Dopesick Doesn’t Cover the Entire Story
Dopesick, Hulu’s highly awarded limited series explores America's struggle with opioid addiction, from the boardrooms of Purdue Pharma, to a distressed Virginia mining community and to the hallways of the DEA. While I believe this series is well done and shows the ease of addiction to OxyContin and the difficulty getting off the drug, I feel it fails to show the other side of opioid usage which is what happens to patients who are rapidly losing access to pain drugs with no replacement available.
At a time when women are losing the right to choose whether she wants the responsibility of raising a child, I fight another battle that too often gets a Dopesick type of coverage. We are now up in arms over opioid addiction without a clear understanding of its needed medical use.
Opioids are a broad group of pain-relieving drugs that work by interacting with opioid receptors in our cells. They were first used during the Civil War to treat wounded soldiers. They are not designed to get you high. To do so requires using methods different from what is prescribed, such as crushing a pill so that it can be snorted or injected. Perhaps that’s why in the 45 years I’ve had to interact with these drugs, I have never gotten more than sleepy. I have, thankfully, had the pain reduced in my body when needed which for many years allowed me to work, travel, and have a family – all activities I cherish.
I also know a bit about addiction. I grew up in an alcoholic home and have watched family members battle addiction for most of my life. I feel sorry for parents who have lost their children to addiction. I have many sad memories of supporting my mother as she dealt with the addicts in our family. But she also felt the weight of a daughter disabled from chronic pain that came from a crippling car accident, inherited autoimmune diseases, and childhood traumas. My life has been full of doctor’s appointments and ever-changing drug therapies. This even led to a battle with suicide when the pain became too much.
Few pain therapies remain open to me. Fentanyl patches combined with bi-weekly physical therapy were providing relief and allowing me to lead an almost normal life. But legislation over opioids due to addiction coupled with the pharmaceutical industry’s desire for profits gives my doctors even fewer options for care. I currently take oxycodone, a nasty drug that puts me on a pain rollercoaster. I have to take the medication every six hours and only manage 3-4 hours of relief. I have to hide my medication and even the knowledge that I have it so we won’t be robbed. Yes, this has happened in the past.
My doctors have burned my nerve endings in an attempt to shut off my pain receptors. They now prescribe a compounded drug, not covered by insurance. They have to stay ahead of the government hounded by parents who, due to their grief, want opioids off the market. I’m sorry their children failed to combat their addiction but what do they offer me for relief?
I am a 60-year-old woman who would love to hold a grandchild in her pain-riddled arms. Will that be possible? Or will the addicts win the war and take away my future? Will our government support the living or, as now seems the norm, those who are not born or no longer alive?
It’s important that we look at the entire issue when it comes to pain management with tighter controls on pharmaceutical companies. No, we don’t want Perdue Pharma hooking people on drugs but doctors need the ability to provide care to patients who have never shown an addiction problem.