Pain Patients Say Opioid Restrictions Are Ruining Their Lives

By Kelly Burch 01/04/18

Some pain patients say they are coming under an undue amount of scrutiny as they try to get the medications that allow them to work and live a life without constant pain. 

woman clutching her lower pain in back

Five years ago Scott Garrett was in an accident where a jet ski crashed into his head, harming his neck and requiring 30 stitches. That was followed by a botched surgery, all of which combined to leave Garrett dependent on pain medications to live a functional life. Now, he says that prescription regulations and stigma caused by the opioid epidemic are taking away his ability to live without pain. 

“There are actually pain patients who are committing suicide because their medications have been cut down so far or completely eliminated by gun-shy doctors, and they just choose not to live with the pain and humiliation anymore,” Garrett told The Dallas Observer

The opioid epidemic killed a record number of Americans in 2016, but opioid addiction still affects less than 1% of the U.S. population, according to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which the paper reported. That pales in comparison to the 11% of Americans who live with chronic pain, according to the National Institutes of Health.

As individual doctors, pharmacy chains and insurance companies tighten regulations around highly-addictive prescriptions, some pain patients say that they are coming under an undue amount of scrutiny as they try to get the medications that allow them to work and live a life without constant pain. 

“I feel like a fucking criminal. I feel like I did something wrong,” said Ewa Fosmoen of Sterling Heights, Michigan, who lives with chronic pain. 

For people who aren’t able to manage their pain, chronic conditions can lead to job loss and financial insecurity. 

“I’m on disability, making 20% of what I was making before,” Garrett said. “The constant pain and financial stress broke apart my family. I lost my marriage, my daughter, my income, my home and my dignity because no one out there gives a damn about what the legitimate chronic pain patients are going through with this ‘opioid war.’”

He says that stories like his aren’t told often enough. 

“It is destroying us,” he said. “But all you people out there aren’t going through that, and people benefiting and profiting from this hysteria are just all jumping on the bandwagon and playing it safe by going along with the mob.” 

Some chronic pain patients say the tightened regulations can even lead to illegal drug use. 

“I finally broke down and did something I swore I would never do,” an anonymous pain patient told The Observer. “Pale, clammy and sick, I purchased my first gram of heroin to alleviate the pain and withdrawal. A Google search and a trip to the local gas station later (to buy a lighter), I was now part of the problem, a statistic in the bathroom inhaling vapor off a bead of heroin.”

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