Opioids, Cannabis And Complimentary Therapies


When our Attorney general, Jeff Sessions told the pain community to take an Aspirin and tough it out; I hope he didn’t mean those living with cancer pain, A.S., CRPS, E.D.S. and many of the high pain chronic illnesses? I’m guessing that he must have meant that more for someone who strained their back by lifting a TV or a dresser that was too heavy? Maybe not? But that’s my guess. Along those same lines are “Complimentary Therapies”. In my personal opinion, if Acupuncture works for your kind of pain, that is great. If something called “grounding”, where walking barefoot and reconnecting with the earths energy can help your pain, thats wonderful too! Whatever works to diminish your pain, that’s what matters most. Insurance companies should be more than willing to pay for these complimentary therapies ahead of any major or minor invasive or noninvasive surgeries! There should be choices available to those who want and need them. But as much as mindfulness, guided imagery and “thinking your pain away”, are awesome ideas; I don’t think they generally help to curtail certain high levels of pain and pain illnesses.

Medical cannabis is helping many chronic pain patients with nausea, physical withdrawal symptoms and chronic pain. The Marijuana Effective Drug Studies (MEDS) Act, introduced by U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT). He has proposed a bill, (S.1803) to encourage scientific research on cannabis as an effective and safe medical treatment. We need to advocate for this bill because Medical cannabis can be helpful to some people who live with chronic conditions. The U.S. Pain Foundation along with the American Pain Society support this Act.

We are fighting for a variety of methods to help those with high pain illnesses to deal with their pain. I’ve read that Kratom is another plant based fighter against chronic pain. These can be wonderful tools to help many persons. We need to keep fighting for many different methods to help with chronic pain, because we are all individuals and what works for one person, does not always work for another. Pain patients should be able to use whatever method of pain relief works for them because individual metabolisms vary. The therapies available to us, help many different kinds of chronic pain. Each method contains various medicinal qualities that work differently in each patient. It’s also true that one specific method of pain relief doesn’t help everyone. Nobody should be forced into taking or doing something that they don’t feel comfortable with.

The same is true with surgeries and injections. In my personal opinion, these continuous injections into the spine, are just “money makers” for the chronic pain clinics who are now too afraid to prescribe opioids. Even though the CDC told us that the 2016 guidelines

were just a “guide” and they are not the law. It seems as though the majority of pain clinics and Doctors jumped on the bandwagon to demonize opioids after the guidelines were disclosed. Now we are seeing suicides go up with the decrease in prescribing of Opioids for chronic pain illnesses. It seems as though there is a correlation between the lowering of Opioid prescribing and an increase in surgeries for Spinal cord stimulators, pain pumps and nerve ablations. But no one should EVER be forced into having an invasive surgery that could possibly cause more pain and stress for these already medically fragile human beings. My physical therapist told me that the SCS means surgically putting a catheter into your spine to give small electric shocks in order make you think of those shocks instead of the pain! She told me that our brain cannot think of pain and pleasure at the same time. I’m guessing that some think these electric shocks are pleasurable? I had a T.E.N.S. unit soon after my car accident and it did help with muscular pain and soft tissue damage, slightly. I have read that they’re (SCS) most helpful in people who have low back pain, leg pain or one area of pain and not multiple pain issues (http://aansneurosurgeon.org/features/neurosurgeons-rise-address-opioid-crisis-america/).

My previous pain clinic physician informed me that the intrathecal pain pump administers approximately 1/300th of the amount of oral medication needed to relieve high amounts of chronic pain. But this is also living with a literal “hockey puck” inside of your gut forever and and depending on one person to fill it! That same Dr., told me that I would be “married to him” as a patient, for life. In my research, I have found that if your physician leaves his practice, retires or if you have complications in another city/state or country; your pretty much out of luck, in all honesty! Emergency rooms and other physicians won’t normally touch another Dr’s patient with a pain pump! Again, this is another invasive surgery where your body is being cut and something is put into your spine. Complications stem from worsening pain to paralysis. Here is an article that speaks to some of the complications (http://www.stltoday.com/lifestyles/health-med-fit/health/to-your-good-health/implanted-back-pain-pump-is-an-option-for-very-few/article_474eed95-3f54-59ca-9b9b-9f8f941c0300.html). The nerve ablation or Radiofrequency Neurotomy, means literally “burning” nerves to “create a heat lesion”, thus, making the nerves lose functionality (https://www.spine-health.com/treatment/injections/radiofrequency-neurotomy-facet-and-sacroiliac-joint-pain). Each person feeling relief from chronic pain, is all that matters. We should be able to have choices available to discuss with our own physicians.

Someone who knows our past history of illness and our current diseases. A Dr. who can discuss these different methods with us and help us determine which route is best for each individual.

This past week I read an article in “Clinical Pain Advisor” (https://www.clinicalpainadvisor.com/treatments/epidural-steroid-injections-postmenopausal-women-bone-mineral-density-vertebral-fractures/article/739080/) that touched on the issues with the Epidural Steroid Injections. After having many of these injections in the first years following my car accident, now I find out that they cause decreased bone mineral density and increased risks for vertebral fractures. It appears that there are complications with every method of pain relief. We just need to be able to choose what is best for our own body. Nobody should be forced into surgeries, Acupuncture, Marijuana or Opioids. On the other hand, if one method, such as Opioids, have worked for you and you’ve literally tried many other methods of pain relief, then you should be able to continue. Taking a pill that has little or no side effects for a group of people who are doing well with Opioid therapy, should be still allowed and not demonized. I believe there will always be a place for Opioids for the relief of chronic pain. If you have been taking them for many years and are stable, then obviously you are not “addicted”. Don’t forget that there is a difference between addiction and dependency. Also, don’t forget to support the “Opioids and Stop Pain Act” (S.2260/H.R. 4733), introduced by Senator Schatz and Representatives Welch & MicKinley. The U.S. Pain Foundation, along with 30 other Pain organizations support this Act. It will provide $5 billion over 5 years for research of the NIH into the understanding of pain and the discovery and development of therapy for chronic pain.

We Are Not A “One Size Fits All” Society


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I’ve had a few interviews recently, with people who want to know about “my story” mostly. But I’m finding out more and more that so many in mainstreamed society do not understand chronic illnesses or pain whatsoever.  There are 100 million people living in the USA, who live with daily chronic pain. We truly need to “talk about” this.  I’ve even been speaking with legislators to try and get some of these House Bills to NOT be permanent law. The people who are sitting on these committees do not understand anything about chronic pain, yet these are the persons making the medical decisions for us instead of our physicians. Most or many chronic pain patients visit their pain management physicians, now monthly. The pain doctors are the ones who went to school for many many years to learn about how to treat people who live with real pain on a daily basis. Why are these Bills being turned into laws without the consent of a pain Dr.? Why were there no pain management physicians sitting in on the meetings when the CDC guidelines were being discussed?

The CDC guidelines that were put into place in 2016, were done behind “closed doors” and in “secret”; without any pain management physicians there to guide them at all. No, there was only PROP (physicians for responsible opioid prescribing), including their guy, Andrew Kolodny; who is a Psychiatrist.  He is an addiction specialist, not a Physician trained in the treatment of chronic pain. Why would the CDC set guidelines like these and allow them to be done like this in secret, by a person who is not even trained in the management of pain? Next, these guidelines are supposed to be just that, “guidelines”.  Somehow they have become the “law” without actually going through the right chain of events to become a “law”.  Physicians, pharmacies and others are now adhering to these “guidelines” that were meant for general physicians, not even for Pain physicians.  But some pain management Dr.’s have seen their colleagues have their livliehoods taken away by the DEA now, and they are fearful.  They fear losing their practice and everything that they went to school all of those years  to do.

These CDC guidelines are not the law but Dr.’s are being “bullied” into making them the law in their own practices.  They have famlies and a life outside of pain management. They don’t want to lose everything and I undertand that.  But someone has to stand up for what is good, lawful and right!  We need to remind our physicians that these are just guidelines and not anything that legally must be done right now.  The guidelines, after all, were also supposed to be about stopping the overprescribing of opioids right after an injury or a surgery.  They weren’t meant to take the very lives away from the chronic pain patients; yet that is what’s happening.  People are dying and suicides are rising even though in the last several years, the prescribing for opioids has actually gone down.  Did you know that legacy chronic pain patients, those who were already on an opioid pain medication plan that was working for them, before the  2016 guidelines came into effect; are supposed to be exempt from them? But that’s not what is happening in many cities and states.

Today, in 2017, in our United States of America; people are being tortured. Yes, it is true.  Our service men, the Vets who came back from combat, after fighting for their country, return home to live with terrible and painful wounds.  They were the first to be denied pain medications and now everyone else is following. How can a country let those who lost a limb or more, fighting for them; just live with pain and not try to ease that pain?  If you read the CDC guidelines in the link that I’ve provided above (in the second paragraph), you will be able to read that the guidelines spell out these words “reduce opioids UNLESS THERE IS HARM BY DOING SO”.  So many in our country are now being harmed by these guidelines that are being abused and played out as “law”. Do you know that the elderly in nursing homes are now being denied opioids and left to live out their days in agony and chronic pain at various advanced ages? This is called “torture” and “abuse” and it’s just wrong! Just as it is wrong to make everyone be at the same dosage of opioid pain medication.  We are not  “one size fits all” human beings. Just as 90MME or less, will not work the same for everyone. We all metabolizes differently.  Some physicians & legislators are listening again, to the non-pain management Dr.’s, who think that 90 MME is the highest amount that every single person should be allowed to take, no matter the circumstances.  This is truly torture for patients who are in need of more than that amount.  There are patients who must take more than that in order to have some semblance of a life outside of their bed. They are not groggy or high.  They are just trying to get by and live their lives the best way that they possible. To the surprise of the journalists and legislators that I’ve spoken with, the chronic pain community that I know and love, doesn’t want more opioids for pain relief.  They want only what is needed to get by;  to live some kind of life with lessened pain.  I was asked “If I could have more opioid pain medication, would I want more?” I responded vehemently, “Absolutely not!” If I did not need to take the medications that give me some pain relief, then I would not take them.  I don’t want more and more pain medications.  I only want the amount that is necessary for me to have some kind of life outside of my bed.

Of course, I understand that opioids normally are not the very first course of action for a chronic pain patient.  We have to go through the rigorous pain clinic “steps”.  There are the trigger point injections, different kinds of Nerve blocks, biofeedback and occasional trip to see their pain Psychologist. Once found to “not have an addictive personality” they will try different medications.  There are persons who have tried many non-opioid pain medications and either they got deathly ill from them, were allergic or they didn’t work. The next step is usually invasive and expensive surgery to either get an intrathecal pain pump or a spinal cord stimulator. People have varying views regarding these surgeries and the outcomes. I don’t think anyone should be forced to have an invasive surgery.  One in which a catheter or electrodes are stuck into the patients spine.  The patient is then given a remote control device that controls the amount of stimulation they receive for pain relief (if it works). Otherwise the pain patient has pain medication filled into a “hockey puck” -like device (pump) placed inside of the abdomen area.  They visit their pain Dr. monthly to get this pump filled. The intrathecal pain pump, I was told, is equal to about 1/300 of the amount of oral pain medication. It is dripped slowly into the spinal cord to help with pain. Dangerous granulomas can form and there may be other complications. I must also mention that afterwards, you are then “married” to that specific pain Dr. for the rest of eternity (for the most part).  I also must add that most everyone who has these invasive surgeries, still need oral opioid pain medication for “breakthrough pain”.

There are persons who aren’t candidates for one reason or another and they are not able to get a Spinal cord Stimulator or an Intrathecal Pain Pump.  After trying many non-opioid medications and not being a candidate for either of these surgeries; there are not a lot of other options.  But I want the decision to be between my Pain Dr. and me, alone.  I don’t want the government in my patient room, uneducated in pain management but trying to make all of the decisions.  I honestly believe that me and my pain management physician, who went to school for approximately 13 years, or more, to specialize in taking care of people who live with pain; should be the ones to decide whats best for me. In my opinion, no one should ever be forced to have invasive surgeries; if there is a pill available that has little or no side effects, when taken responsibly.  All medications should be taken responsibly because a person can overdose on insulin, heart medication or anti-depressants. It’s not just opioids that are harmful if too much is taken. Lastly, I was asked if I am “pro-opioids”.  My answer is “No, I am pro-patients”.