The Opiate Crisis. What a toll it has taken on not only my health and well being, but the health and even lives of countless individuals across the United States. The CDC just issued a warning and apology against the misuse of the guidelines that so many doctors and pharmacists have been treating like the law. The thing is, it is not a guideline if people from the CDC are actually coming to the doctors offices and checking in on them. Many of my specialist doctors in particular, have told me that they have been visited more than once by the CDC. The saddest part of all, is that pain patients predicted this chaos. As I wrote in my Mighty article, ‘Please Remember This About Chronic Pain Patients During the Opiate Crisis‘, I clearly foreshadowed this. Let’s look into the revised “guidelines”.
The CDC states that it does not support sudden tapering or stopping of opiate medications. They also speak on limiting doses of only someone that is just starting an opioid regime. So people that are already on pills at high doses, would be safe in theory. The CDC specifies that 90 morphine milligram equivalents is the perfect dosage. A clinician should have to have good reason to raise or lower the dosage, before being able to do so. Another misapplication of these guidelines include not allowing opiates to those with active cancer, sickle cell crises, post surgical pain, and anyone under the age of 18. They also mention, “In addition, policies that mandate hard limits conflict with the Guideline’s emphasis on individualized assessment of the benefits and risks of opioids given the specific circumstances and unique needs of each patient” (CDC Advises Against).
Where did this all go wrong? An article states that “physicians were involuntarily reducing opioid medication dosages for chronic pain patients because they feared liability or scrutiny from law enforcement, state medical boards, and insurance providers” (Acknowledging the Plight). It seems with these new revised guidelines, the CDC is trying to cover it’s tracks. When everything began back in 2016, things changed from doctors being able to prescribe opiates to them being close to illegal. Doctors are afraid of having their license taken away. Pharmacists as well. Insurance doesn’t want to cover pain pill prescriptions either. As a chronic pain patient, our backs are pushed up against a wall. We are being treated as less than human by the ones who used to help us. All because everyone is scared for themselves, due to the murky grey area that the CDC leaves opioids in.
The CDC seemed to forget that the Opiate epidemic in America is not due strictly to prescribed pain pills when they made the regulations. In fact, “Less than 1% of the addicts on the street got their start with prescription opioids. And chronic pain patients rarely die of overdoses” (The Other Opiate Problem). It is a confusing situation for everyone, as doctors are being forced to taper opioids from the patients they know need it the most. I feel like this whole crisis started because someone failed to look at the facts. I’m not blaming doctors either. For years they have been pushed to prescribe these medications and now suddenly they can’t anymore. This crisis has left everyone stuck, confused, scared, and for those who need the pills, in pain.
I believe that this revision of the guidelines is a small step forward. However, it is not on the best of terms. For me, it plainly looks like the CDC was forced to come to this decision. If they weren’t, then why wouldn’t they have acted years ago? Also, it still doesn’t help chronic pain patients in general. I rely on opiates to help with the breakthrough pain that I experience. The outline however, states that they are only un-restricting use for those with cancer, sickle cell disease, and children under 18. I currently do not fit into any of those categories. So what is someone like me to do? I think we have to keep fighting on as before. If our efforts combined pushed the CDC into making these revised guidelines, what else could we do?
“There are approximately 100 million of us who suffer from some form of chronic pain in America, and 20% of those deal with intractable or high-impact pain” (Chronic Pain). Isn’t that insane? 100 million people who suffer with chronic pain. What would happen if those 100 million voices came together to speak out against the injustices? I for one, know that I am going to continue to speak up about my experiences and to spread the word. You never know who is listening. I even recently commented again on the re-opened FDA pain study, just like I did last year. I am hopeful for this teeny step forward, but I also feel hesitant for the unseen things to come. As a community of warriors though, I know that we will be there for each other, in the good times and the bad.
Thank you for reading this important article today! How have you been affected by the Opiate Crisis? What do you think of the revised guidelines? Please subscribe and I’ll see you next time my Un-imaginables!
“Acknowledging the Plight of Pain Patients in the US.” Human Rights Watch, 29 Apr. 2019, http://www.hrw.org/news/2019/04/29/acknowledging-plight-pain-patients-us.
“CDC Advises Against Misapplication of the Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain | CDC Online Newsroom | CDC.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2019/s0424-advises-misapplication-guideline-prescribing-opioids.html.
“Chronic Pain and the Other Side of the ‘Opioid Epidemic’ – Patient Advocacy 101.” National Pain Report, 28 Apr. 2019, nationalpainreport.com/39681-8839681.html.
“The Other Opiate Problem.” American Thinker, http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2019/03/the_emotherem_opiate_problem.html.