By Steve Ariens, PharmD., (LINK TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE!)
(Editor’s Note—For the past several years, retired pharmacist Steve Ariens has shared his thoughts about chronic pain from the perspective of both a pharmacist and a husband whose wife suffers from chronic pain. I received an email from him this past weekend which started an interesting discussion about whether chronic pain patients are “giving up”. Both of us sense a frustration. I asked for permission to republish this column he originally posted on his own site, pharmaciststeve.com. Please read it and then share your opinion on the “state of chronic pain” these days.)
There are about 4.5 BILLION prescriptions filled in the USA every year – in community pharmacies and via mail order pharmacies. – We have some 320 million residents—doing the math that means that each person would have 14 prescriptions filled each year.
Most of the prescriptions are filled by people who are “seeking to improve their quality of life”.
This time of year a lot of those “drug seekers” are known as ALLERGY SUFFERs–they seek out antihistamines, cortisone nasal sprays and other substances used to control their allergy symptoms and improve their quality of life.
No matter what disease state or condition/syndrome a person is dealing with.. all too many will seek out some medication(s) to help to control the undesirable symptoms from the disease.. basically.. the person seeks out to improve his or her quality of life.
Some groups try to draw a line between themselves as being chronic pain patients and those who abuse opiates.
If you take a step backwards and try to look at those who take/use opiates and controlled substances.. and consider those that take them legally and those who take them illegally– because our society will not allow them to obtain them legally you ask” Are they all that different ?
Both are typically suffering from depression, anxiety and physical and mental “pain”. Both are trying to “improve” their quality of life… just what their own opinion/definition of “improve” may be can be quite different.
Those who are suffering from the mental health issues of addictive personalities.. they have demons in their head and/or monkeys on their back. They are just “seeking” to improve their lives by attempting to silence those demons and monkeys. Their “high” is getting some solitude from those things causing them mental pain.
Those that suffer from chronic pain are also “seeking” their own particular “high”, but their high is to calm the pain that torments them and keeps them from participating in a “normal family life”.
IMO, there are those in the chronic pain community that want to point fingers at those who our society has labeled as “addicts” and continue to point out “that is not us/me”… it is “them”..
People with mental health issues have always been “looked down upon” .. just told to “suck it up and get over it”… our health insurance system has normally had poor coverage for seeing mental health professionals.
Is this part of the puritanical thread in our societal fabric that is still part of the “witch hunts” from the late 17th century in our country ?
Are those in the chronic pain community doing themselves any favors by agreeing with the DEA that those with mental health addictive issues are “bad people” and CRIMINALS?
Recently our previous Surgeon General declared that addiction is a mental health issue and not a moral failing http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/vivek-murthy-report-on-drugs-and-alcohol_us_582dce19e4b099512f812e9c
Does it make any sense that two different major Federal agencies and members of the Presidential Cabinet (DOJ & Surgeon General) are on opposite sides of the same coin… in dealing with people that are suffering from chronic conditions that opiates and controlled substance can help people deal with their health issues?
(Thoughts on this? And the state of chronic pain these days?—Please share in National Pain Report’s commentary section HERE: (NatPainReportCOMMENTS)
Hi Pharmacist Steve!
I’ve often wondered about the term “Self Medicating”. It’s encouraged if you have an allergy and let’s say, use benedryl and calomine. It’s fine if you take an aspirin or tylenol for a headache. It’s just dandy if you take an antihistamine for hay fever or alka seltzer for a stomach ache. Got constipation? Sure, take a laxative! No problem!
But live with chronic pain and want relief? Want to self medicate for that? OH NO, Now you’re labeled an addict!
Most of us chronic pain patients aren’t looking for a high. Like you said Steve, we’re just looking for quality of life, same as every “self-medicating” person is doing for their “acceptable” conditions. Studies say actual chronic pain patients don’t become mentally addicted…And so you gotta ask yourself..does a person with a bad cough get mentally addicted to their cough medicine they have to take to calm the cough?
In all honesty, I’m tired of the stigma attached to opiates and really tired of one set of people (who usually have never experienced chronic pain & have no medical training whatsoever) deciding for the rest of us what is good for us. We are individuals, should be reviewed individually and we should be allowed to live our lives the best way we can!
Sincerely, JJ (Lupus, TN+)