Controlling the abuse of prescription pain medication may be necessary but the importance of decreasing drug abuse does not outweigh the needs of millions of people who suffer from chronic and debilitating pain.
In this guest, Simone Flynn explains why fibromyalgia patients are having such a difficult time obtaining prescription pain medication.
If you have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, it’s likely you have a lot of difficulty in dealing with people in your life who do not understand what you are going through.
The constant pain, fatigue, restless nights, and anxiety. can make simple daily functions seem like climbing Mt. Everest. For some, getting out of bed, getting to work or school, and completing the day is a huge accomplishment. The day-to-day grind of living with fibromyalgia can be enough to completely wear someone out.
When fibromyalgia patients try to obtain pain management to relieve symptoms, they are often confronted by hesitant and judgmental doctors, and their symptoms are viewed with suspicion, rather than understanding. Because so many people have abused prescription pain medication in recent years, those who truly need pain meds are suffering: not only because of physical pain but prevalent social stigma.
Typically, when a doctor prescribes pain medication it is for something visibly broken or injured. Back pain, surgeries, chronic pain associated with cancer, are all valid reasons why someone would need prescription pain medication.
While a somewhat mysterious disease, fibromyalgia pain cannot be seen through an X-ray machine: it is associated with nerves and brain chemistry. Doctors believe the pain is associated with increased levels of chemicals in the brain that signal pain. This means that minor pain becomes major for any individual diagnosed with the disease. Because there are no signs of pain, doctors might misconceive fibromyalgia patients as addicts attempting to obtain powerful narcotics. For many legitimate patients suffering from severe pain, this becomes their greatest frustration.
The reason so many people are having a difficult time trying to get prescription narcotics for fibromyalgia is related to the prescription pill abuse rates in recent years. In 2010, there were over 5 million prescriptions written for pain medications in America. With the number of prescriptions rising, so did the number of overdoses, addictions, and deaths associated with prescription pain medication.
The Centers for Disease Control claim over 165,000 Americans have died because of prescription pain medication from 1999-to 2014. Data from the CDC also shows that in 2014, prescription pain medication overdoses passed car accidents for the number 1 cause of injury-related deaths. This forced the federal government to create more prescription regulations, making it difficult for legitimate pain patients to get the medications they need.
As fibromyalgia patients already know, prescribed pain medication can be highly addictive. Since new regulations were enforced, doctors have been told to limit strong pain medications to cancer patients and those living with severe chronic pain.
Andrew Kolodny, director of Physicians Responsible for Opioid Prescribing, called this move a “game-changer”. Kolodny went on to say that we are finally realizing that we have been prescribing way too strong pain medications for pain that do not warrant the prescription. While some doctors are guilty of over-prescribing, the result has left thousands of Americans addicted to prescription pain medications
Prescription pain medications for long-term pain management can put the user at risk of becoming addicted and suffering from a host of other health issues as a result of the medication—but some do really need the help. When people start taking medications like OxyContin, Percocet, or Vicodin, the feelings of euphoria might outweigh the long-term problems these drugs cause, and the user learns to use them whenever they want to feel better
When someone transitions from pain management patient to drug addict, it can seem to happen overnight.
The frustration for fibro patients comes when they are denied medications even though they use them properly and are not addicted. Still, seeking appropriate relief for pain management can be extremely discouraging. Even more frustrating is the standard medical reliance upon prescription pain medication, especially when less effort is given to exploring misunderstood alternative methods.
Because there is no way of concluding the legitimacy of the pain, many fibromyalgia patients are being cut off of prescription pain medicines or drastically reduced. Some fibromyalgia patients may find non-narcotic pain medication or other medicines that can help with their fibro symptoms.
Holistic addiction treatments focus on physical and mental health and have numerous tactics that may be helpful for fibromyalgia patients. Some holistic addiction treatments have positive mental effects and include exercise, stretching, yoga, massage, acupuncture, and more, which can all help ease your pain. Mental exercises like meditation and deep breathing have been proven as positive holistic addiction treatments as well.
Although the pain medication problem is frustrating, and you have been taking your medicine properly, it is no reason to give up your battle. It’s important to remember that while social stigma can feel oppressive and unfair, self-stigma also contributes to this stereotype.
Fibromyalgia patients are strong, resilient people who can fight through the toughest pain: whether dealing with stigma, physical pain, or just a pain-in-the-butt doctor.
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