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.