Letters to the Editor 8-8-18

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Chronic pain sufferers
victims of federal opioid crackdown

Dear Editor,

Columnist Sherry Robinson’s eloquent description (Aug. 1) of chronic-pain sufferers’ plight during the opioid crackdown reflects understanding otherwise lacking in the discussion, or more accurately, the kneejerk reaction to the opioid problem.

Recent bureaucratic “solutions” cause yet more work and another ordeal – of many in a failed medical system – for those who are sick and weak.

Chronic pain sufferers such as myself, as Robinson defines, will likely need pain management permanently, not as a matter of addiction but for pain that will always be there.

The Feds have decided we must go directly to the prescribing practitioner’s office and hand-carry prescriptions to pharmacies, an office visit that would otherwise likely be unneeded, and one that might force many to hire someone to help with something that should be done electronically. Meanwhile, unhindered by doctor visits, the addicts happily get their drugs smuggled from Mexico.

When a patient realizes a drug is causing dangerous side effect – side effects practitioners seem almost universally untrained in recognizing – one must first convince one’s prescriber that there is a problem (blood pressure spikes over 200 and vomiting help.), but the prescriber may hesitate, fearing regulators will accuse him or her of over-prescribing with an early prescription for a new drug.

Most prescribers are more focused on protecting their own backsides than helping patients. I was shoved onto Tramadol, a less-regulated synthetic opioid, even though it is counter-indicated for those with my medical history. When I had problems, one doctor said egregiously, “Well, if it’s bothers you, just stop taking it,” happily ignoring that – for want of doctors able to recognize symptoms any medical student should have recognized – an easily treated, but potentially fatal auto-immune disorder went undiagnosed.

As the years – and endless, fruitless doctor visits – slipped by, it damaged my digestive tract and nerves and crippled me with fatigue and pain, and his answer – easy for him – is to just stop taking it?

Robinson understands how chronic pain sufferers are called hypochondriacs. We’re also accused of working the system for drugs, of being closet alcoholics, or as happened to me, after waiting months for a specialist consult, denied a conversation, as she, angrily, informed me that until I confronted my “chronic pain syndrome,” no one could help me. I call such incidents Alice-in-Wonderland time, unable to get help – despite pleas – at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, as doctors label me and slam doors in my face. (A retired doctor friend told me the “syndrome” is likely a code someone put in my record – likely years ago – a form of blacklisting, perhaps with malice by someone I’d somehow angered.  He feels it reflects a lack of integrity, and as doctors judge patients based on second-hand and often, old, information, dangerous.)

I spent 40 years in journalism, sometimes doing stories some were angry about.  Yet, I was never treated as hatefully, dismissively, condescendingly and with such prejudice as by some doctors.

What both doctors were saying was: “Medicine has consistently failed you and now, as you try to find a way to stay in your own miserable body, we’ll act like bullies – rather than mature medical professional, eager to help you – and we’ll constantly remind you that you’re absolutely alone in this.”

Thank God that I have an understanding, non-judgmental prescriber who understands my plight. Thank God for columnists like Robinson who understand and can speak out.

But the opioid epidemic is a deep social problem, requiring many approaches. It won’t be solved by burdensome, silly regulations on the sick. Regulators must recognize that doctors and, yes, even regulators, are part of the problem too.

Kathleene Parker
White Rock