Let’s be honest.
If the opioids you regularly take for your chronic pain haven’t already been restricted by your doctor or pharmacy (or taken away entirely), they likely will be soon.
But it’s happening anyway.
The United States is currently triaging an opioid epidemic in the United States from which people are dying in record numbers. As with any triage situation, in order to save the largest number of people, the needs of some will have to be sacrificed.
Make no mistake. People with chronic pain will be that sacrifice.
The lesser evil
Consider the situation we’re in right now. Our politicians and health care providers have two options before them...
- They can implement a black and white strategy that focuses on creating programs and services to treat opioid addiction (i.e. deal with the epidemic) and restrict the legal access to these medications (i.e. stop it from growing.) Both tactics are likely to be interpreted as “proactive” and “bold,” and will win approval from voters (who elected Trump with the expectation he’d “solve the opioid crisis”), families who have lost someone to opioid overdose, the media (who love “win the war on…” narratives), pharmaceutical companies (who anticipate making big money off the medications used to treat opioid addiction), doctors (who increasingly fear retribution if they prescribe opioids) and law enforcement agencies (who are currently doing most of the heavy lifting on the front lines of the epidemic.)
- They can create a more nuanced strategy that takes into account the complicated needs of the chronic pain community while at the same time dealing with addiction and overdose in the population at large. This more delicate balancing act will likely be interpreted as “soft” and “insufficient” and may necessitate additional difficult discussions and decisions down the road, making all of the groups listed above highly grumpy.
It’s not hard to predict what choice our country is going to make. We’ll go with the easier option which guarantees bigger headlines, more votes and clearer outcomes.
Sadly, I think it’s easier for our country to count the number of people who OD from opioids than it is to count the number of people who kill themselves due to chronic pain, so the former gets all the attention.
The end result
So, where does that leave people in pain?
Well, it leaves you in an unstable environment where the systems and processes you rely on to get yourself through the day may no longer be reliable. Because, at the same time opioids are being restricted, so are viable alternatives to those drugs such as marijuana and kratom.
Yep. That’s not fair either.
When that happens you’ll need to come up with a Plan B for managing your pain.
While you should continue to write letters to your elected officials, work with your doctors, and support organizations who are advocating for the needs of people with pain, in the interest of your own safety and sanity it may also be time to think about how to live without the support of opioids.
I know. I know. That idea totally sucks and will likely be hard as hell.
Hopefully resources like my recent book, Chronic Pain Recovery — which outlines a largely drug-free approach to the recovery process — will help. So too will the hundreds of health care professionals out there who are adept in creating multi-faceted recovery plans that holistically address the biological, psychological and social components of chronic pain.
In other words, hope for the best, but maybe also think about preparing for the worst. Because it looks like the worst may be coming.