The guest commentary by Rick Carlson (“Opioid abuse is serious, but so is chronic pain,” The Herald, March 18), struck a similar chord. I also am the husband of someone who suffers from a disease that causes chronic pain. My wife has struggled with pain for more than 13 years and has used opioid pain medications responsibly for relief, which has made the pain tolerable. Prior to her disorder, she was an active wife, mother of two and a tireless volunteer for many organizations.
In the past the medical community prescribed opioid medications for many on an as-needed basis. Now with the opioid abuse problem increasing, the backlash against patients who responsibly use prescribed opioids is increasing.
Pain patients are now treated with suspicion and in some states, including Washington, are subjected to urine drug testing up to three or four times a year. This testing is not always covered by insurance, including Medicare, which means an out-of-pocket expense up to $1,000 per test. For patients on a fixed income, it means they live with the pain or forgo food, heat or other necessities to pay for medications and drug tests.
My wife has been told by her medical clinic that if she did not like the drug testing, she could move out of state. She also was informed that the drug testing was being done to protect the physician’s license, not to help the patient. Washington state has an opioid prescription-tracking system, so it appears that over-prescribing opioids should be documented to help find physicians and patients who are contributing to the crisis. But it is pain patients who are made responsible and are the scapegoats for the opioid abuse problem.
Patients who utilize opioid pain medications responsibly should’nt be penalized and forced to live with pain as a response to the opioid epidemic. A better solution needs to be found that continues to help patients, like my wife, and many others who live with pain.