Let Them Eat Cake ©
By Sherri Silesky
Imagine a time when insulin-dependent diabetics no longer had access to the medications they need. How about those who depend on medication for their thyroid, heart or to control blood pressure?
Pain sufferers don't have to imagine that scenario. Everyday in this county, another good doctor is forced to shut his/her doors to pain patients. I realize it's the class of drug at issue, but it still treats a disease. A disease called pain.
I have a genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis (NF). The condition is rare, and having pain with it is even more rare. But I have inoperable tumors on my lumbar spine and they press on nerve endings, so even with the narcotics I take, I am usually at a “5” on the 1-10 scale of pain.
Am I dependent on these drugs? Yes. Am I addicted? No. I would go through physical withdrawal if I ever got lucky enough to not need them, but after that, I would not crave them, because they do not make me high. I don't have an addictive personality. Study after study shows that only 1% of people who use narcotics to control pain become addicted. 1%. We are shutting down doctors and patients because 1% become addicted. Statisticians who claim the incidence of addiction is higher include those people who have addictive personalities and get their drugs illegally, or by doctor shopping. In other words, people who never should have taken them.
But people who use narcotics for pain alone seldom, if ever, become addicted in the way the DEA is trying to sell it. But that story isn't as "sexy" as stories about addiction. Stories that sell newspapers. Stories that scare. If you want to hear something scary, patients who suffer from untreated chronic, intractable pain commit suicide at a rate of 900% higher than that of the general populace. Now that's scary.
I take a small amount of narcotics each day for pain. Does this mean I'm an addict? Hardly. If an insulin dependent diabetic decided to stop taking insulin, would they be cured? Would it mean they are “addicted” if they go into insulin shock? How about someone with bipolar disease? If they stop taking their meds, would they be cured, or addicted?
The answer of course, is neither. Like me, they would probably, eventually, die. I would die because I could not live in the kind of pain I am in without my meds. The diabetic would die because their body does not make insulin on it's own. The bipolar personality would possibly die because they felt they were “okay” when they weren't, and perhaps harm themselves.
Yet the DEA, in it's over-zealous and continued failed attempts at shutting down the flow of illegal drugs to this country, have decided to chase after the baby with the candy; sick people who are in pain and in many cases unable to fight back, and the doctors who treat them. The doctors being harassed often can no longer afford to keep their doors open to the suffering, or are afraid to. And the suffering can no longer stand the pain.
Using the government's reasoning for shutting down the flow of legal narcotics, alcohol and tobacco should be ripped from store shelves immediately. We've known for years that those substances are addictive and kill not only the users, but many times, people who don't use them. Yet any child can waltz into most any store, any time, and purchase any one of these substances.
But that aside, to understand this problem we must first educate policy makers about the difference between addiction and dependency. An insulin dependent diabetic is dependent on his/her insulin. Diabetes is a disease that can be treated. Likewise, pain is a disease. Sometime it can be treated, sometimes it can't, but when the answer to the problem of pain management is available and not used because of the DEA's failure to shut down the real problem, cruel doesn't begin to describe it.
If you think this backlash against pain patient isn't happening, think again. And the irony? The very people that the DEA has failed to shut down time and again are the only people getting the drugs. The dealers. The addicts. If we can't let our doctors choose our course of treatment, there is something terribly wrong. As far as I know, not one member of the DEA has a license to practice medicine.
The list of doctor's being tried and convicted, losing their licenses to practice medicine and leaving patients out in the cold, in pain is growing every day. It is nothing less then a witch hunt, leaving patients with few, if any, choices.
When one feels least able to advocate for themselves, that's when we are needed the most. It's a shameful game played by a shameful group of people who are ignorant at best, mean spirited and disrespectful at worst.
Pain patients and their families and friends need to reach in deep and fight like crazy. We need to write to our Senators and Congress people and let them know we are here, we are a force to be reckoned with, and we are not going away. In fact, we are marching in Washington DC on April 18-20 with congressioal hearings on the 20th. All are welcomed, all are needed.
No more sticking our heads in the sand. No more thinking “this can't be possible, they wouldn't do that” “They” are doing it. And you may be the next one to suffer the consequences of “their” actions. What have you got to lose? Well, possibly, your life or the life of a loved one. You better believe life turns on a dime. Not even.