This week there was a difficult statement from the Centers for Disease Control. Well, difficult for people with chronic pain and their doctors.
There has been a lot of discussion around the use of opioids for treating chronic pain. It paints all users are addicts. It suggests that the deaths caused from addiction negate any benefit that might be gained from proper use of the meds. It suggests that there is no such thing as proper use. And so on.
For the record, I do not use opioids. I have tried them and have always found that they helped me very little and that their side effects were terrible. If they worked for me and didn’t have bad side effects then yes, I would use them every day if that meant living with less pain.
Also for the record, many close friends take opioids daily. They are not addicts. They take their medications responsibly. These medications allow them to do heroic tasks like shower, cook, and drive to medical appointments. Occasionally they can even do something fun, like have me over for a visit.
This week the CDC issued a guideline. This is non-binding, but it does usually have an effect on doctors’ practices. I won’t get into the details here, but they’re linked at the bottom of the article below. Suffice it to say, a bunch of people who don’t have chronic pain have decided that those with chronic pain don’t need opioids. Apparently Tylenol and Advil should be sufficient. In other words, they’re completely clueless.
I find this whole thing very upsetting. So on the one hand, I think it’s incredibly important to talk about it. On the other hand, I don’t feel qualified to properly and fully discuss it, and I find it upsetting to even try.
Here are just a few of my thoughts:
- Lumping together all opioid deaths, including those from heroin use, is hurtful, hateful, and absurd.
- How can they not be accounting for the increased suicide rate that will result from this? Do they not care, or do they not understand?
- Do they really think people would take medications with terrible side effects if Tylenol and Advil (which aren’t harmless, by the way!) really worked?
- Do they have any idea how many different things pain patients try? Do they know how many more things we would try if insurance covered them? I have such a list of things I would do if I only had the money and the energy!
- Have they not considered that maybe, just maybe, limiting the use of legal drugs will lead to an increase in the use of illegal drugs?
- If the concern is addition, why not work to prevent and treat addiction? Studies have made it clear that this won’t help.
- Where is the compassion?
I want to say so much, but I don’t have the words. So here are some reactions I want to share. At the bottom of that article is a link to the CDC guidelines.
The chronic pain community put up a good fight and lost this round. But the fight isn’t over. I don’t know what will happen next, but I know that no one will be giving up!