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CHRONIC PAIN PATIENTS: MYTHS, LIES, AND REALITIES

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On March 4, 2018, the following statements were used as discussion points for a group of interested members in our church. It is posted here for that group to refer back to; to use as points for further research and discussion; and for the use of concerned others who care about Chronic Pain Patients and their caregivers.

DEFINING CHRONIC PAIN

  • Persistent/recurring pain lasting more than three months

 

DESCRIBING PAIN

  • Aching, burning, sharp, pulsating/throbbing, radiating, self-limited, recurring, persistent, dull, “itching,” are a few common descriptive terms.
  • The “Scale of 0-10”  Problem: The only true comparison is the patient’s and physician’s knowledge of past responses from that patient only: How particular levels felt previously to the patient, how the patient described the previous situation to the physician. My pain level of 7 may be much less disabling than another patient’s perception of 7 level pain. EVERY PATIENT IS UNIQUE IN THEIR PERCEPTION OF PAIN, THEIR EXPERIENCE OF PAIN, AND THEIR ABILITY TO COPE WITH PAIN.
  • True patient, or drug seeker? Evidence of injury is not a guarantee of pain after 3 months; lack of evidence of injury in the chronic pain patient is not proof that there is no pain . (See above)

 

CHRONIC PAIN MYTHS

  • Chronic Pain Patients are the cause of the Opioid Crisis.
  • Doctors are the cause of the Opioid Crisis.
  • Anyone who takes opioids for chronic pain will become addicted to them.
  • The withdrawal symptoms that patients have if suddenly stopping opioid medications are proof of addiction.
  • People who take care with their appearance, go to work regularly and do not complain of pain or show any evidence of disability while at work do not have chronic pain. Common remark: “You don’t look sick.”
  • People who have handicapped permits, park in a handicapped space, step from their car and walk—apparently normally—into the store are scamming the system. They are not disabled.
  • They can’t possibly be in serious pain and bedridden one day, and out running errands the next day. Pain is just an excuse for ______________ (fill in the blank: laziness, neediness, excuses for not taking responsibility for their lives, etc.)

 

LIES about Chronic Pain Patients

  • Prescription opioids are the cause of 95% of overdoses and overdose deaths.
  • They are pretending to have pain—attention seekers, drug seekers, etc.
  • It is all in their heads. They have serious psychological problems.
  • The withdrawal symptoms that patients have if suddenly stopping opioid medications are proof of addiction. (May be a myth and not a lie, depending on why it is believed)
  • It is OK to take them off opioids and tell them to take Tylenol; their pain does not require opioid therapy.
  • Chronic pain patients are in the same category as substance abusers and should be punished accordingly.
  • Chronic pain patients sell their drugs, and/or give them to addicted family members and friends.
  • The patient must be discouraged from thinking about or talking about pain.  If they would just think positively and stay busy, the pain will go away.

 

THE REALITIES

  • The War on Drugs has created an environment where it is more truthfully a War on Pain Patients and their Physicians, and both groups are dying at alarming rates.
  • The Pain Patient is essentially alone with their pain. Either people are tired of hearing about it, or don’t believe it, or they are angry proponents of a political ideology about it. The pain itself cannot be seen or felt by others, or proven to be real and just as bad as the patient says it is. Meds are hard to get, hard to pay for, and many may have disabling side effects. The patient (and often their caregiver and physician, are stigmatized, facing myths and lies about their condition and a hostile environment.
  • Some states and communities have adopted an enlightened understanding of the nature of substance abuse. Funds are being allocated for humane and realistic treatment instead of punishment; safe and effective treatments are more widely accepted than in years past. BUT NOTHING IS BEING DONE FOR CHRONIC PAIN PATIENTS!!!

 

Author: profemjay

I am a retired Professor of Sociology with interests in the Sociology of Medicine, Political Sociology, the Sociology of Development, Social Action and the Sociology of Religion.

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