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How might we...?

How might we use my story to help fight opioid hysteria and misunderstanding which my chronic pain friends and I fight on a daily basis?

 

For those of you that know me, this won’t come as a big shock. I’m currently at Starbuck’s writing this post on my wonderful MacBook Pro. Such a great laptop my MacBook, especially when fused with caffeine goodness from Starbuck’s. Anyway, back to the topic at hand. As a proper caffeine addict I don’t really need a reason to stop by Starbuck’s, but today I have one. It’s been 48 hours since I took my last Nucynta (a twice a day slow release narcotic I use for my rheumatoid arthritis and chronic paid issues) and I’m hoping the caffeine helps with my pain control. 

 

The reason I am out of Nucynta is not because my doctor has cut me off (which is happening all to often to my fellow patients) or that I can no longer afford it, nope its something fairly stupid, its simply due to scheduling. Yes, you read that right, I can’t get a pain medication that has proven to be helpful and beneficial to my quality of life simply due to scheduling. I will have to fight withdraw symptoms for 5 days, on top of my incurable chronic pain and rheumatoid arthritis, simply because of a open slot on a calendar. That doesn’t seem right does it?

 

Before I go any farther, lets discuss the obvious elephant in this post, addiction. Am I addicted to Nucynta? By any current definition in the news or pop culture, yes I am. Of course, by pop culture’s definition of addiction I also have a severe chocolate chip cookie problem too in the interest of full disclosure. Now, I take my narcotic, supplemented with Percocet, on a daily basis.  My chronic pain is still present but I’m able to cope with it. Yes, cope does not sound like a positive but when you have a disease with no cure coping is a wonderful metric. By coping, I’m still able to work full-time as a senior financial specialist (I have been working overtime this month too), own my own house (my mortgage payment is less than my last rent), my 2015 Ford Explorer is paid for, my MacBook Pro is paid for, I pay cash for my Starbuck’s, there is plenty of food in my fridge, I’m currently trying to sell my deceased father’s house, and I’m not worried about paying for my medications. By any definition, I’m a high functioning privileged chronic patient. Although my neck pain has been out of control lately, I hope I’m not done accomplishing. That said, for the interest of simplicity and length of this post, I will concede that I’m a high functioning chronic pain and rheumatoid arthritis patient addict. 

 

Now that is settlement, lets get back to scheduling. Roughly 3 weeks ago, I had a procedure call radio frequency ablation on my C2 - C4 vertebra in my neck. I have a bone spur causing “severe” pinching and damage right above the plate in my neck at C5/C6. Anyone want to buy a “slightly used” spine? Anyone? As part of the procedure, the doctor requires a follow up appointment at week 4. 

 

My doctor splits his time between seeing patients and performing procedures. This means he is only available certain times during the week for office visits. As a full-time senior financial specialist, I have meetings and responsibilities that require my immediate attention, I can’t be available 24/7 for the doctor. You know, life. 

 

In Idaho, and from what I understand most states now thanks to the BS C.D.C recommendations, I can’t get my narcotic or opioid refill without physically sitting in my doctor’s office. At one time, if I had an appointment on the books I could stop by the office for a paper script but that has now changed. The reason I have to be sitting in the doctor’s office is because he can not phone or electronically send in the script like with any other medication, he has to write me a paper script with no refills. For reasons passing understanding, someone has decided that by handing me a paper script they are making it harder for me to become an addict, $20 bucks if anyone can explain that bull shit logic to me. 

 

Currently there is no logic but lots of mass hysteria and misunderstanding regarding addiction and my fellow chronic pain patients. To many of my friends are no longer being treated either due to the hysteria caused by the news or politicians and organizations like the C.D.C are doing nothing but scaring doctors and patients. That said, my story doesn’t fall into this dynamic, yet. I’m supposed to be the success story because I have good health insurance, means, access, and the resources to be in our so called healthcare system yet I’m sitting at Starbucks fighting withdraw symptoms simply because of scheduling. 

 

Since I have a few Percocet left, I’m pretty sure I can manage my withdrawal and my pain until Tuesday. I don’t think I will have to explore “other” options for pain control. Yes, by “other” options I’m including illegal or immoral options to help me cope. As you can imagine, living in constant physical and mental pain is exhausting, even as a high functioning chronic patient as myself. If I get much worse, I won’t be able to be as near as high functioning as I am now. With this change comes a new understanding and definition of time. Right now I can cope through 5 days of pain and withdrawal systems, but someone much who is much worse off than me might not be able too. That 5 days can literally be the difference between me paying my mortgage this month and contemplating something horrible like illegal drugs or even suicide. There is the true and not nearly realized side effect of this opioid and narcotic debate, if the system takes away my ability to manage my disease that has no cure, what am I supposed to do for managing my pain and as importantly, managing my pain as it relates to time in my life?

 

Alan Brewington