The Other Side Of The Opioid Epidemic: Denying Treatment To People With Chronic Pain

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By Kate Nicholson in The Mighty.

 

When I went into the office one Saturday afternoon in August 1994, I planned to spend a few hours finishing a brief that was due in federal court Monday morning. At the time, I was a civil rights attorney for the justice department. After 30 minutes of working at my desk, my back started to burn; it felt as if acid were eating my spine. In rapid succession, my muscles seized and threw me from my chair. I landed on the floor, stunned, as my body filled with searing pain.

What I didn’t know then was that the pain would persist, and that I would unable to sit, stand or walk unassisted for almost 20 years. Nor could I have imagined that I would one day take opioids for pain.

We hear a lot today about opioids. Newspapers run a steady stream of stories of lives lost from overdose and abuse. What we rarely hear is the other side. Opioids are the most powerful medication we have for treating severe pain. For me, opioids were life-restoring.

Proper pain management that included treatment with opioids lifted me from the desperate circumstances of being bedridden and unable to sleep for months at a time to someone who negotiated major settlement agreements, argued important cases in federal court and supervised thousands of matters in U.S. attorneys’ offices across the country. I still could not sit or stand – I negotiated via video-teleconference, argued from a reclining lawn chair and managed cases from a jerry-rigged, platform bed – but I could and did work and function.

 

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Link to Chronic Pain story

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