dahlia in my garden: Rio Fuego in Coleus leaves

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Should Politicians Decide Your Pain Level?

How do you feel about letting politicians decide if you should be able to take the pain medication that works for you? What if they told you your pain isn’t bad enough? Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack of California introduced federal legislation which would prevent those of us who do not have “severe pain such as late-stage cancer” to have access to OxyContin and other opioid drugs. As she puts it, “OxyContin is a powerful and dangerous narcotic drug, which has an insidious ability to turn children into addicts.”

Excuse me, but how do you accurately measure pain in a person? It’s not like taking someone's temperature or blood pressure and a number pops up.  I am not belittling those who suffer from cancer, but there are many other diseases and conditions which can cause life-altering pain. Opioid medications can greatly improve life for these people and enable them to be contributing members of society. 

I am one of those people, a chronic pain sufferer who is trying to do the best I can. I do not have cancer nor am I nearing end of life (at least, I hope not!). In the primary onset of my genetic illness it was so painful that I became depressed, stopped eating and became anorexic, and my existence was limited to being curled in the fetal position in my recliner. Being put on my medication by the National Institutes of Health Palliative Care Team gave me back a chance to have a life. Although my husband was at first upset about me being on an opioid medication, after three days of watching me and seeing how my whole demeanor changed, he said, “It’s like having my real wife back again.” You can read how I manage my pain (and it's with more than just pills) by going HERE and if you click THIS link and scroll down, you can find posts about my personal story.

How can politicians believe they possess the knowledge to make a determination on whether I am allowed to have the medication which helps me so much? How can they think it is a good thing stop my doctor from evaluating me and the two of us deciding together what is the best treatment?

Legitimate pain patients such as myself are already feeling like we are considered with suspicion and mistrust by doctors. Some of us, particularly in Florida and Washington, are already being cut off from meds we need. I know there are a lot of links here, but you really, really need to at least take a peek at these articles. You need to know what’s coming our way:

~Painkiller Access Debated as Patients Suffer

Many different drugs can kill you if used improperly. If you follow the dosage as prescribed and you do not mix them with alcohol or other legal or illegal drugs, then you will be safe. Your doctor should already have a list of what other medications and supplements you take daily, and you should know what occasional drugs are safe to take i.e. for allergies or a cough. If you are in doubt, you don’t take it until you can confirm with your doctor or a pharmacist that it is not a dangerous combination. For more advice on this read my post Protect Yourself from Your Own Medications and Medication Safety: Prevent Drug Interactions (part two). To be further responsible, keep your opioids inaccessible to others, even the members of your family. I myself use a safe; that will definitely keep your pills from becoming part of the problem in society.

There has been so much media outrage over the deaths of celebrities like Heath Ledger and Whitney Houston; I do not know the actual statistics for all drug deaths, but I would venture to say those who die from prescription drug abuse do not use their medications as prescribed or they mix them in hazardous combinations.  But even if the pills hadn’t been available to them, it wouldn’t matter. They would have used other substances, as addicts do. 

Sadly, all those teenagers that Mary Bono Mack talks about abusing pills may likely do the same as those celebrities. It’s not just opioid pain medications which can be abused; all kinds of medications from Ritalin to cough syrup are misused. Of course, there are many other easy-to-get items you can get high from (and possibly die from) like huffing spray paint, using salvia herb, sniffing rubber cement, inhaling whippets (nitrous oxide from whipped cream cans), breathing paint thinner, and lately in the news we’ve heard about kids drinking hand sanitizer - even using basic chemistry to try to extract as much alcohol as possible. 

There is no way to legislate behavior! You cannot keep people from doing stupid and dangerous things if they want to badly enough. Those who seek escapism from reality will find a way to do it, whether it’s the choking game, smoking pot, drinking alcohol, or stealing pills which are left accessible to them in the home. Where there’s money to be made, whether by getting pills illegally on the street or through the internet, we all know it’s the unavoidable truth: there are always those who are willing to take deadly risks in order to feel high or to feel nothing. 

However, we have to be careful not to throw out the baby with the bath water. There is always a good side and a bad side to everything in life - it’s all in how you use it. Look what is happening right now in Canada. On March 1, OxyContin was completely banned, in response to all the anguish over people getting addicted. Just over a month later, I found this article online: Heists, overdoses rise after Canada bans painkiller.” 

Five days later, I found another article from a Canadian paper directly speaking to my concern:  “Summit hears calls for new pain strategy: Patient groups say tens of thousands suffer in agony”

In this article, it says, “...waiting times for pain care in Canada grow longer by the day... Many patients who need opioids to help control pain can't find a family doctor willing to treat them... Even children are suffering under-treated and poorly managed pain.... Those living with chronic pain experience stigma, discrimination and the ‘shame of pain, when we are labelled as complainers, malingerers and drug seekers,’ (said Lynn Cooper, president of the Canadian Pain Coalition)... ‘Canada as a developed country has a moral imperative to do better than this.’”

To Mary Bono Mack and all other politicians out there who want to try to tell us how much pain we are feeling and dictate to our doctors what medications are allowed to be used: take a look at Canada. 

Here in the United States, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report commissioned by Congress found that 116 million Americans suffer from chronic pain and are inadequately treated.”

From this article: 
“...the majority of people with pain use their prescription drugs properly, are not a source of misuse, and should not be stigmatized or denied access because of the misdeeds or carelessness of others... Ironically, while many people with pain have difficulty obtaining opioid medications, nonmedical users appear to obtain them far too easily.”

“Pain patients have long been viewed with skepticism and suspicion, rather than understanding, presenting a barrier to care. Rising rates of prescription drug misuse, addiction and overdose have further led to the establishment of legal and regulatory barriers, such as prescription databases, that can prevent even legitimate pain patients from getting much-needed drugs.”

“Making matters worse is the media and political attention that has been devoted to painkiller abuse and addiction. Conversely, very little attention is given to chronic pain, which affects a far greater number of people. About 9.3% of the population has drug or alcohol problems serious enough to require treatment, while severe chronic pain affects at least one in three Americans.”

As a pain patient, I feel like we are being punished for just trying to live our lives. When I look at how serious the situation is for those of us living in Washington state, I get really scared. When I see what’s happening in Canada, I worry it could happen here. When I see legislation pending like Mack’s bill in Congress, I fear we will be sacrificed because of those who can’t control or do not want to control their behavior. I’m frightened of having our pain levels judged and being told we don’t suffer enough.

It’s awful to hear about people, particularly teens, who overdose. However, making a sweeping decision that opioids are “bad” and then blocking them from thousands of patients who use them legitimately, safely, and with great success is only going to make the situation worse. Where is the compassion for us? 

You can track the progress of this bill in Congress. From that page, you can also send your opinion to Rep. Mary Bono Mack.


  1. Beautifully said, for sure, Shannon. I hope politicians are paying attention. The national OD death rate in 2009 was less than 35,000. Of COURSE those deaths are tragic, and of COURSE it's important to address the issue of addiction. Yet it remains true (from the government's own statistics) that the rate of addiction is less than 3%, and when you factor out the folks with a history of abuse, it's less than 1%. The only people who suffer from this "war on prescription pain med abuse" (which I maintain has turned into a full-on war on chronic pain patients) are those of us like you and me, who have legitimate need and take the prescriptions appropriately. Addicts will ALWAYS find a source for their fix. Restricting legal access only hurts those of us who are responsible and obey the law! That seems so obvious to me. Yet it's a truth that seems to keep escaping the consciousness of our legislators and law enforcement. All we can do is keep writing about it - keep YELLING about it - and hope to educate enough people along the way that we can begin to address the problem of addiction without going overboard.

  2. WONDERFUL ARTICLE! We do have to keep yelling a screaming - strategically, as well. I tried to write Mary Bono Mack and also just leave a message -- anything to get her attention and her staff just said that she will hear from no one unless they are in her district. *Even though her stupid law will endanger many in the country who are outside her district - grrrrr! So anyone in the LOW desert area in California, please take the time to contact her office as this wonderful article says. Thank you again.

  3. Thanks I tweeted this - Mary Bono Mack is on Twitter @Rep_BonoMack

  4. Annie, Radene Marie, and Jilly,

    Thank you for reading my post! This is such an important issue!

    Can you imagine what would happen if a drug like Insulin was being abused? To us, these medications (used as prescribed) are like our insulin. They give us a chance to live life. It worries me so much to see how the media never looks at it from our point of view.

    Help me fight the good fight! Spread the word, get involved in the hearings, make your voice heard to people like Mack. We can't afford to stay silent and we must stick together!


  5. Hello Shannon, I too read Judy Foreman articles. Pain is good business, I do not think it is going to change. I have discovered the origin of Pain and found a successful permanent solution for it. Have contacted some organizations in the USA and in Canada, about helping people with Pain, the leaders of the groups that I contacted are not interested in helping, they just want to go on "managing" Pain. They do not want to loose their financial interest from the organization and the donors. I live in McAllen, Texas. I am helping people live Pain free and reach Optimal Health permanently. Everyday I help some live Pain free. It is amazing to see their faces after they no longer feel Pain. If you know any one with Pain, any kind, please, feel free to contact me. Here is my information: I am also the Author of the following family educational book: "The Human Mold - prevention from origin" My name is: Jose A. Jarimba, Independent Researcher and Adviser, on Human Physical Pain Prevention, Author, Inventor and Symmetrologist, Address: 1530 W Hall Acres Rd., Lot 13-B, Pharr, TX 78577 E-mail: thehumanmold@hotmail.com PH: (956)502-9668 Thank you, Healthy Regards!


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