Drug Shortages Here in the USA: 'Good' Opioid Patients Share Their Stories
Imagine you are in a situation where you have suffered from a severe injury. It required many surgeries to fix and a long period of physical therapy to regain your mobility and function. Throughout the process, the injuries are a source of constant pain, too much to leave unmedicated, so your doctor gives a prescription for an opioid painkiller. The drug works and you're moving along better, until one day you start to experience shortages of the medication you need to continue recovering.
This is reality for many patients who have opioid painkiller prescriptions. While the federal and state governments are heavily focused on curbing the opioid addiction crisis plaguing the nation, those who are on these prescriptions and are not abusing them are suffering from the unintended consequences of cracking down on opioid prescriptions.
Health care policy expert Roger Bate shared several stories from patients who are going through this exact situation.
D.M. in Baton Rouge, LA, shared the story of his struggle since the supply of opioid painkillers has dwindled:
“It is really a shame how a physician who took an oath ‘To Do No Harm’ out of medical school can bow down to a government that has no business meddling in the practice of medicine.
I was injured twice in Vietnam, and in 1988 a backhoe drove over me. I’ve had four back surgeries as a result, but am left with chronic pain. I haven’t told the VA (Veterans Administration) that this 65-year-old soldier who proudly served my country in time of need often thinks about taking my own life. It is truly sad that the very country I went to war for is the one that is going to be the death of me.
I will fight this pain with all I have because I care about my family. But since my dosage of Oxycontin was reduced, I have a hard time getting even two hours of sleep a night. I cannot find a position in which I am not in pain.”
He is not an addict; he's someone who needs these prescription painkillers to be able to function in life. The crackdown on the supply of pills is directly hurting him, and likely doing little to curtail the actual addiction problem (heroin and fentanyl on the streets).
Jan in Plano, IL, shared her story as well:
“I had a crush injury to my feet and legs 17 years ago. All my nerves died. I have been on everything, but mostly just fentanyl [by prescription] patches every other day.
A neurologist who knew nothing about pain stopped my fentanyl when I tried to have a spinal stem implant. I felt like Joan of Arc burning at the stake. I couldn’t lift my head off the bed, and vomited till taken to the hospital.
The pain was excruciatingly unbearable!! If I couldn’t get my fentanyl I would have to find a way to end it. So the deaths from drug addicts that the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) is trying to prevent will just be made up in suicides from people in severe, unending pain! The government needs to stay out of our lives.”
Though well-intended, the push to reduce the number of prescription opioids will only create more problems in the long-run. If patients cannot get the relief they need, it's possible that they will turn to street drug dealers in search of something to alleviate the pain. Since street heroin is often laced with fentanyl and other substances, which are what drive addiction.
Moral of the story? An improper understanding of the opioid crisis will only lead to improper solutions, which will compound existing problems.
Do you know anyone who is on opioid painkillers who has had a similar experience? Share your input with us.