Pain Patients Push Back On Unfair Opioid Restrictions

By Kelly Burch 05/23/19

Pain patients hope to bring attention to the issue during Don’t Punish Pain rallies held around the nation this week. 

Pain patient arguing with doctor about unfair opioid restrictions

April Grove Doyle just wanted to fill her prescriptions when she walked into a Rite Aid pharmacy. What she encountered, instead, was a hostile pharmacy worker who shamed her about using pain pills. 

Doyle, who has Stage IV cancer, left in tears. 

“I’ve got fucking cancer. I have terminal fucking cancer,” she said in a video that she posted about the experience. “They make me feel like I’m a felon or something. It’s not right.”

Doyle is one of many pain patients around the United States who feel that opioid restrictions have gone too far. The pharmacist she interacted with that day told her he couldn’t fill her prescription because he was afraid of being fined.

Pain patients say that these overly strict regulations on the distribution of pain pills erodes their quality of life and can ultimately drive them toward suicide. 

“Pain patients have been abused,” Michael Schatman, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Pain Research told Wired. “I believe that it’s genocide of people with chronic pain.”

Pain patients hope to bring attention to the issue during Don’t Punish Pain rallies held around the nation this week. 

Doyle pointed out that she uses pain pills less frequently than her doctor recommends, making a one-month prescription last for 2-3 months. However, sometimes the pain from her terminal illness is too much to handle without opioids, she said. 

“I don’t really take it unless I absolutely need it,” she said. “When you have metastatic cancer in your bones you need it, because sometimes the pain is so much you can’t even function. I just want to function. I want to be able to work. I want to be able to sleep. I want to be able to do things with my child. I don’t want to hurt all the time.”

This isn’t the first time that Doyle has had trouble filling her pain prescriptions, even when she’s submitting them alongside other medications like chemotherapy pills and anti-nausea pills. 

“Every time I take my pain prescription there they give me the run around. There’s always some stupid excuse,” she said. “I’m not a criminal. I’m not a drug addict. I don’t even take them as much as my doctor tells me to take them. It’s not fair.”

Suicides among people with chronic pain have been rising, and many people blame the tightened regulations around opioids that have made it difficult for people to manage their pain effectively. 

“You are allowing them to go home and essentially suffer until they kill themselves,” Lauren DeLuca, founder of the Chronic Illness Advocacy & Awareness Group, told The Fix last year. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.