Pharmaceutical narcotics, damned if we do, damned if we don’t

Pharmaceutical narcotics, damned if we do, damned if we don’t


The healthcare providers in America need to decide where they stand in regards to treating patient’s pain with narcotics.  As it stands now, we are damned if we use them and damned if we don’t.

When I first became chronically ill, I never had an issue receiving pharmaceutical narcotics.  In fact my physicians handed them out like they were candy.  They filled the prescription with enough, and sometimes more, pills to be able to follow their suggested prescribed dosage.  Because of allergies and sensitivities I was never able to follow the recommended dosages and always had a surplus of pain medication.  Years later when the government began putting restrictions on how often and how many pills they could prescribe, I was still getting the amount that I needed to survive.  By survive, I don’t mean to insinuate that I was addicted to them; instead I needed what little physical relief they provided to not lose my mind and to function. 

Around the time that I moved from Arizona to California is when the government starting coming down even harder on doctors who prescribed narcotics to their chronically ill patients.  From this point I went from always having enough pain medication on hand to never having enough.  Not only did I have to practically beg for my pain pills, the physicians never wrote the quantity of the prescription to fit their prescribed dosages.  Every month I had to beg to receive what would equate to two to three weeks of inadequate relief.  After two years of doctors making me feel like an addict who just wanted a fix, I was done begging.  It was at this point that I went med free.  Still needing some type of relief, I soon began medicating with medical marijuana (MMJ). 

One of the things that attracted me to medicating with MMJ was that I would be in control.  Knowing that I would always have enough pain medication and not having to beg for it was freeing.  With MMJ I also have the ability to medicate as little or as much as needed without fear of overdosing.  It would take inhaling or digesting 1,500lbs of marijuana to overdose, yet one could overdose on as little as 16 Oxycodone! If I was suicidal, the opportunity to overdose on Oxycodone would be easy and affordable.  With MMJ I would have to first spend over $24,000 to purchase the amount needed to overdose. Secondly, I would be fast asleep after smoking or digesting just one milligram! The only reason someone overdoses with marijuana in their system is because they mixed it with alcohol, other prescription narcotics, or drugs like heroin or meth. 

After discovering that MMJ was helping me and my conditions more than any pill I had ever been prescribed, I returned to the same doctor that I used to make me beg for pain meds.  The reason I returned was so that we could get down to the root of my lower back pain.  So imagine my surprise, when he offered me a prescription for pain meds!!  In the past, he never offered, he always waited for me to beg and plead.  He was shocked when I refused his prescription; that is until I explained why.  Since he couldn’t deny the decrease of inflammation and relief that I was experiencing, he agreed that MMJ was the best choice for me.  He never gave me grief and in fact became more vigilant and helped to find the source of my pain.  A few months later, I had to switch doctors as this physician wasn’t part of my new plan’s network. 

My new physicians were all informed during our first visits of how I treat my pain.  All were fine with it, even if they didn’t understand it.  Two years later (last week) I found myself with a new dilemma.  My ER visit ended with the attending physician wanting to send me home with pharmaceutical pain meds.  I refused them.  He was adamantly against using MMJ and was insisting that I take his prescription.   He continued to pressure me even after I explained that I can’t take the full dosage of them more than once a day and without breaks of at least two days in-between dosages.  How the heck was that supposed to help me??!!!   Not to mention that I get horrible urinary tract infections from them and they constipate me.  I asked, how would being constipated from his prescription help me when food is already having a hard time moving through me??  All I received in return was a blank stare.  Later that week I was chastised by almost everyone I spoke to within my network for refusing that prescription.  They rudely suggested that there was nothing they could do for me if I wasn’t willing to pop their pills. 

What in the world is going on????!!!!  Although I haven’t taken any prescription pain medication for over four years, I know of many others who still have to beg in order receive adequate relief.  This is shameful and has made us damned if we take them and damned if we don’t.  Do they or do they NOT want us to take them??!!!!!  In order to protect doctors who treat the chronically ill and their patients that need to take pain meds fulltime, California and a handful of other states crafted up a law.  This law will not penalize those doctors and allows their patients to at the very least have access to pain relief medications.  The problem with this law is that the patient’s pain has to be declared “intractable”.  To declare that a patient’s pain is intractable, the physician must declare that there is nothing medically that can be done for that patient’s conditions.  This does not really help the patient, especially if, like in my case, something can be done.  Instead of it providing a way for doctors to prescribe pain relief while helping to get to the root cause, it makes it easy for doctors to give up on finding the real cause and creates a hospice type of service.  Patients that are declared as having intractable pain will be given narcotics, sleeping pills, anxiety medication, and anti-depressants in order to keep them comfortable.  The dosages and the potency will increase as their pain breaks through each level.  I don’t know about you, but if you ask me I say that this sounds a lot like end of life care! My physicians are trying very hard to declare my abdominal pain as intractable and I am fighting that diagnosis tooth and nail.  Just because the adhesions will return, that is not a reason to not grant me the opportunity to give my internal organs some relief.  I am disgusted by how they would rather heavily sedate me for the rest of my life instead doing something that will help, even if for only a few years.  Even more disgusting is that I am willing to bet that if I was the one requesting the pain meds, they would be forcing me to beg and plead for them.

So I am curious, what has been your experience in regards to obtaining pain medication?  Do you medicate with MMJ or prescription pain meds?  Do you have to beg for your prescriptions?  Does your doctor provide you with an adequate supply?  Have you ever been told “We can’t help you” if you have ever declined their prescriptions? 

The doctors of The United States of America need to start figuring out the root causes to an ever growing list of incurable diseases.  If they don’t the amount of people who will need to rely on either prescription drugs or MMJ will only increase.  In the meantime, they need to respect the patient’s choice and stop treating us poorly whether we choose to take or not take their pain medications. 

Wishing you a day filled with many reasons to smile, including adequate pain relief that you didn’t have to beg for,

The Disabled Diva



Published by Cynthia Covert

Diagnosed in 2001 with psoriasis, followed by fibromyalgia, psoriatic arthritis, endometriosis, and later a botched hysterectomy turned her world upside down. Cynthia shares her experience, advice, and tips for how to make life with chronic pain easier and less painful.

3 thoughts on “Pharmaceutical narcotics, damned if we do, damned if we don’t

  1. this is such a dilemma. I’m in PA and in the tri-state area they’ve really cracked down on people. It’s hard to because I was very anti-pain med, but I can’t take any other medicines because they aren’t kidney safe. Unfortunately, MMJ interferes with my immunosuppressants and the PA MMJ law doesn’t have medibles only oil tinctures and smoking and vaping with waiting for a lung transplant I can’t really do either. I don’t want opioids but luckily all my docs are staunch supporters in this case because I don’t have alternatives. I usually too have a doctor appt a month between my 3 most regular docs so I don’t have a problem getting the correct amount (knock wood). I understand your concern but until they come up with some form that counters an interaction (doesn’t raise to double levels or toxic effects) MMJ might not work for some of us. But that said, I’m all for giving people options & letting them make their own choices when it comes to pain. But we need other kidney safe alternatives. Before my kidneys were affected to the degree they are, I took Vioxx and Celebrex at times. We all know the hubub with the heart problems etc, but they were so effective and lasting for me that I didn’t need much of anything except an occasional breakthrough if things got bad & the side effects were so much easier on me than any opioids. It’s such a hard thing. I understand the premise of guidelines but enforcing them so unilaterally and rigidly doesn’t do any one any good and defeats the whole purpose of an actual “guideline” which is a recommendation but not one set in stone.

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