Here in the UK we don’t have the issues around a GP agreeing to treat chronic pain or of insurance covering prescription charges in the same way that patients in the USA do. I am not saying that our GPs always get it right when treating those of us with chronic ailments, and I believe that chronic pain can be treated back to front – that is drugs are thrown at it as a first line and then referrals for specialist pain clinics come too late. I was one of eleven on an in patient pain course for assessment for spinal cord stimulator implantation two years ago. We had all lived with chronic pain for years and this was the end of the road…..whilst we appreciated the teaching of coping mechanisms, self help and psychological support, most of us felt that this had come years too late in our treatment “journey”! We were all taking opioids and in order to qualify for a stimulator trial we had to come off or reduce this. A daunting task!
This isn’t necessarily a criticism of our doctors – I know that they have such a limited time to see and get to the bottom of each patient’s problems. Who saw the BBC documentary series following Dr Rangan Chatterjee “Doctor in the House“? He had the luxury to be able to spend time with his patients – over a period of weeks he spent time in the home, became familiar with families and habits, diets, sleeping patterns, which all allowed him to dissect issues such as fibromyalgia, cluster headaches, chronic fatigue syndrome and more. But this is not the real world and in waiting rooms across both sides of the pond, the queue of people needing help for chronic pain grows.
I mentioned prescription costs and in the UK we are fortunate, yes I did say fortunate, to have a fixed price per item and for those of us needing more than one drug per month, the prepayment programme saves money on these charges. But we are experiencing constant cuts and patients are seeing their regular medication being withdrawn – I recently read a letter from a young father who has had his medication for rheumatoid arthritis stopped due to funding cut backs. However in other parts of the world patients must cover the full cost of drugs if insurance will not pay out – I take Lyrica/pregabalin and prior to the initial licence expiring, each month’s supply cost hundreds of pounds. The first time that I was prescribed it was at the private hospital attached to the hospice where I worked – aged 39 I had to ask my dad to pay as I didn’t have enough money with me to cover the private prescription. Dad has never let me forget that he put up the funds to start my drug habit!!! Such a joker….
Without further ado I would like to share with you Shelley’s post in which she discusses the use of opioids – both on prescription and illegally. It is an informative read, particularly for those in the States.
People with Chronic Pain did Not Cause the Opioid Epidemic
A great deal of people are uncomfortable with how often I address the “opioid epidemic” and how it hurts people with chronic pain. I think this is because healthy people like to imagine that doctors can fix everything and if something isn’t fixed that it must be the person’s fault. Therefore if someone is in pain they aren’t really being denied treatment for it, they just aren’t trying hard enough. Unfortunately the reality for people with chronic pain is very different. It doesn’t matter if you’re the perfect patient, doctors will no longer prescribe pain medicine.
Even if you’re lucky enough to find a doctor who will treat your pain, good luck getting your insurance to cover your prescription or your pharmacy to fill it. These days a pharmacy can refuse to fill your prescription and then call your doctor and tell them they were wrong to give you this medicine. Opioid hysteria has gotten so severe that now we’re bypassing the judgement of doctors and listening to pharmacists instead. My opinion of doctors has never been high, but they go through years of medical school for a reason. While pharmacists are educated they are not doctors and are not familiar with individual patients. So why are we granting pharmacist’s more power than doctors? Oh yeah, everyone on pain medication is an addict.
Here’s the problem though, the opioid epidemic does not come from prescribed pain medicine or chronic pain patients. In fact 75% of all opioid misuse starts with people using medication that wasn’t prescribed for them. Also 90% of addiction starts in the teenage years when teens are also misusing alcohol and hard drugs in addition to pain killers. Have we banned alcohol yet? Because 88,000 people die of alcohol related deaths per year and no one seems to care. Instead we ban pain killers even though less than one percent of those who were well-screened for drug problems developed new addictions during pain care. In other words, people with chronic pain are not the problem and were likely never the problem…….”
For the full post please visit Shelley at The Chronic Mom