People with chronic pain did not cause the opioid epidemic

A great deal of people are uncomfortable with how often I address the “opioid epidemic” and how it hurts people with chronic pain. I think this is because healthy people like to imagine that doctors can fix everything and if something isn’t fixed that it must be the person’s fault. Therefore if someone is in pain they aren’t really being denied treatment for it, they just aren’t trying hard enough. Unfortunately the reality for people with chronic pain is very different. It doesn’t matter if you’re the perfect patient, doctors will no longer prescribe pain medicine.

Even if you’re lucky enough to find a doctor who will treat your pain, good luck getting your insurance to cover your prescription or your pharmacy to fill it. These days a pharmacy can refuse to fill your prescription and then call your doctor and tell them they were wrong to give you this medicine. Opioid hysteria has gotten so severe that now we’re bypassing the judgement of doctors and listening to pharmacists instead. My opinion of doctors has never been high, but they go through years of medical school for a reason. While pharmacists are educated they are not doctors and are not familiar with individual patients. So why are we granting pharmacist’s more power than doctors? Oh yeah, everyone on pain medication is an addict.

Here’s the problem though, the opioid epidemic does not come from prescribed pain medicine or chronic pain patients. In fact 75% of all opioid misuse starts with people using medication that wasn’t prescribed for them. Also 90% of addiction starts in the teenage years when teens are also misusing alcohol and hard drugs in addition to pain killers.  Have we banned alcohol yet? Because 88,000 people die of alcohol related deaths per year and no one seems to care. Instead we ban pain killers even though less than one percent of those who were well-screened for drug problems developed new addictions during pain care. In other words, people with chronic pain are not the problem and were likely never the problem.

People with chronic pain are not the problem

It gets even more ridiculous when we confront the fact that cutting the supply of prescription opioids isn’t even stopping opioid initiation,  because addicts are just going straight to heroin. So instead of stopping drug use, people are starting on alternative sources that are much more harmful. When you hear on the news about the opioid epidemic and the opioid crisis and how bad things are in this country because of prescription drugs, they are actually straight up wrong. This is bad journalism. The majority of opioid deaths are due to heroin and illicit Fentanyl

With all this information available (I got it from government funded studies!) why are the government, the media, doctors, and pharmacies determined to blame overdose deaths on people with chronic pain? I don’t really know for sure, but my guess is that it’s easy. It’s easy to blame people who are hurting when you don’t know what it’s like. Instead of blaming the lack of addiction treatment in this country and dealing with that problem, it’s easier to pretend like people in pain are just fakers looking for a fix. Rather than treating people in pain appropriately and actually finding the cause, it’s easier to pretend that the pain is all in their head or that they’re just not trying hard enough. It’s easy to cut them off of pain medication and then shrug your shoulders when they commit suicide. Because anyone who commits suicide must be an addict, it just couldn’t be because they could no longer live in agonizing pain.

Every day it gets harder and harder for people in pain to receive treatment. Everyone wants to pretend like people in pain don’t exist, but unfortunately for them 11% of Americans live in chronic pain and we are not going away. I personally will not stop addressing this problem until it is fixed.


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7 thoughts on “People with chronic pain did not cause the opioid epidemic

  1. The opioid crisis in the U.S. is both sad and alarming to read about. My own country (Singapore) has always taken the opposite route, in that we are extremely strict on drugs and pain meds here. There is a death penalty for carrying small amounts of illegal drugs, and doctors often discourage patients from taking too many pain pills. Yet at the same time, I cannot imagine living in the U.S. at all because healthcare there seems like an overwhelming task where you have to keep fighting for. It sounds quite insane from everything I’ve read.

    1. It really is insane. Americans are so weird about healthcare. We like to pretend that if you just work hard enough your finances won’t be destroyed by health problems, but of course that’s never the case. Interesting that there is a death penalty in Singapore for drugs, I bet there’s a lot drug dealing going on!

  2. My inspiring blogs this week and my feature this week is The Opioid Crisis in America #thyroidthursday

    My blogs are:
    @chronicmoms
    Ribbonrx
    @thelessonsoflyme
    @charlottedebsofficial

  3. Pingback: Thyroid Thursday -
  4. I am so glad I came across your blog on opiods. Over past week I have read every article I can get my hands on. I was diagnosed with fibromialgia in 2006. At that time I was really having a hard time accepting the diagnosis. I really felt that they could prescribe me a pill and I would feel better. But that’s not how it works! It’s alot of trial and error. It’s alot of painful days and depression. I became so frustrated and depressed that I tried to take my life in 2007. Anyway, I FINALLY found a Pain Management Docter that didn’t make me feel like I was just a complainer. He is very compassionate. I am on opiates. Adding them to my pain management regimemt has made all the difference in my ability to take care of my family and myself. What is going to happen when I see my doctor November 27th? Is he going to start cutting me off? I have worried about this all week, which causes stress and stress causes pain. Do you have any idea of what the future holds?

    1. It all depends on your doctor. Some are still treating patients despite the danger to themselves, many are not. There’s so much information about pain medication out there from main stream sources I unfortunately don’t see things getting any better soon

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