Pain Medicine Stigma

Crohnically Ill

It was the last quarter of my post bowel leak hospital stay. I had decided I needed to be discharged ASAP, so I spent that morning’s medical team visit determining all the factors involved to speed up my release. One was the need to transition to oral pain medicine. Given that I was still pushing that little green button every time it lit up, that was concerning. Then I had another terrible thought. What if I’m addicted? Or get addicted? I ask these aloud. The faces of my medical team freeze.

“You’ve just been through a lot. You need the pain medicine. I wouldn’t worry about it.”

“You should really focus on eating. That’s more important.”

I quickly relaxed, but the concern never left me throughout my entire ordeal. When all was said and done, I managed to quit pain medicine a month earlier than my prescribed schedule.

However, given my condition, I still have to use them from time to time. With myself, I know for certain I’m not an addict, nor am I even dependent. There’s a solid difference between the two. Yet it’s disconcerting to learn the negative stigma surrounding pain medication given the “epidemic” of addictions out there.

For instance, my local hospital only gave me morphine, not Hydromorphone,  which I had been on already and therefore morphine provided no relief. When my husband broke his leg and the same hospital reset it, they also gave him the tiniest dose of morphine. I begged them to give him more at the very least, knowing morphine wouldn’t touch what he was going through, but they refused. I had to watch him suffer.

How have we gotten here? How are some medical facilities not properly treating pain out of fear of addiction? I know addiction is a problem, but it’s not my problem. Mine was three surgeries, complications, and a chronic illness.

Not only this, but it’s a stigma for people as well. I’m very conscientious as to who I tell that I’m needing pain medicine. Family and trusted friends is all. But why? Why should I be afraid of what people will think? They don’t live in my body. They haven’t experienced Crohn’s Disease in all its messy glory. Why should I feel the need to keep this hidden?

When I was released from the hospital, I broke myself of my DEPENDENCE on pain killers cold turkey. My doctor did not suggest this, but I was that concerned about addiction. I suffered flu like achy systems on top of post op pain. Addiction is when a person’s behavior changes IN ORDER TO get drugs. The reward centers in the brain transition, deciding it is necessary to take drugs by whatever means. Dependence is someone who has been on pain medicine for a while, suffers flu like symptoms while stopping use, and once “detoxes” moves on with life.

There needs to be more widespread understanding and education on prescription pain killers, who uses it and what for. If someone has broken a bone or been in a accident, they won’t be on pain killers for too long, and it won’t be recurring. For someone with a chronic illness, it will have to be used  throughout one’s lifespan.

Another problem with this stigma surrounds medical marijuana. The research on it has been limited due to the negative outlook associated with it. However, what research HAS shown is that it’s an effective regulator of pain and nausea. It is also non addictive, whereas opioids are.

In fact, opioids cause a catch-22 for IBD patients in that it slows bowel function, making it harder and more painful to digest and pass food through the system. More pain=more meds=slower bowels=more pain…and the cycle continues. Medical marijuana would avoid this issue. It has become legal in 20 states, but I know for certain mine won’t be jumping onto that bandwagon anytime soon.

I’m just one person, one illness. The patients who could reap the most benefits would be cancer patients. Given chemo and radiation cause nausea and vomiting, and therefore malnourishment, fighting cancer becomes even more of a gargantuan challenge. If medical marijuana could solve this, why can’t we let go of our stereotypes and allow patients to get relief? This is, after all, medical.

I do not, in any way, condone the use of drugs recreationally. This is prescribed for medical purposes, to be used responsibly. Can we have faith in the sick to do this? I understand some people are predisposed to addiction, and anyone who is or think they might be addicted to prescription painkillers should seek help. But anyone who is not shouldn’t be judged because they are seeking relief from pain. Descending stage now…

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One thought on “Pain Medicine Stigma

  1. I really like this definition: Addiction is when a person’s behavior changes IN ORDER TO get drugs. The reward centers in the brain transition, deciding it is necessary to take drugs by whatever means. Dependence is someone who has been on pain medicine for a while, suffers flu like symptoms while stopping use, and once “detoxes” moves on with life.
    I think so much has to be considered, I don’t like asking for pain meds but when I’ve been taking them lately I felt able to live again. When they’re gone, they’re gone and I have no intention to keep taking them as a therapeutic approach to dealing with Crohn’s.

    Like

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