Everyone is freaking out about opiate overdose- what about the major problem no one is talking about?
Prescription overdose has been in the spotlight lately, which makes sense. Drug overdoses have now surpassed automobile overdoses as the leading cause of accidental death. What doesn’t make sense is that because of this spotlight chronic pain patients are running into a harder time getting the help they need. Instead of addressing drug abuse and overdoses in a productive manner people are punishing chronic pain patients who need help by making it harder to get their medication.
This study reveals that chronic pain patients aren’t the ones who are having problems with abuse; Only 2% of chronic pain patients end up having problems with abuse. However, if people make conclusions based on the media, all chronic pain patients are addicts destined to accidentally overdose.
Overdose is heavily talked about, but there is one extremely important aspect to this that everyone is missing- suicide. Dealing with pain every second of every day can, unsurprisingly, be incredibly depressing. In fact, 19-28% of people with chronic pain are suicidal on some level, whether through suicide ideation or with actual plans to carry out their death. And the most common tool for suicide in these cases? You may have guessed it- medication overdose.
We need to change how we perceive health and chronic pain for this problem to go away. Two major risk factors in chronic pain patients who commit suicide are patients feeling like a burden and not feeling like they belong. This comes as no surprise to me. Our society absolutely treats people who are disabled like burdens and outsiders.
We praise the people who are friends with/ dating/ supporting chronic pain patients because we see chronic pain patients as burdens instead of people.
We do the bare minimum to make things accessible (only because it is the law) and act like we are doing disabled a favor.
We treat people with chronic pain first as criminal drug-seekers and consider their pain and quality of life second.
We talk about how terrible opiates are and how they are never justified. There is no understanding that for many of us the choice is between this unfortunate drug and killing ourselves because the pain is too much to live with every day.
We often go out of our way to avoid the disabled. We look away or make an excuse.
Overdose is a huge issue and it should be taken seriously. However, going after people who are already hurting is only going to worsen this issue and cause an increase of overdoses. Researchers already don’t feel like they can properly tell which opiate overdoses are accidental or suicide. Statistics suggest that we should at least consider that suicide is a big issue in the discussion on overdose.
Part of the solution is to change the way we think about and treat chronic pain patients.
Another part of the solution is to change the way we think about and treat chronic pain patients. The other is to make naloxone, a medicine that can save people from an overdose, easily available to people who do overdose accidentally.
Decriminalising these drugs would also help drug abusers get the help they need without fear of being charged with a crime.
When we talk about overdoses we often leave out discussions of the people who are using these drugs the most. We also need to make the increase in suicide, abuse, depression, anxiety, and PTSD in chronic pain patients part of the conversation on increased overdose.