By Mary Maston, Columnist
I recently read an article featured in the Huffington Post about the growing number of babies born addicted to painkillers because their mothers abused pain medications while they were pregnant. American News Reporthas also reported on the disturbing fact that the number of babies born addicted to opiates has tripled in the past decade. A drug addicted baby is born every hour in the U.S.
I feel so sorry for those babies, but their mothers had a choice. What nobody seems to realize is that their choices don’t just affect them and their babies, but all chronic pain patients who suffer with horrible diseases and conditions, and who rely on the same pain medications to be able to function on a daily basis.
People who can’t get out of bed not because they are “addicted” to prescription pain medications, but because they are in excruciating pain and that’s what helps them to function. People with broken backs or limbs, who have been in horrible car accidents, or people like me who were born with a rare, progressive kidney disease that makes us form hundreds of kidney stones and causes our kidneys to harden.
We all have something in common with the babies that were featured in these stories. We didn’t ask to be put into these situations and don’t have a choice in the matter. But here we sit, caught in the crossfire of the war on drugs.
When do we get a spot in mainstream media? Why isn’t “Rock Center” or “Nightline” traveling the country to get our stories? We’re out there, everywhere, in every state and every city in the United States. What about those patients who have to suffer through withdrawal because they are now unable to get the medicine they’ve taken for years? The entire chronic pain population is being punished for a select few and it isn’t right.
The media keeps doing these horrible stories about prescription pain medications and how people are abusing them and overdosing. What they continually fail to talk about are the chronic pain patients (like me) who don’t abuse these drugs, but need them to function on a day-to-day basis.
They don’t talk about the patients in pain who are committing suicide because pharmacies are refusing to fill legitimate prescriptions for them.
They also fail to mention the difference between addiction and dependency, so I’ll do it here, and hopefully every single person who reads this column will be fully aware of the difference.
There is a very distinct difference between addiction and dependency. When someone is addicted to a pain medication, many times it’s because they have picked it up off the street. They were not in any pain when they took it and did not have a legitimate medical reason to take these pills. They did it to get “high.” Once they experienced that high, they wanted more and more. They took them because they wanted to. Many addicts will lie, cheat, steal, prostitute themselves, and sometimes even murder to get their “fix.”
They get their drugs from dealers or friends who have prescriptions for them. Many times they combine them with alcohol or illegal substances such as marijuana to enhance the effects. They break the law, and they take way more than they should because as they continually take them, they need more to get that “high” feeling. They can’t control their actions because they are addicted.
Most chronic pain patients have a dependency. Once they start taking a legally prescribed narcotic medication for a legitimate medical condition, their bodies get used to having that medication in the bloodstream. The medication does what it was created to do: it blocks pain receptors in the brain. People who have pain that is significant enough to warrant the use of prescription medications on a long term basis do not get “high” from it. It only enables them to function better than they could without it. Most work closely with their doctors to ensure that they get the right dose and the right medication, so there is no need to take more than they should.
Most chronic pain patients that I know don’t want to be on medication, but because of their level of pain they have no real choice. It’s either that, or be in excruciating pain every second of the day. Now that the government is cracking down so severely, many chronic pain patients are unable to get the medications they need, and are being thrown head first into withdrawal – not because they are addicts, but because coming off of a narcotic medication when you’ve been on it long term throws the body into shock.
If you watch the “Rock Center” and “Nightline” videos that are included in the Huffington Post article, even doctors agree that coming off a narcotic medication too quickly has very negative results. In fact, in both reports doctors told the women to KEEP USING painkillers until after they delivered their babies. because the consequences of immediately stopping their use was severe and could even cause death.
In some cases, for both mother and baby it took months for them to stop going through withdrawal. So what does that mean for all of the chronic pain patients who are now being thrown into withdrawal because the government has initiated a drug war and they can no longer get their medication? Who is going to help them?
Editor’s Note: Mary Maston suffers from a rare, congenital kidney disease called Medullary Sponge Kidney or MSK. She is an advocate for other MSK patients and a contributor to kidneystoners.org
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