An Argument Against “Pain”

HEAL Blog is the recipient of the ADAP Advocacy Association’s 2015-2016 ADAP Social Media Campaign of the Year Award

By: Marcus J. Hopkins, Blogger

Last week, I posted a link from The Week, about John Oliver’s take on the prescription opioid epidemic. In his NSFW video, he does a largely comprehensive retrospective of how America became quickly addicted to opioid painkillers as the “go to” pain remedy beginning in the late-1990s, of course with his trademark British fire, ire, and expletive-laden delivery. Generally, this type of post generates a few laughs from my friends and agreeing comments from healthcare professionals who understand the scope of the epidemic. This time, however, I was surprised by a treatise on the perils of this type of video.

When it comes to issues where someone clearly feels “wronged” by legal prescribing guidelines, I often take a logical approach. Prescribing guidelines for opioids aren’t written to punish “responsible” patients who adhere to the dosage instructions listed on the label for medically necessary prescriptions. But, the argument that was made, in this case, was that, “…like anabolic steroids,” the risks associated with these drugs has been blown way out of proportion, and videos like these instill in physicians a sense of fear that prevents them from prescribing medically necessary drugs.

For whatever reason, friends of mine who know I work in research related to HIV, HCV, and Harm Reduction frequently come to me with their gripes about opioid prescribing guidelines. In this example, my friend had undergone oral surgery, and his physician refused to prescribe a three-day prescription for an opioid pain reliever in the state of California. My friend said that he was “forced” to get his medications on the “black market,” because his physician was “afraid to prescribe” him the drugs. Mind you, this person is not, in fact, a physician; he is, however, a bodybuilder who openly admits to taking anabolic steroids to get bigger (as per his earlier reference).

What frustrates me about this type of argument is that it presupposes that whatever type or level of “pain” someone is in requires the use of prescribed opioid painkillers; that, regardless of the prescribing guidelines, or even best practices or medical advice, their pain makes an opioid prescription “medically necessary.” It is an unfortunate consequence of living in a society with a U.S. Food and Drug Administration and prescribing guidelines that what one person, who is not a physician, believes to be medically necessary may not, in fact, be.

In a similar vein, another friend of mine, knowing that a segment of my research has to do with opioid prescribing guidelines, asked me if I knew a physician who would prescribe them to her, against her current physician’s recommendations. She believes that the pain management alternative he suggests is not long enough lasting, and that, because she doesn’t have an “addictive personality,” she should be prescribed opioids on a continuing basis to deal with her chronic pain.

For the record: I am not a physician, nor am I in touch with physicians who would violate their respective states’ Doctor Shopping laws or Lock-In regulations. I do not know where to get opioids on the “black market,” nor do I have any connections who can “hook you up” with some illegal prescription drugs. For whatever reason, my well-meaning friends, who may or may not have “addictive personalities,” have it in their heads that they know better about what drugs they should be taking than the licensed professionals who spent several years and hundreds-of-thousands of dollars to obtain their advanced medical degrees.

These prescribing guidelines aren’t just made to make individuals’ lives more complicated; they are designed to address very serious addiction issues that are leading people to their literal graves. I get it: you think your pain is great enough that you deserve special treatment. Well, you don’t. At some point, it became an issue of grave importance that no one, ever, feel any sort of pain, and that all pain needed to be treated with drugs meant to be reserved for people who were in severely unbearable pain. That is simply not the case, regardless of what your black market drug dealer tells you. Suck it up, a bit, and you will live, just as humans have managed to survive with a modicum of pain for tens of thousands of years.
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Disclaimer: HEAL Blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community Access National Network (CANN), but rather they provide a neutral platform whereby the author serves to promote open, honest discussion about Hepatitis-related issues and updates. Please note that the content of some of the HEAL Blogs might be graphic due to the nature of the issues being addressed in it.

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