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Pain Patients Don’t Help Their Cause by Denying Reality

Posted · 5 Comments
Taking pills for headache

Chronic pain patients who rely on opioids for pain relief feel under siege.  Because of concerns about opioid addiction and overdose, federal, state and local governments have been instituting policies that discourage opioid prescribing.  In response, many physicians are indiscriminately reducing the amount of opioids they prescribe.  In some cases, they are quickly and drastically cutting dosages and sometimes even abruptly cutting patients off from their medication.  This throws patients into opioid withdrawal, which compounds the problems from losing access to medication that has been helping them to control their pain.  Patients who still have access to opioids are understandably worried too.  These policy changes and the physician response are causing significant and unnecessary suffering.

However, pain patients don’t help their cause by referring to the “so-called opioid epidemic”, denigrating people who become addicted as somehow morally deficient and to blame for their condition or suggesting government conspiracies that involve making money off denying patients pain relief are behind the new policies.  The reality is that the United States is in the midst of the worst drug epidemic in U.S. history.  This epidemic started with indiscriminate prescribing of opioids after pharmaceutical companies lied to physicians about the addictive potential of these drugs.  Hundreds of thousands of Americans have died of overdoses and millions more have become addicted.  Individuals, families and communities have been devastated and the scope of the epidemic keeps increasing.  One small town in West Virginia, for example, population 30,000, recently had 23 overdoses in one day.  Addiction treatment providers report that 75-80% of the new heroin addicts they see started with prescription opioids, many for legitimate medical purposes.

There are two reasons for the situation pain patients find themselves in and two strategies that will help improve things.  The first is that the federal government, specifically the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), criminalizes doctors who prescribe opioids for legitimate medical purposes.  Many doctors have lost their licenses, had all their assets seized and some have gone to jail because the DEA treats physicians they accuse of “overprescribing” as drug dealers.  While there have been some “pill mills’ set up by physicians for this purpose, the majority of targeted doctors are not in this class.  You can find a more extensive discussion of this problem in my book, The Truth About Chronic Pain Treatments: The Best and Worst Strategies for Becoming Pain Free. Physicians are understandably concerned about these risks.  So, one strategy that can help pain patients is a campaign to stop criminalizing doctors for legitimate prescribing.

The other problem is that physicians have little education in pain management, especially nonpharmacologic interventions, and their patients have few options for treatment due to lack of insurance reimbursement for alternative treatments.  As a result, patients with less complex pain problems whose pain could be relieved by physical therapy, chiropractic, massage, biofeedback, herbal or nutritional interventions, low level laser therapy, psychotherapy, medical marijuana or other, less risky therapies are given potentially addictive drugs instead.  Advocating for legislation that would require physician education about and insurance coverage of these alternative therapies would help all pain patients.  Please sign and share my petition related to this on www.change.org.

Pain patients are suffering because of the recent opioid prescribing changes.  However, there are more effective ways to address this issue than denying the reality of others’ suffering.

To learn more about safe and effective chronic pain treatments, read my book, The Truth About Chronic Pain Treatments: The Best and Worst Strategies for Becoming Pain Free, available on Amazon.

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5 Responses to "Pain Patients Don’t Help Their Cause by Denying Reality"
  1. Injured nurse says:

    I am absolutely appalled that an LCSW would title this to further victimize those in pain and to blame chronic pain patients for perpetuating an agenda to create a public perception against those in pain.
    This is absolutely shameful for a clinician to take a stance such as this. You cite that we are alluding to government conspiracy yet where is the data on those who use medication safely? Data of those who also have tried the alternative therapies, may not have access to said therapies, and use them concomitantly? Where is this data for the public Ms. Perlin? Is there a panel of experts who suffer from chronic pain on the decision making level for the changes for the reform?
    Yet you cite we are conspiracy theorists blaming addicts? Where do you get this information? The funding exists for addiction in some instances yet I don’t see any funding for alternative therapies for chronic pain sufferers. Not that I personally blame addiction, but one does get rather frustrated when the money pot seems tp be imbalanced.
    Do you live in mind bending chronic pain? Have you lost your career? Your marriage? Your income and identity?
    Sure we can all go to counseling but guess what? That will not solve bone pain nor nerve damage. Cbt will help you adapt to changes, but tell me who drives us there, pays for it and ,for how long? My pain condition is forever.
    Medical Marijuana let’s break this down : it is not legal in all states, the card is $100 min, the trial and error of finding a strain and an option that is safe for driving is no easy task.
    CBD : is a. Wonderful option also very expensive. Min $40 per month.
    Massage: cost again and who pays and drives us there
    Accupuncture: This was my 1st suggestion!!! Yes because I am involved in my care and not an addict no matter how much you label me. My condition spreads with needles.
    So what you’re missing here Ms. Perlin is that these folks are indeed trying these things and exploring options outside of opiates. You have missed a crucial component of your research.
    I remember when I sat in my Ivory tower judging chronic pain patients, my karma caught up with me and ruined my nursing career of 25 years.
    I am very much aware of every angle of this both professionally and now intimately.
    For you to title this as such os further victimizatizing a group of people that are struggling to find a way to stay alive.
    I talk to on average 4 suicidal persons a week and this is only because I have to set my own boundaries to keep myself intact.
    You are doing even more damage to a community of people who you know nothing about.
    You have jumped on a bandwagon to make your own profit on the backs of sick people.
    The blood and deathtoll is adding up via suicides.
    I wish you the best in your book sales.
    Good work!

  2. Eric S. LaRose says:

    Unfortunately, you have not lived my reality. For over 20 years I have had to fight constant & severe pain due to extreme sciatic nerve root damage. During that time I have actually gone to pain management specialists, doctors that are TRAINED to deal with my condition. I have been through nearly every treatment conceivable (except for having the nerve frozen, a specialty of one of my doctors which, since that nerve is essential, I was not a candidate for) and have found that the ONLY method of maintaining a semi-functional quality of life was through what is now considered an unacceptable level of medication. This was a method of treatment that I repeatedly fought against, having taken myself of all meds on three separate occasions. Each time, as my level of activity increased, so did the level of pain to the point of debilitation. So, yes, there is an opioid epidemic… if prescription meds are conflated with heroin & illicit fentanyl. And to take the word of addicts as to how they got started is just plain gullibility… I have a son who put us through 4 years of hell in the juvenile justice system & too many treatment programs to count & believe me, his start on heroin & meth came from associating in those programs with others, as he started out with marijuana. I am more than willing to discuss your point of view with you… but you must understand the underlying issue. That is that patients in constant, agonizing pain feel, rightly or wrongly, that they are being made the scapegoats for other peoples’ misuse of medication & there is merit to this point of view. They didn’t create the addicts vs patients dichotomy, the media & politicians did.

  3. Misty says:

    Wow!! You make it sound so easy. Like there are ways to be pain free , umm yeah I have been through every type of “alternative” treatment and it either made me worse or got my hopes up and did not work.
    You are wrong about dr’s indiscriminately prescribing pain meds because back in 95 they were not handing them out and were very clear about the addictive properties .
    If we are in a so called epidemic , it is not due to the fact patient’s it is because there are too many people faking pain for profit.

    • Sonja Potts says:

      Denying that there’s an epidemic when 36,000 died of legitimate prescription opioid overdoses last year helps no one. And by the way, I’ve been on the chronic pain groups and seen the plethora of “legitimate pain patients” who take “extra pills” when they “can’t take the pain” and end up short at the end of the month. You may want to research the term hyperalgesia and how it affects opioid patients and pain levels before making misinformed statements.

  4. Don Thomas says:

    The war on drugs has been going on since 1904. Always someone that believe we are not capable of governing our own lives. I’m not condoning use of drugs but the war is unwinnable there is too much profit to be made by the black market and by restricting legitimate medication it only makes the situation worse by opening new avenues for the black market. And if you do not believe there is no money to be made by restricting pharmaceutical medication then you are out of touch with reality. Many legislators that are writing these laws and continue to dictate how doctors medicate us are making tons of money by investing in methadone clinics and pain management clinics all over the country. There is no conspiracy to it because it is a fact. Politicians are not going to help us in any way the only thing that can be done to get them out of our lives is to pass legislation of our own to hold lawmakers accountable for passing laws that has negative effects on our lives. It’s as simple as that. And it will continue to get worse if they are not put in check. The more sheeplike people become the more wolflike government will get. Unfortunately we have so many individuals that has chosen the political arena as a profession and there’s nothing wrong with that. The only problem most of these people arrive straight from college without ever holding a job in the work force many have been exposed to Marxist professors and have a mindset that nothing is wrong with forcing their will upon us because we are to ignorant to think for ourselves.

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