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Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Only twice in my 30-plus years of living with chronic pain have I had a problem getting my narcotic medication.

The first time a relative lied to a doctor.

I was visiting from out-of-state. The pain was bad. I went to take a codeine pill and realized I had not brought enough with me.

Checking The Label“What if the pain gets out of control?” I cried. “What am I going to do?”

The relative called the doctor who was covering for my regular one.

“She’s ranting and raving about not having her drugs,” she told him.

He believed her. And he refused to write a new prescription. He also wrote in my chart: “Her behavior indicates she may be abusing her drugs.”

My regular doctor told me about the note. He added a larger one: “She has been taking this drug for years. She has never had a problem with it.”

The second episode again involved a doctor other than the one I usually saw.

I came in every 6 months to get my prescriptions, for another medication and for codeine.

“How often do you take the codeine?” he asked.

Not thinking I needed to be cautious I said, “About 3 pills a day.”

“I see your doctor gives you 120. I’m only giving you 90.”

“But three is an average. Some days I need more.”

“No. You said three.”

He didn’t care that it wasn’t enough. He didn’t notice 90 a month did not account for months with 31 days.

Again, my regular doctor took care of it.

Golf Pass

“I know you need 120 a month. Just make sure you only see me from now on,” he said.

It was astounding to me that after decades of taking this drug without any problem, I was questioned, disbelieved, and treated as a drug seeker rather than a patient with chronic pain.

I understand narcotics have a way of finding their way onto the streets and into the pockets of bad guys. I get that there are unscrupulous doctors and so-called “clinics” in it only for the money. But don’t presume me guilty. I should not feel humiliated because I asked for what I needed.

A friend asked me, “What happens to those in chronic pain if they can’t get the meds they need?”

I had no answer.

I have not heard of cancer patients being deprived of their pain pills. Diabetics are not told, “You have taken too much insulin this month so no more for you.”

Maybe the issue goes back, not only to the invisibility of pain, but to the subjectivity and concept of pain. Maybe the bias is innate in our health care system.

According to a recent study in The Journal of Pain, the annual cost of chronic pain is as high as $635 billion a year, which is more than the annual cost of cancer, heart disease and HIV/AIDS combined.

But where does the money go? Just one percent of research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is dedicated to pain research. Last year, the NIH spent $396 million on pain research, but $5.6 billion on cancer research.

It is time for the government to realize it can’t have it both ways; with the DEA working to decrease the ability of doctors to give opioid medications to chronic pain patients, while funding for pain research and finding alternatives to opioids remains miniscule compared to other disorders.
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  2. This is an all too familiar story. And as a chronic pain patient (Lupus, Interstitial Cystitis, Pudendal Neuralgia) it's a story that haunts me. I have the fear...worrying, "What if my Dr up and quits? (I had one for 7+ yrs that did just that), what if a new pharmacist is on duty, as the ones who know me are terrific...New ones more often than not treat me as an addict.".
    And I use the analogy that blood pressure meds aren't rationed..diabetes meds aren't rationed.. Pain, chronic pain, is a REAL physiological condition. For instance, my heart rate, blood pressure go up when I'm in pain.
    Now that the DEA has put Hydrocodone in with the C11 meds, here's another thing to worry about. I've been told more times than I can count "Get your stress down, that'll help your pain.". How can I get my stress down, when so many things are out of my control??!
    I don't relish taking pain meds, quite the opposite, I fought going on them..but my quality of life is better if I have less pain (go figure..).
    Thank you Carol, for your honesty, and willingness to share personal issues with the world. I pray that you're not in too much pain today..