribe enough pain meds because s/he is afraid of the government, we have a really sad, life-threatening situation

I have Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy. It was adult onset and I worked unknowingly through my forties at trade labor until I was completely broken down. I have bulging disks, sholders that dis-joint, hips that rattle and I ache all over all the time. I’ve had more kinds of physical therapies than you can imagine.

Until the crackdown I used opiates to keep some control of the pain. I’d been taking them for many years and not too long ago my pain doc increased my dosage. Then the opioid “crisis” hit.

Over the past two and one half months my Rx has been cut by half, I’ve been made to appear every two weeks and can only get a two weeks supply. I’ve been urine tested, had my pharmacy refuse to fill my Rx and been treated like a criminal.

Before this happened, I could still have some productive days, could go out and be in society, converse with friends. Now I stay at home, the various pains are no longer in the back of my mind but now take over my very existence, always present and not ignorable. I can barely move; each physical action requires me to summon resolve. I sleep one to two hours at a time before the pain wakes me. This broken body suffered badly enough before they cut me back and they are not finished yet.

I sympathize with those who have lost loved ones to the reckless use of these drugs but I can’t help but feel that I am paying a damned high price for the carelessness of these abusers.

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