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  • Writer's pictureShruti

painkillers can’t relieve the pain of painkiller stigma

Painkillers have been all over the news lately. It seems like report after report talks about deaths from overdose, how many teens abuse them, or how they’re over-prescribed. What those articles seem to gloss over (if they bother to acknowledge it at all) is how many people actually do need those painkillers. People are different. People feel pain differently. After all – when doctors us to rate our pain on a scale from 1 to 10, your 10 could be a 2 on my scale. Or it could be a 20 – far beyond my comprehension. Does needing a medication make us inherently drug-seeking fiends? I think not.

People don’t like to acknowledge the ill. It’s like it goes against nature, and society wants nothing to do with it. Evolutionarily, we’re weak – and only the fittest survive right? But does that really mean that we’re to blame for our illnesses? No, but it does mean that we have to battle with insurance companies to make them believe we need and deserve the coverage we require. We must battle with government agencies for disability coverage – which means that we then have to battle with the people who think that coverage like that supports lazy people who refuse to do a decent day’s work. Suddenly, it becomes a big political issue and the suffering people who sparked it are forgotten by the side of the road.

The idea that ALL ill people who request painkillers are drug-seeking addicts is preposterous. Unfortunately, worries about malpractice suits or ruined professional reputations mean that many doctors are too scared to prescribe painkillers. Which means that suddenly we are even battling with our doctors for the care that we need. I have friends who have been told by their doctors that although the doctors recognize that the patient needs the painkillers, they are unwilling to prescribe them. Doesn’t this sort of defeat the purpose of the entire medical industry?

All of this often leads to issues of people being unwilling to admit that they take them at all. And, so, I must admit that I have also been needing painkillers lately. By lately I mean since last Spring, and I must admit that a blog post about that change has been half-finished since then. I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that even knowing that the stigma is wrong, I still fell prey to its force. Who wants to be judged by friends, family and doctors alike? Who wants to see pity on their faces? Be told that they’re weak? I sure as hell don’t know anyone like that.

People see us as weak. As if by taking the pills, we have given up. We aren’t fighting for what we want. To that I can only say that if you are a person who can survive such excruciating pain 24hours a day without needing pain killers, then all the more power to you. Unfortunately, my body doesn’t work that way. Other people say that we rely to much on medication and not enough on natural methods. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can say that I meditate, I do yoga, weight training and aerobic exercise. My mother performs reiki and massage for me. It’s just not always enough.

Painkillers are about more than pain. They’re about quality of life. I can’t say that I take the med every single day – or even every single week, but I can say that it makes a tremendous difference when I do take it. Some days, it just isn’t possible to manage without the help, unless I aim to spend my life whimpering in a ball on my bed. Believe me, I don’t. If the only way to prevent that, and to keep some purpose and direction in my life is to take a painkiller sometimes, then I’m ok. Because here’s the rub: it’s not like we want to take the painkillers. It’s not like we say “Oh, hey, let me go talk my doctor into prescribing a painkiller for me. that sounds fun!” We discuss our pain with a doctor because we were miserable and unable to live our lives due to the excruciating pain. Nobody wants to live like that, and so far this is the only way that society has found to help us.

Of course, the one pain the painkillers can’t relieve is the pain caused as a result of the stigma they carry.

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