A Country of Drug Seekers (???)

Posted on May 23, 2017 

By Steve Ariens, PharmD., (LINK TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE!)pain is inevitable

(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)

 

My Reply:

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+)

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How To Find a New NORMAL & Change Your Game!

otherside
What you once took for granted (walking, working, taking care of family & yourself) can suddenly become difficult when faced with any chronic disease & chronic pain.  What you once did effortlessly can start to look like a mountain to climb when managing illness-so what do you do?

Well, first you examine your status honestly.  You assess your abilities. Here’s some of those questions you may be asking yourself-and some suggestions to help you find a NEW GAME to make them happen!  After all, life isn’t going to stand still-the kids still need to eat, the house still needs cleaning & stocking, and very likely-this means you MUST adapt.

FINANCIALLY SPEAKING!

Can you work, but not reliably?  You may not be able to punch a clock any longer-but you’ve got some energy and love for keeping some part of your career in your life? You HAVE OPTIONS but you must make them happen!  They aren’t going to come to you-you must prepare!

You may want to apply for social security disability.  You are entitled to the money you put into the system if you can no longer work or earn what you used to because of chronic illness.  You can apply even if you still work as long as you do not make over $1020 monthly. It’s time-consuming but do-able.  You can apply online at http://www.ssa.gov.  You don’t need a lawyer to apply-and most lawyers actually want to wait until you get your first denial to take your case-so applying is the first step.  Remember-this isn’t an easy or immediate solution.  This is thinking ahead for your future-it may take up to 3 years to get approved (no guarantees either) but stay vigilant. It’s usually a matter of WHEN, not IF that you will be awarded SSDI. So hang in there-and get started!

Now that your thinking long term-you can think short term.  What about NOW, what about the sick days, the doctor appointments, the unreliability factor in your work or job performance & attendance.  Well-I suggest take it head on.  Ask for part time and keep records of your physical health and lack of work ability.  This will be important to your SSDI case if you have applied.  

Asking for less hours is a necessary tool to keep your stress levels down and your disease symptoms minimized.  It’s a MUST.  You may end up surprised that working less hours brings you better health management.  If you can take your work home, ASK!  You never know unless you bring it to your boss’s attention-if you are working in an occupation that you can be productive from home-making your own hours can take away that issue of not being able to do a 9 to 5!  It’s always worth a try!  If possible, you may want to consider working as an independent contractor-this way you can continue your work at your own pace-and from home, where it can be much easier to manage your health, it keeps you in the career you love, and continues to bring in an income!  If there was ever a time or reason to give being independent a shot, THIS IS IT! If the company you work for or your occupation doesn’t offer a “work from home” alternative-maybe spend this time looking for one.

For immediate financial needs if you reduce your hours or find yourself out of work due to health issues is to apply for state help.  Food stamps are usually available on an emergency basis, you can apply online in most states and many cities have community services that might be able to help pay rent and utilities.  Churches and synogogues can be very helpful assets as well.  You may be able to find roomates to share expenses, caregiving opportunities or bartering options!

Once you’ve got your long term and short term financials down-it’s time to manage your home, your family and your disease.  Once again, you’ve got to change your game!

MANAGING YOUR HEALTH!

Get your doctors and specialists in order.  Make a folder for all your medical records (labs, doctors notes, etc) and keep it updated. This is two-fold. One-it will be necessary for your disability case later on, and Two-you can better coordinate your healthcare this way.  Bring your newest labs, tests, dx’s & list of meds to all your appointments.  This shows your docs you mean business and your taking your care seriously.

Ask questions!  If you need better pain control, it’s time to get that referral to a pain management specialist.  They can offer ways to manage pain that go beyond simply taking medications. There are procedures, cortisone shots, nerve blocks, and surgeries that can make your quality of life BETTER!  Now’s the time to take care of YOU!

Get all your specialist appointments caught up, see your general practitioner and get all the referrals you need to your specialists!  Now is the time.  Again, this will help you manage your chronic disease & give you the paperwork and info you need for your disability case.  Remember ASK QUESTIONS at your appointments!  If you are undertreated, or suffering, SAY SO, and ask.  It might be time to change your medications!  If your not feeling that your doctor is “on your team”-FIRE HIM/HER!  Docs are like night & day.  A good fit is very important. It can mean the difference in your attitude, your pain level, the very basis of how you feel about your disease can change with better quality control of your healthcare. Make those good choices NOW!

And lastly- HOW TO BRING IT HOME!

Time to manage your household.  The players have changed so your game must change too!  You must try to take control of the house by managing your time and abilities!  DELEGATE CHORES!  It’s all about the organization of the household and family working as a TEAM!

Cook meals in advance if you can and freeze them for another day.  Take your time preparing meals, doing the prepwork in stages.  (Cut up the veggies, then go sit down.  Go back & do some more, etc)  Get family to help out with the everyday homecare things like washing clothes, putting them away, walking the dog, doing the dishes, straightening the house!  You can no longer do it all.  You can even arrange a meeting with family and your doctor to discuss what he/her thinks of your abilities-having a knowledgeable professional to relate your needs to your family can go a LONG WAY!  This could be your doctor, your parents, anyone other than you!

It’s all about QUALITY OF LIFE and FINDING that QUALITY!   You may still be able to do the things you love, keep the career you’ve worked so hard for and wanted but in a different way!  You won’t know until you try, and you really have no choice if your taking care of a family!  Make it easier on YOURSELF!  You deserve it!

JJ