The war on drugs is one of the biggest policy disasters in American history. Addiction is certainly a huge problem, and one that we must address within our homes, schools and healthcare systems. But the problem is that right now, the guidelines created to try and prevent addiction are having devastating consequences for chronic pain patients in the United States.
Changes to CDC rules on prescribing opioids have left people who have legitimate need suffering because of fear of addiction. These are the people pain medication is for, people with severe pain. If the CDC is going to try and effectively ruin the access these people have to medications, they may as well ban those medications entirely. These are human beings who are suffering when they shouldn’t have to be, and that isn’t fair.
A Vice story from 2015 helps to explain the human consequences of these policies. After a severe biking accident that led to broken bones, a woman referred to as Zyp Czyk refused to go to the doctor because “she feared that if she went to the hospital she might be labeled a drug-seeker, which could lead to her doctor cutting off her opioid prescription, leaving her without the treatment that makes her life bearable.”
Another article, from 2019 further tells the story of chronic pain patients suffering from a lack of access to needed pain medications. “The most unfortunate among them, those with life-altering, unspeakable pain, are being denied access to the medications they need to go on,” the author of the Washington Post article explains. “In my own case, I’ve had to undergo countless unsuccessful procedures and near superhuman efforts to be granted barely enough medication to try to live a normal life.”
No one should be forced to go to such extremes in an effort to get needed medication.
Perhaps it’s a sign of our failed healthcare system or just fear over opioids, but innocent patients are suffering devastating consequences and our society doesn’t seem willing to notice or care. Despite the fact that most people who start drugs do not do it because of a prescription, like one after an injury, it is prescriptions of these drugs that have been the main target of legislation. This is understandable because it is much easier to legislate against something you have control over than the uncontrolled drug trade that is already illegal.
The Washington Post investigated this issue in 2018, explaining that 50 million adults, around 20% of the population, have chronic pain, which they categorized as “pain most days or every day for at least the past six months.” I personally can’t imagine what it would feel like to be in that much pain for that long but for so many Americans it is the reality of their lives. They want the ability to not be in pain and we need to make sure that they have the capacity to do that while still trying to avoid addiction.
America has a long, problematic history of ignoring disabled people’s needs, and this is shown clearly in our treatment of opioids. While most people get opioids from sources other than prescriptions and very few people who are prescribed these medications become addicted, the government still finds it more effective to eliminate legal sources of pain relief for these people. This is leading to suffering and sometimes even suicide from people who previously had pain managed on opioids. Every person deserves to be able to have a good quality of life, and incorrect assumptions about addiction shouldn’t take priority over that.
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Ashton Stansel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.