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I Am Not The Problem!

On Tuesday, a twenty-three-year-old Sarasota, Florida man (and I use that term loosely) gave his nine-month pregnant girlfriend, also twenty-three, a fatal dose of Fentanyl. He now faces two counts of manslaughter. His cry, while his pregnant girlfriend lay unconscious on the floor, was “I went too far.” The local newspaper reported that this young man had no legal access to pain medication and that his girlfriend ‘nagged’ him about her pain from the pregnancy. His first instinct, unbelievably, was to seek illegal, extremely powerful drugs. He allegedly purchased one pill which he split in half. He took one half and gave the rest to her. 

It’s astounding to me that this young man’s first thought was illegal drugs. Not going to the nearest Walgreens or CVS to pick up acetaminophen or ibuprofen, something, ANYTHING but illegal drugs. Something safer for her and the baby. And herein lies the problem with the so-called ‘opioid crisis.’ It’s a mindset. It’s a behavior. This young man is the problem.

Yesterday, I sat in the office of my interventional pain specialist waiting to see my doctor. It was one of the urine drug screenings that is required by law to get the pain medication upon which I rely to keep my pain to a low roar. An easel held a welcome sign for a new doctor in the practice. Under his picture and the list of his rather impressive credentials, a sentence was printed: “Stop opioid dependence before it becomes an addiction.” 

Really? Really?

The sweet lady sitting to my left overheard me talking to Hubby, and she nudged me when she heard me say, “I suppose this is next.” We talked extensively about the injustice that chronic pain patients have been facing since the government has declared war on opioids, and on us by extension. Her story isn’t unlike others I have heard, either from friends or just reading various articles online. And that this is happening to the innocent among us is infuriating. We are NOT the problem.

When I got the inspiration for this column a quick Internet search turned up article after article about overdose deaths from fentanyl in one form or another. Another quick search for ‘hydrocodone overdose deaths’ only turned up information on what dose of it is lethal. The hard truth is that the majority of opioid overdose deaths are from illicit drugs, most of the time laced or cut with fentanyl. 

In 2017, seventy-eight percent of the states had an increase in overdose deaths, and of those states, fifty-nine percent were considered ‘statistically significant’ increases. The CDC released its revised guidelines for opioid prescribing in 2016 so that being the case, why is the rate of overdose increasing? In the meantime, an incredible 18 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain illnesses are undertreated or have been totally denied medically necessary prescription pain medications. Could it be that criminals and addicts never obey the law? When will lawmakers realize or recognize that they cannot legislate morality? We are not the problem!

Where the number of prescription medications that cause overdoses gets confused is in the numbers of people who obtain those prescriptions illegally, either by stealing from, buying from or just being given the drugs by a friend or family member. This pie chart, from SAMHSA (pg22), illustrates the breakdown of where illegal prescriptions are obtained. These people are the problem.

Figure26

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The majority of people who rely on opioid pain medications do not abuse them, but we are the ones being abused, treated like addicts, junkies, and fakers when we simply seek help. We have been tapered drastically or discontinued suddenly. The ones who fall through the cracks end up being statistics, the ones who can no longer handle the pain and choose death over suffering. This is the national disgrace. This is the American embarrassment. We are not the problem.

Those who have followed this blog for any length of time remember my voluntary opioid taper last year. My doctor told me it was a wise decision to undertake it on my own because the dose of morphine sulfate I was on 24 months ago is now illegal. One of the reasons I decided to blog my experience with the taper was for the benefit of those who, for whatever reason, needed to taper. There was precious little information about opioid tapering from a chronic pain standpoint, what to expect with withdrawals and pain increase. I believe that if my experience helps just one person enduring this injustice at the hands of unethical laws, doctors, and pharmacies, it will be worth it. 

So I have two months’ worth of pain relief thanks to my co-pay and a practice full of doctors who believe in helping people in pain and are willing to put in the extra hours and absorb the risk. I have jumped through another bunch of government hoops to live somewhat comfortably until February when the anxiety sets in once again. I’m never sure when the day will come that he looks me in the eye and says, “My hands are tied. I’m sorry.” 

I just want to live my life and be left alone. I am not the problem. 


If you know someone who could use the information on this blog, please share it. I do not benefit financially from web traffic to it. I simply want to help those who need the information. 

I am not a medical professional, and as such, I cannot give medical advice. What I can do, however, is offer support, a shoulder to cry on, and a word of encouragement, from someone who has been there. Much love and peace to you.