In Washington State for example, the State legislature has regulated opioid use, stating who can receive these medication, who can prescribe them, under what conditions and setting an upper limit on dosage and number of pills prescribed. So that doesn't help any of us with chronic pain because now legislators, not doctors, are dictating what health care decisions are going to be made.
Selena: Laws like that come from a mindset that I don't understand. I don't get why you don't adequately treat people who are in pain and you pass laws that withhold a pain treatment option that might help.
Maggie: Well, opioid pain medication is often vilified because it is morphine-based, so people think it must have something to do with illicit drugs. So despite the actual statistics, it is the people with the personal stories about how they have lost a loved one, someone who is not living with chronic pain, to misuse or abuse of prescription pain care medication that are swaying public opinion.
The majority of people who overdose on opioids do not have their own prescriptions for these medications. They have acquired somebody else's medication. The suspicion then falls to the person with the prescription: Are they selling it? Did they give it to somebody? The person who has passed away can't be questioned as to where they got the medication. And in our culture, it is wrong to vilify the dead person; it's wrong to say that they died through actions of their own.
So grieving families tend to blame those of us who have chronic pain and have prescriptions for any "dangerous" medications. They are not cognizant of the full picture. That's why awareness needs to be raised. That's why we need more advocates out there explaining that there are more people in this country who have overdose deaths from acetaminophen than from prescription opioids.
It's another examples of how a little information in the wrong hands going a long way.
Selena: I can also see how withholding opioid medications might mean that some people are using over-the-counter pain medications to excess or inappropriately because it's not really helping them manage their pain.
Maggie: Yes, so if consumers aren't educated and know what the pain treatment options are, they are going to be focused on taking a pill. And if they are just focused on pills, and their doctor isn't giving them a prescription or not giving them enough of a prescription, then they are going to go some place else to find some other substance. Whether it's an over-the-counter drug, street drugs, marijuana or alcohol, if someone is in pain they are going to be looking for relief.
As a person with pain, I am sure you understand and agree with me that the one thing we all want hope. We want to know that in this moment, right now, when we have so much pain and we don't want to go on like this, what keeps us going on is that we have hope that we don't always have to be in pain. We have hope that there is something out there that is going to help us.
Selena: I guess I have gotten to a point where I don't hope I won't have pain, just that I will be able to manage the pain I do have.
Maggie: That is pretty much how I think too. For me, the pain is never going to go away. I've never known anything but pain. I have experienced pain since childhood and I just want it to be managed enough so I can participate in life.
Selena: Yes, exactly.