Just When You Thought Having Chronic Pain Couldn’t Get Any Harder…
Getting pain medication has become a shockingly, deeply distressing and disturbing experience for the last year and a half. As time goes on it becomes more and more so, and it seems hard to believe that, although pain medication is often an essential part of managing pain, with all the wonderful work that science and researchers have done to provide us with a number of medications to address and truly help with pain, the government is now making it all but impossible to access that very thing.
For the chronic pain patient in significant pain this has become a terrifying time.
According to Pain News Network, a non-profit organization and website, as of September 2016 nearly 60% of chronic pain patients, a staggering statistic, are having difficulty in respect to their pain medication.
For years patients of all types, from the post-surgical to the injured to those with debilitating disease, there have been and continue any number of reasons for needing and using pain medication. Recently however the U.S. government has become alarmed due to an increase in opioid prescriptions and a rise in opioid-related deaths. If you consider our aging population, the increased efficacy and variety of today’s medications due to scientific/pharmacological advances and the ubiquitous media, with a few recent deaths by celebrities from opioids, the degree of alarm surrounding narcotic prescription medication becomes questionable.
A good example would be a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publication A Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, which, if you look at it with care find the numbers therein cause for concern. You begin to recognize that, in fact, the hysteria currently surrounding opioids may be misguided, blown out of proportion. Take for example the fact that there are 249 million narcotic prescriptions written a year and then compare that to the fact, which initially sounds frightening, that 40 people a day die from overdoses “involving” prescription opioids. Well, if they had chosen instead to display that data as a percentage you would see that the number of prescriptions written, 6 ten-thousandths of a percent, lead to an overdose death. It doesn’t sound quite so alarming then does it? The display of data always call for careful critical thinking on the reader’s part don’t you know.
So the result of all this “uproar” over prescription pain medication has resulted in the DEA reclassifying opioids from a class 3 to a class 2 drug. With that move the oversight and penalties for Doctors and Pharmacists who deal with opioids has become a lot more hazardous, labor intensive (think, if you’ve ever experienced one, of an IRS audit) with accompanying stiff financial and potentially, even licensing consequences. As all of this is why many people, predictably, are over reacting.
As a chronic pain patient who needs such medications you may be finding it much more difficult to get them from your Doctor or even with finding a Doctor who will prescribe them. And then there are problems at your pharmacy getting your prescriptions filled. You may hear things such as “there is a supply problem” (manufactures state that there is no such thing nor does the FDA have any such medications on their “shortage” listings), or Pharmacists may say that “they can only give such medications to their ‘regular’ customers”.
In either event, what is a patient who needs these medicines to do?
At this point your first step is to try, obviously, to find a Doctor and/or Pharmacist who can help you. If you are unsuccessful you will need to kick into your full advocate mode and encourage your loved one’s and support team to help as well, the more the merrier as at this point in time it may be quite a project and too, business’ and the government need to hear that their choices regarding restricting these medicines are having dire consequences.
Bear in mind~ many people who suffer from chronic pain are incapable of advocating; they are simply to sick or lack the resources. Your act of advocacy represents all of those who cannot care for themselves.
The following is a list of agencies to write to or file grievances with:
To report a Pharmacist who has denied you your medicine contact the National Association of Board of Pharmacies
To report an insurance company that is not helping you get the very thing you pay them for, healthcare, contact the National Association of Insurance Commissioners
Contact the Drug Enforcement Agency (the DEA), specifically the DEA Regulatory Division, who put in place the regulation moving prescription opioids from a Class 3 to a Class 2 drug. There general information page can be found here.
Contact the CDC, who are responsible for the data gathering and are largely responsible for the great push behind restricting these medicines.
If we are to create change, and this, our present situation, is intolerable, we, and those who care for us, must try. We must, as Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change we wish to see.”