Pain Patients Rally To Have Voices Heard

By Kelly Burch 09/21/18

"The real message is that people in chronic pain are not drug abusers. Illicit drug use is the enemy,” said one rally participant. 

Participants at the Don't Punish Pain rally in Denver
Participants at the Don't Punish Pain rally in Denver

People suffering from chronic pain gathered earlier this week in New Hampshire, hoping to share their frustrations about prescription opioid restrictions in one of the states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic. 

"The pendulum has swung so far that now, people who have legitimate, documented, disease and illness and pain are now having their medications limited," Bill Murphy, who helped organize the rally, told WMUR.

Similar Don't Punish Pain rallies were held in about 80 locations around the country. Participants say that they need pain medications—including opioids—to manage their chronic conditions. They say that long-term use of opioids can vastly improve the lives of people suffering from chronic pain, but that opioid painkillers have become misunderstood and stigmatized because of widespread misuse. 

"Chronic pain patients are being denied their medications due to a false narrative that the drug epidemic is caused by prescription pain pills," Kim Patty, who helped organize a rally in Springfield, Missouri, told the Springfield News-Leader. "The drug epidemic is being caused by heroin and synthetic fentanyl.”

Participants in New Hampshire said this message gets lost. "It's important for pain patients to have respect," said Edie Allyn-Paige, who lives with chronic pain. "You know, every day, I have to choose whether or not to get out of bed." 

Bobbi Blades has had chronic pain for 30 years caused by a bone that presses on a nerve. She said that without opioids she wouldn’t have been able to complete rehabilitation, which helped her regain the ability to walk. "The real message is that people in chronic pain are not drug abusers," she said. "Illicit drug use is the enemy.”

Murphy said that unlike many people who abuse opioids, responsible users take low doses and are functional at home and at work. Despite that, many people have had their doctors cut back on their pain medications under pressure to reduce prescribing. "Because of that low-dose regimen, (people) are still working, raising families, and their doctors are feeling pressured to reduce that pain medication," he said.

Cheryl Ostrander, who rallied in Springfield, said she has used painkillers to help her cope with breast cancer, knee replacements, spinal fusions and fibromyalgia.

"I am struggling really hard just to stay here," Ostrander said. "I am in pain just like every day of my life. I'm a mess, but I don't deserve to be treated like a criminal to get my pain medication.”

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