Tougher pill rules pit pain patients against “junkies”

In many areas of the nation struggling with prescription painkiller addiction, measures are being implemented to tighten licensing board rules on treating pain patients. In Washington state, this crackdown has prompted a number of doctors and clinics to stop taking new chronic pain patients who are already on opiates, and in some cases to cut off current pain patients, according to this article. While the new rules don’t apply to patients with injuries, surgery, cancer or people who are dying, there has already been pushback. Some doctors say the rules are too burdensome, while pain patients say they’re being denied the medicines they have come to rely on. Others say the stricter rules will drive desperate pain patients to seek illegal pills on the black market or try risky alternatives.

But the real point of contention here seems to be one of perception. Pain patients don’t like to be perceived as “junkies” – “it’s no fun to go down to one of these druggie centers and stand in line with all these guys with tattoos and pee in a bottle,” one man says in the article. And yet, the perspective of these so-called “junkies” isn’t included. I can guarantee that if it were, this would be a different story. The 25-year-old kid who got started on Oxy at 15 doesn’t want the junkie life to be his reality, any more than the pain patient wishes to be in pain (or, if they admitted it, to be hooked on these powerful medications).

In all of my interviews of current and recovering opiate addicts, I have never heard someone say they were having fun doing it. They’re not snorting Oxys to feel good anymore, they’re doing it to maintain. The man quoted in the article should try talking to the tattooed junkie in line with him the next time he goes for his test. He might discover they have more in common than he thinks.

About Erin Marie Daly

I’m a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. My book on prescription drug and heroin addiction was published in August 2014 by Counterpoint Press.
This entry was posted in Editorial, Pain Advocates, Policy & Regulation, Trends and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Tougher pill rules pit pain patients against “junkies”

  1. Sue says:

    I’m sorry Erin that your brother died of a heroin overdose. Yet, I find I have little in common with those at the methadone clinics. I am being treated long term for chronic, intense, intractable, non-malignant pain.

    Because I am no longer curled up on the sofa wishing to die rather than live in pain, my pain treatment protocol has allowed me to live a “normal” life. In the time that I have been on schedule 2 drugs, I have earned two doctorates and applied my knowledge to help others, which has nothing to do with drugs.

    The current war on doctors writing prescriptions for these drugs and the pharmacies filling them has left thousands of people in the condition I was in on the sofa. SOME people who receive opioid drugs will become addicted. This is no different than had your brother first discovered these drugs differently. He had an addictive personality and would have found a way to fill it.

    All of us, both the addict using heroin and the patient using schedule II drugs will become physically dependent….but the patient on insulin is dependent as are many others.

    There are over 46,000 deaths per year attributed to overuse of NSAIDS!!! 46,000!!! Why aren’t you writing about them? They died over the use of drugs too!

    • Robert Warwick says:

      you are so right Sue, thank you for puting it the way I see it too. I also need my medication to make life worth living and not lay there crying because it hurts real bad. In Wisconsin the pain clinic I go to is cutting meds every month,this is crazy. they are going to force some people.to get from the streets. and do crazy things so they can live a comfortable lifestyle.The P M clinic I go to is like a kindergarten class in the waiting
      room and holding rooms there is signs up all over the walls. No voice video recording , we may call you in for drug test/ screen or pill counts at
      any time. we are not responsible for lost or stolen medication. do not talk
      to other patients about your prescription or amounts given. Do not use
      bathroom we may need urine sample. and many more.this is all.just
      getting out of hand. some people need scedule 2 medications to live a
      productive life. I also am sorry to hear about the overdoses and deaths of
      kids in our country,but help the ones that need the help. All the tests we go
      thru monthly urine tests. ocasional blood tests ect. they.have to no whos
      taking and whos not. Someone needs to set this alk straight.

    • Laurie Perro says:

      I am replying to your comment on nsaids. At age 38 I had a very bad inury. I had 3 children ages 9 months to 8 years old. Nursed everyone of them and homeschooled my oldest. That injury changed our lives forever.I couldn’t even lift a gallon of milk for the next few years. From pain patches, oxycontin for 4 yrs to the last 3 yrs of no treatment and in pain everyday. Never been arrested, never in drug treatments, I don’t even drink alcohol. Yet my Dr clearly told me he was worried about the DEA and stopped treating me. I have gained much weight and put my oldest in school last yr because I’m just in to much pain. He has been placed in honor classes. My rheumatoid Dr told me 3 months ago no more nsaids because they can cause stroke and heart attacks and I am at higher risk with clotting disorder. Now I have nothing for my pain and at best it was better then nothing. Went to ER and they gave me another nsaid that the pharmacy won’t release because of clotting problems. Mind you I have not gone to tnhe ER in yrs for any pain conditions. Xrays showed considerable worsening and my CT or MRIs are clear that I have pain daily. When I called around for a new Dr 3 yrs ago, before even getting my name to set up an appt they asked about chronic pain and informed me that they don’t see any new patients with chronic pain. Within a few weeks I refused to be treated this way and came off of 180 mg of oxycontin. Could care less about it other than I am in pain everyday. Never misused my medicine. Never ran out or switched Dr’s. I could get them off the street but I refuse. I have 3 young children to raise and they would all go without if I bought them yet they go without their Mom everyday because I am in real pain. This brings to your post on nsaids. I went back to taking 800 mg ibuprofen because it at least offers some relief and its legal. Even if its riskier then pain meds. My children have a mother that was lively and always positive. Now I hurt everyday and I’m tired of the never ending pain. I used to think I knew what pain was, I promice you, I had no idea. I live in a world that people can obtain booze for entertainment and abuse it knowing full well it has no medical use and has been the cause of innocent lives lost in accidents, arrests daily from its abuse. Yet be a 44 yr old law abiding citizen, with no negative medical or legal past and you are injured your life will change in ways you never imagined, the pain will change you when it is not controlled. The People that were abusing and selling it to kids are still getting it,its still out there. It’s the ones who are in pain who are suffering. We are the ones that it has been taking from because we don’t break the laws. A nurse mentioned I could get a Rx for medical marijuana! Are you nuts? I couldn’t function. I have done nothing wrong and don’t deserve to be treated like this or should I say untreated?

      • lisa crumpler says:

        laurie,
        you hit the nail on the head with everything you said.it is a very messed up situation.A situation that needs a solution because it is wrong to continue to punish people who have chronic illnesses.We are the ones paying the price for other peoples poor judgement.

      • Sus says:

        I’m in the same situation as all of you, but I was able to complete two years of law school with the pain under control. I can not find ANY law that does anything other than encourage doctors to HELP us, yet the doctors and pharmacies only give us grief – pointing to their own personal “beliefs” about pain medication. Chronic pain is so different than something you know will hael If you are interested in helping with a class action lawsuit, email me at wings volunteers (all one word, lower case) at the Y account. I’m fed up with paying the price for those who PURPOSELY used these meds for “fun”, when all they do for us is take away some of the pain so we can function. This is AMERICA! They can NOT do this, and where are the scholarly sources for all the bs they are using to harass those of us for whom the medication works? And, how many doctors realize that chronic pain patients will never use this as “fun”, because our bodies are not built that way when we are in debilitating pain? It’s time to sue the h*ll out of several people and organizations, and the more of us, the better.

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