Pain patients gathered around the US to bring attention to the damage caused by restrictive opioid prescribing guidelines.
While the opioid epidemic has claimed thousands of lives, the regulations meant to stem the death toll are having unintended consequences for people who live with chronic pain, according to people who rallied across the country Tuesday Jan. 29 as part of the “Don’t Punish Pain” event.
In Concord, New Hampshire, Lauren Benson was one of the younger people at the rally. Nine years ago, when she was just 23, Benson injured her back working as an EMT, and has been disabled since.
She told The Union Leader that she and many other people who need opioids to control their pain have a harder time accessing the drugs because of tightening prescription regulations. This is especially frustrating for pain patients who have used opioids responsibly for decades, she said.
“They’ve been on pain medication longer than I’ve been alive and all of a sudden it’s: ‘No, stop, no more for you.’ What are they supposed to do? They’ve been taking their meds properly.”
Many pain patients are afraid that they won’t be able to access the pills that make their lives bearable. Many have already had doctors taper their dosage or have had to go through humiliating questioning and drug tests to get their opioids.
“For over 10 years, I took the same dose and because of the Oklahoma opioid task force, my doctor had to cut my prescription by 75%,” Patrick Burdette, who attended a rally in Oklahoma City, told Fox 25 News. “It caused me to sit at home in bed most days.”
There’s a misconception that pain patients can choose alternatives to opioids, according to many patients, who say that this isn’t an option for everyone.
“My physical therapist would come to my house and I just basically sat there and cried because the pain was so bad,” said Patty Loveless, who was also at the Oklahoma rally.
“You know that horrific pain that takes about a minute or so to go away?” said Debra Hickey, whose doctor recently reduced her pain medications. “Can you imagine if you were in that kind of pain 24/7 with no opioids? That’s the pain I’m in.”
In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines about the amount of opioids that most patients should be on. This year, Medicare has plans to further restrict access to opioids. However, pain patients say that their lives are being negatively-affected by these well-intentioned measures.