Tag Archives: pain medications

Pundits tackle pain and painfully fail

There has been some buzz over what to me was a benign ad during the Super Bowl for a medication that treats opioid-induced constipation.

As any of you who have been a caregiver probably know, constipation is one of the most common side effects of long-term opioid use. My mother suffered from severe constipation during her last year. It drastically reduced her quality of life.

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To me, this issue is not a joke.

To millions of Americans who live with chronic pain, it is not funny.

After the ad aired during the Super Bowl, Bill Maher cracked the following joke on Twitter.

Maher took flak for his tweet from those who suffer from chronic pain. Maher, who was fined recently for allegedly smoking a joint on television, strongly supports the legalization of marijuana, so he’s not anti-drug by any means, he just prefers weed to pills. Good for him, but for those with chronic pain who work real jobs and face drug tests, marijuana can be risky, even in states where it is legal.

The White House Chief of Staff also sounded off on the commercial.

The White House Press Secretary agreed.

These allegations, while perhaps well-meaning, are woefully misguided.

It’s true that the amount of people abusing opioids has increased dramatically since the 1990s. Pain management clinics popped up everywhere, serving as pill mills, with the doc essentially being a legal drug dealer. The pharmaceutical companies underplayed the dependency risks of their highly profitable products.

The government, under pressure to do something, placed stiff restrictions on opioids. But if you’ve ever known an addict, you know the war on any kind of drug is likely to fail. Addicts only kick the habit when they are ready to do so, and will readily switch to another drug to maintain a high. Many pain pill addicts are switching over to heroin, which is now cheaper and more readily available in many parts of the country.

The only people who are being truly affected by the government crackdown on opioids are those who suffer with chronic pain and who require these medications to function like a normal human being.

My mother relied on pain medications over the last few years of her life.¬†After her cancer surgery, Mom was placed on a low dose of hydrocodone and her doctor kept her on it without question until the new Medicare regulations started to be phased in near the end of 2014. Suddenly, my mother was required to come in to the doctor’s office much more frequently to get her prescription refilled. It was difficult for her to get to the doctor’s office due to transportation issues and because she was in so much pain. It was devastating to know my mom was suffering and there was nothing I could do about it.

Terminal patients suffering excruciating pain should not be denied or delayed pain relief. Those with chronic pain should not face draconian laws to get the medications which help them hold down jobs and raise families. Yes, pharmaceutical companies need to be closely regulated and rehab needs to be readily available for those seeking help, but pain is no laughing matter and neither are the side effects of pain-relieving medications.

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Throwing pills at a mystery problem

I know many of you have dealt with similar problems when it comes to the mystery ailments our loved ones have. The journey to the diagnosis is riddled with potholes.

So despite having several different tests which showed nothing wrong, my mom continues to experience pain in her back and abdominal region. The pain became worse over the past week, so back to the doctor she went.

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It was a relief doctor because Mom’s primary care physician was attending to a family emergency. Mom had to wait over three hours to see the doctor.

Without going into too many details, Mom’s bowel habits have been irregular, so the doctor prescribed a stool softener for her. Fine. I’m hoping that Mom is just constipated and we can get her on some fiber supplements and probiotics to keep her regular.

She also ordered x-rays of the abdomen and back. I don’t think they did the back during her recent radiology visit, but she just had the abdominal scan done a month ago, presenting the same pain complaint. Of course I want to know what is causing Mom’s health issue, but it seems like it would be in the best interest to keep the radiation exposure of a cancer patient to a minimum.

A urine sample was also taken. Mom said some of the urine spilled on her hand as she was collecting the sample. The doctor said there was some bacteria present, and sent it to the lab for further processing. In the meantime, the doctor prescribed her antibiotics.

I despise this knee-jerk reaction most doctors have when it comes to antibiotics. Chances are, the bacteria was from the contaminated sample. (Mom told the staff about the mishap.) I’m not trying to minimize the serious health risk of infections in elderly people, but antibiotics also come with their own side effects. And certainly, antibiotics can cause stomach upset, which is the last thing Mom needs.

That’s my point. Doctors prescribe antibiotics like they are aspirin, “just in case” there is an infection present. I’m all for preventative medicine, but let’s face it, antibiotics are used as a timesaver. They make the patient feel like they are doing something for their health issue, and it saves the doctor from having to spend time further investigating symptoms. It’s not just doctors that are to blame; patients have now been trained to demand antibiotics as the standard of care for a variety of ailments.

Antibiotics are wonderful, life-saving medications. But as the CDC has stated, doctors overprescribing antibiotics is creating a health crisis of its own.

The real head scratcher is that the doctor prescribed my mom a new pain pill. Mom is already on pain medications. Constipation is a common side effect of prolonged pain medicine use.

So Mom goes home with a bag full of pill bottles, but we are no closer to figuring out what is causing her mystery pain. Frustrating.

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