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Front Page » December 9, 2008 » Opinion » Rantings and Ravings
Published 2,145 days ago

Rantings and Ravings


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By TERRY WILLIS
Sun Advocate reporter

I am glad I am relatively healthy right now. I worry about those who have chronic pain due to injury or illness in the future. The state health department has set forth a set of recommendations to try to curb the increase in prescription drug overdose deaths in the state.

This appears to be a serious issue that needs to be addressed, but the way they seem to be going about it will put many who need true pain relief in a bad situation. The recommendations are for those who get a pain med prescription to expect random drug screenings and have to sign an agreement not to doctor shop or mix the prescription with alcohol.

Now mixing your drugs and alcohol is dangerous and education is needed to ensure that a patient understands the risk, but signing a form will not stop those that do it for the high. Neither will just saying you won't doctor shop. Those that abuse will find ways to abuse.

For some in need of pain relief, the stigma of a random drug test will be enough to stay away from a tool that can improve the quality of their lives. Physicians who have struggled for years to find a way to adequately manage chronic pain legitimately are worried this will be a giant step backward.

We already have technology in place to track prescription abuse. But is it being used as effectively as possible? It also falls hard on the shoulders of pharmacists to track this as well as other drug interaction issues when they are not the ones doing the prescribing.

I think there should be a system that includes a mandatory way for a doctors office to verify that a patient does not have a current prescription for pain before writing another one. This could be done quickly and discretely so that a patient in pain does not have to feel like a criminal.

Also some who started taking pain meds for legitimate pain have ended up addicted after no longer needing them. Maybe there could be some systems in place to help those make a transition off after the initial health issue has been resolved. For some, it may start as a fear of returning back to a level of pain that was too bad to deal with that keeps them using drugs far after the need has eased. The follow through of a physician's care should catch that and direct the patient into appropriate therapy or counseling to head off the problem.

I deal with mild chronic pain on a daily basis. Old sports injuries and abuses have left me dealing with aches and pains in my joints that at times keep me awake at night or limit my activities. I am lucky that over the counter meds do a fair job of alleviating the worst of things.

I actually do not do well with pain meds anyway. The few times that I have needed them as a result of a surgery, I have gotten ill and felt worse because of them. I dread the time when I may need something stronger than OTC meds to get me around.

But for the millions of arthritis, cancer, and other patients who deal with severe chronic pain every day, I worry. There is too much research about the benefits of true pain relief to take steps backwards.

I feel for those who have lost someone to an opioid overdose. But let us find a way to deal with that issue without criminalizing the help many others desperately need.

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December 9, 2008
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